The What, Why, and When of Hell
SBS: I am not the most aware person of what is going on around me. Today is Stewardship Sunday. Wouldn’t you know it; I have a sermon planned on Hell. That should get the crowd dipping into their wallets. I can’t tell you that it will save you any time in Purgatory. Because we don’t believe in such a place. Please if you are a Roman Catholic don’t catch me after the service and spend half an hour telling me why I am a terrible person for not believing in purgatory. This is a Presbyterian church and I am just filling in. I’m just doing the best that I can until the new guy comes. I know that I’m not as good as the last guy; I know that I’m not as good as the new guy will be. The one thing you know about me is that what you see is what you get. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have for as long as the session asks and the Lord allows. I’m not really anybody here so spending a lot of time complaining to me doesn’t do anything but depress me about how inadequate I am, and believe me I already know that. But I also know that the Lord has called me here for right now and I know that He is adequate, more than adequate. So if you have complaints take them up with him or Rev. Kahlehoff.
Prayer: Lord, you make us all aware of our failings, but you make us aware of your successes. Make this sermon successful today not because of my words but because of your words. You are great, and mighty and powerful. Make it so this morning.
Intro: Last week on my way back from Dallas, I say beside a man who was from Israel and he was into the study of the Kabbalah. If you don’t know that it is the study of what are secret things found in the coded numbers of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. So I don’t know if you know this or not but I am kind of an introvert. It is really hard for me to get out and talk to people. The hardest part of Sunday morning for me is going over to the fellowship hall. I have a hard time just starting to talk to people on an airplane but this guy wanted to talk to me about Kabbalah and he didn’t know who I was or anything about me and he starts to tell me about the Hebrew language and how it works and then he says the Hebrew word for hand is, and I say “yod.” He gets this amazed look on his face and says “you speak Hebrew” I say no, I just studied it a little bit. So he tells me that the secret that the ancient rabbi’s discovered was that the word “yod”, each Hebrew letter equals a number, which is why Arabic numbers are so important, but I didn’t tell him that. He tells me that the word for hand is 14 and then counts the number of joints in the hand and there are 14 and he looks at me like this is some kind of incredible news flash. I said to him, wouldn’t it be better it if were 5? So we talked for a while and I told him that I was a Christian and I asked him how, in Kabbalah, one receives forgiveness for one’s evil. He said that you had to go back and make it right, if you had stolen, you must pay the money back, all of this he says is written in the OT. What about Murder, I said, how do you make that right? That he said is a very hard one, he was not very sure that that could be done. Weren’t there worse sins than murder I asked? He didn’t think so. I asked about sinning against the most holy God, wouldn’t that be even worse. He looked a little puzzled and said “I never thought about that.” I said how then can you find forgiveness from a most holy God when you sin against him? He had no idea. I said that is pretty bad news. I told him that I had an idea and planted the seed of forgiveness through God himself becoming a man and paying the debt for our sins not just against one another but against the most holy of Gods. He didn’t believe all that I told him, but I planted the seed. Someone else will water that seed and it will grow and one day, the Lord willing, it will blossom into salvation.
I tell you that story to cause all of you to think about the fact that you have all sinned not just against one another, but against the holy God of the universe. Joseph in Gen. 39 when Potipher’s wife asked him for sexual favors said “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
If we have committed sin against an infinitely holy God then there must be an infinite penalty paid. If that penalty is not paid then there must be an infinite punishment. Jesus tells us about what that punishment will be in today’s passage.
- DOES HELL REALLY EXIST? Jesus tells us about hell.
- Jesus speaks of hell here. Vv. 39, 41
- Jesus speaks of hell elsewhere. Jesus speaks more about hell than anyone else in the Bible.
5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- IS HELL TERRIBLY HORRIBLE OR HORRIBLY NESSESARY?
- If there is no hell there is no Kingdom. There are Kingdom people and non-kingdom people. If you are going to believe Jesus you can’t have heaven and the Kingdom without Hell.
On one occasion Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, the agnostic lecturer of the last century, was announced to give an address on hell. He declared he would prove conclusively that hell was a wild dream of some scheming theologians who invented it to terrify credulous people. As he was launching into his subject, a half-drunken man arose in the audience and exclaimed, “Make it strong, Bob. There’s a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we are all lost. So be sure you prove it clear and plain.”
- If there is no hell there is no justice in the world. Hitler ends life having gotten away with his horrible crimes.
At the end of the OJ Simpson trial, Christopher Darden was a broken man. He tells in his autobiography about the difficulties that he had in his life growing up and going to school. About how tough is was prosecuting OJ and how so many other African Americans saw him as a sell out to his own race. He talks about his shock and unbelief when the jury came back in and announced their verdict. I remember his words at a press conference right after that verdict. He said that one day OJ would have to face another judge, a judge that would not be cowed by cameras and who would know the absolute truth. When OJ stands before that Judge, Darden said, there will be justice.
- If there is no hell there is no reason to fall down in worship before God. Martyn Loyd-Jones, the doctor, once told of having a person tell you that they showed up at your house when you were not home and paid a debt for you. He said that only when you found out what the debt was would you know what to do.
And so it is for all of us. We will stand before the holy God of the universe with nothing to say for ourselves. If you do not have an advocate, you are lost. John tells us this. No one has to go to hell. The person who goes to hell goes there because they choose to go there.
Heaven and Hell are real places. Where you go depends upon whom you depend upon. You don’t have to go there. God has made for you a way of escape. He has provided you with an attorney.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
Shindler’s List-At the end of the film he looks at his possessions and says “that pen, that could have saved a person; that car, why didn’t I sell that car . . .” I feel like that often. Like I ought to be doing so much more and be doing it so much better. But then I remember I have someone who speaks in my defense. Do you?