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The "Hell" Message

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1855 Children’s Tract (Intro)

The eyes of a young man are burning like coals. Long flames come out of his ears. He hardly can breathe. When he opens his mouth blazing fire rolls out of it. The blood is boiling in his veins. the brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The Marrow is boiling in his bones, and yet he is concious, and one can talk to him. He will be suffering torment and pain not only for hundreds of millions of years but throughout eternity.
This description of hell is found in a tract for children published in 1855.
Does the Bible know of such a place called hell?
1855 to 2018 somehow even though we have studied so many concepts in the Bible in many ways recieved further light…our concept of a hell message has not evolved largely.
As Christians we have talked at length, God does not only represent love, but God is love! This picture of hell, as it is often presented, for me and I think many others, doesn’t seem to fit together.
Someone might counter…well “the way Adventists interpret Hell” is not that. You are so very correct. Our Bible studies do not preach that message…but is it possible some of us live in such a way that we believe a hell such as described exists? That is one of the questions I intend for us to examine this morning. A long the way, I also intend to determine…Is there a hell? If so what is it? and what does it look like, and what is its purpose?
If you came to worship today, and were not particularly looking to hear about Hell, you rather hear about Hope or Heaven. If we are authentic and remain true to the texts…I believe this message is one full of hope, and our eyes will be lifted and our hearts will yearn for Heaven!
Is there a hell?
Matthew 18:9 ESV
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 23:33 ESV
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Luke 12:5 ESV
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
If you are looking in your Bibles, if you have red letter Bibles: Red identifying words of Christ, you’ll find these statements are made by Jesus. First off it appears Jesus is aware of there being a hell and it does not seem like something any of us would want to have a part in.
Matthew 7:13–14 ESV
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Matthew 7:13-14
Matthew 25:31–32 ESV
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
There does appear to only be 2 options: Life eternal as given by Christ, or this other hell option.
Someone here might be tempted say, Pastor Ross, it kind of appears like you might be trying suggest hell isn’t as bad as we’ve pictured. Well scripturally as we can see, theres no way to sugar coat hell into being something peaceful or good. In fact I would even go as far as suggesting Hell may be worse than you have pictured. Worse in the sense, that we tend to focus on physical suffering and don’t think of what we could have really missed out on! Hell is bad news! You will not hear me deny that. What I will tell you, is it would be incredibly flawed to say, because God is a God of love and mercy, that Hell cannot exist. Hell still fits into the picture of a loving God…just not that picture described at the beginning.
I like how Ty Gibson puts it:
It’s no secret that Christianity is dying in Western countries. There are a number of factors contributing to this trend, but maybe the biggest is the fact that mainstream Christianity is asking the world to believe two doctrines that together compose the most diabolical picture of God imaginable—predestination and eternal torment.
Think this through. Predestination, as generally taught, says God decides each person’s eternal destiny—saved or lost. Then, “lost” is defined as spending eternity in the flames of hell. The logical conclusion? God creates some people for the purpose of torturing them forever. They have no choice, because God chose their fate. “It’s all part of His sovereign plan, for His inscrutable glory,” we’re told. “Who are you to question God?”
Many rational people simply cannot believe in a God like this. Nor can I. Yet I do believe in God. To unbelievers, I’d say something like this: You know that God you don’t believe in? Well, I don’t believe in him either.
In 1823, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams, expressing his unbelief:
In 1823, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams, expressing his unbelief:
“I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his five points, is not the god you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon or malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. ‘The value of deism, in its last and American ambit, was that it prevented confessional religion from driving human beings into atheism as its only alternative.’” (Michael Buckley, At the Origins of Modern Atheism, quoting a letter in 1823 by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams).
Jefferson saw the god of Calvinism as demonic, but at the same time he believed the true God must be better than that.
What if we proclaimed to the world a picture of God that looks like this:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” ().
This calvinistic picture of of Christ describes a vindictive vengeful God. I don’t know about you but, this description seems inconsistent with Jesus Christ the saviour. The one who was willing to be sacrificed just to give us the opportunity to accept his saving grace!
What do you do when you don’t understand something about God? You go to him for answers. I have mentioned before the example we see in Daniel when he came to some troubling inconsistencies about God.
In , Daniel is worried about a coming suffering or potential destruction of his people so he pleads with God even intercedes with God. He reminds God of his noble character.Daniel interceded with the Lord on behalf of his people by appealing to the character of God, to His mercy and grace, wanting to preserve His reputation in the world as such. God revealed to Daniel, there would be traumatic events in the future but gives him the assurance God would never abandon his faithful people. Every suffering God’s people had gone through and would go through God was and will be there!
But what about those who reject God…what does their future hold. Let me be precise in the language use. The hell that is described in scripture is a prophetic future event and experience. What is described is a destruction and eternal fire. Hell has not happened yet.
Lets answer the question:
What does Hell look like?
Some Bible translators have rendered various words with “hell” which in reality have other meanings. Four words have been translated with the term “hell.”
Sheol is mentioned 66 times in Old testament. It is the realm of the dead who are in the grave. The greek translation will usually will use the term Hades.
- -Jacob expects to go down to sheol/the grave, to his son Joseph.
1 Samuel 2:6 ESV
The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
- -God brings down to sheol/the grave and raises up
- -In sheol/the grave there is no activity, no planning, and no knowledge. Sheol is the place of the dead. There is no fire, neither is there torment mentioned. The righteous and the unrighteous are there.
2. Hades
Hades is found ten times in the New Testament. It is also the place of the dead, the grave. This greek word corresponds with the Hebrew word Sheol.
Acts 2:27 ESV
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.
Acts 2:27
Acts 2:31 ESV
he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
-In Hades, in the grave that is, there is decay…and Jesus was the only exception.
In Asia minor the term Hades is frequently found on tombstones. But relatives of the deceased did not want to say that their loved ones were in hell. He or she rests in the grave. Hades is not hell which supposedly would already be burning.
3. Tartoros
The greek word tartoros is not directly found in the New Testament, however the verb “to cast in tartoros” is. It occurs in only and is the abode for fallen angels, who cannot return to the presence of God in Heaven. It is not used to describe the place of the place of the dead nor a hell in which people who are cast after their death.
4. Gehenna
In the New Testament “Gehenna” is mentioned 12 times. This is the hell of which Jesus spoke about. It is the future place of punishment of the unrighteous. The term may be derived from ge-hinnom pointing to the valley of hinnom, a gorge near Jerusalem. According to is a place of judgment. Rabbinical tradition understood it as a place outside Jerusalem for burning carcasses and rubbish.
- -Here Gehena/Hell is associated with fire. This fire begins only after Jesus’ second coming (), at the end of the age. (). Until then people sleep in their graves.
- -Because God alone posesses immortality () begin immediately after death for the person that has passed away.
Revelation 20:15 ESV
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:9–10 ESV
And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
talks about the lake of fire but does not mention the word gehenna by name. Since Gehenna is associated with fire and is a future event after the second coming, having to do with the judgment, it is best to understand hell in the context of .
Revelation 20:
This brings me to the issues many of us who have studied about hell, you are eventually going to study:
Revelation 20:9–10 ESV
And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
We have established hell takes place in the future, but does this hell last forever as described in verse 10? At first reading it looks pretty clear doesn’t it?..... Thats a bit of our issue sometimes translating words into english and expecting it to mean the same in english as it may have been intended in Greek. I remember when I was taking spanish in high school, our spanish teacher was telling us, you know its easier to learn english to spanish rather than spanish to english. In spanish to english is more difficult, because we have so many words thathave multiple meanings and extra inflections. The original greek and hebrew text is the same. The term forever/eternal/everlasting as used in scripture is broader than the english word. It may describe (1) something or someone existing without beginning and without end (in connection with God); (2) or something or someone with beginning but without end (the eternal life of the redeemed as described in ; ); and (3) something or someone with beginning and with end in the sense of “for some time” (Examples in scripture: ;
another example is found in Jonah, as Jonah prays while in the belly of the fish.
Jonah 2:6 ESV
at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
In short: in the Bible Forever has more meanings then just simply as we would say in English.
So in , what kind of forever is it? The unrighteous suffer “hell” for a limited time only. However, the results are forever, everlasting.
-Fire devoured them
-This is the 2nd death to which there will be no more resurrection.
The unquenchable fire (described in ) cannot be extinguished until its work is done and everything is burned up (; —Jerusalem does not burn any longer). Eternal life is available only for those who belong to Jesus. Satan is not the Lord of hell, but will also be destroyed by the hellfire (; ).
In short: the unquenchable fire, the lake of fire, eternal hellfire or whatever other name you can call will burn only until everything is burned up. There is no amount of water that could burn it up, like any fire it will burn only until its fuel is burned up. Its fuel, I would suggest to you is not the bodies of the unrighteous, it is all the sin that has ever existed. Sin will be destroyed/devoured completely and it will be no more!
Scripture is pretty clear Hell will be real and it comes in the form of fire. Hell is still a future event. It is from Greek Philosophy that the doctrine of purgatory originates. It describes hell as a place the devil is Lord of wherever evil doers burn in torture unceasing. Socrates (who was born around 470 AD) supported such concepts, but acknowledged that they were fictitious.
What is even more inconsistent: If Hell was a place, that the devil was Lord of, and all the unrighteous burned there, wouldn’t that make God and the devil allies? The devil being given more and more unrighteous people to torture. That is not biblical. That may describe ancient greek pagan God figures such as Zeus and Hades, but that is not the true God. Hell is not a place the devil will enjoy, but is the place for his forever doom.
Now for some of us, the doctrine of Hell, or as I call it “the hell message) is not a question for you. Maybe you already knew every bit of what I have just broken down. I am confident that not everyone here had a full understanding of hell yet, but even if that is something that has already been settled in your mind, there is a little more I want to cover, and that is how we should, and I believe are called to present it.
That brings me to
When I was a sophomore in college, I remember seeing articles of outrage from evangelicals all over the U.S. against non-denominational mega church pastor Rob Bell for comments in his latest book where he surmised that Hell did not exist as a place! His book was called “Love Wins.” Wanting to understand what all the hub bub was about, I went down and picked up a copy. It was interesting to me, this was a book I found to be incredibly inaccurate to the Bible, but not for reasons that evangelicals were upset about. His thoughts on hell were almost distinctly Adventist and his character assessment of God was very similar to how I would preach where he lost me, was his universal attitude of Heaven. From what I could tell he was suggesting everyone may be in Heaven. I can’t take the time now to completely refute that attitude, but I could. I believe God desires everyone, but so many have chosen to reject God and therefore He won’t force there existence to be in Heaven.
But I find it so interesting that leaders amongst evangelicals took the time protect their false message or picture of Hell rather than defend Heaven. They were outraged, that someone spoke that Hell was more rationale than what they were preaching.
I said I believe the truth about hell is in some ways worse than the false picture of eternal torment. While I believe Hell will hurt and hurt a lot, the real suffering is knowing or learning you could have had heaven and you chose hell. That you loved sin and chose to cling to it over accepting the grace Jesus offered. Hell is the eradication of sin, and as I’ve preached before, it destroys those who cling to sin as well. But even in Hell there is mercy. God won’t torture wicked mankind forever, they will be burned up. And sin is not compatible with Heaven so would forcing them to Heaven or living in the restored Earth would not have been what they wanted anyways. It is out of love for mankind that he will rescue humanity from sin and once and for all destroy it.
As Adventists, this message of mercy must be not be left from our hell message. Even those who do terrible things in this world, we mustn’t align ourselves with the evangelicals or whoever else alike who would make statements against certain sinners saying “there is a special place in hell for those people.” God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked and we as Christians should not either. Pity the lost, pray for the lost, seek the lost, help the lost, but don’t take pleasure in any coming destruction.
The doctrine of an already now and forever burning hell twists scripture, misrepresents Christianity, and distorts the character of God, his love and justice. It can even hurt people. There are reports that claim that after sermons on hell some people have become mentally ill. The doctrine of eternal torment in a place called hell is immoral. How can a merciful God of love torture people in all eternity for having sinned temporarily? We believe in a God of love and justice and in his kingdom in which sorrow, pain crying, and death will be no more.
I’ll leave you with this verse
Revelation 21:3–4 ESV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
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