Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Reality of Hell

This post is born from a burden I have sensed for years that was ignited again yesterday. I was reading the comment section of a blog and someone made a joke about Hell. The context is irrelevant and it was obviously a joke. However, I was not laughing. Hell is a real place where real people suffer without hope of relief.
Here is a point I want to make that I hope generates as much discussion as Santa: Our cavalier attitude toward Hell proves that we don't actually believe it exists. Evangelicals will defend the reality of Hell with the utmost vehemence (because it is in the Bible) with their lips. But, our lack of sleeplessness at its reality condemns us.

I am not here to point fingers at anyone. I am sure I have joked about Hell somewhere along the way. However, let us reconsider what our joking accomplishes:

1. Our joking about Hell weakens our brokenness over its reality. When you laugh at something, your trick yourself into denying its reality.

2. Our joking about Hell confirms non-believers in their sin. If Hell is lifted up as something funny, sin is no longer serious (Offending a holy God is nothing to worry about because Hell is not that serious).

3. Our joking about Hell nullifies the Cross of its clarity. The Cross is God's alternative to Hell. You either embrace Christ and have your sins forgiven or you embrace yourself and pay for your own sins in Hell. If Hell is not serious, then the Cross isn't either.

Some resources to consider:
1. Sam Storms' 4 articles called "Hell and the Happiness of Heaven."
2. John Piper sermons and articles on Hell and Judgment.
3. Jim Elliot quote: "Oh why stand we debating whether or not children under the 'age of accountability' (whatever that may mean) are going to heaven when we are dead sure that multitudes round about us are pouring hourly into hell?"


Sarah said...

I don’t know that I could joke about hell. Daily I am reminded of my friends (either now or in the past) that are headed straight for hell, and it breaks my heart. Dallas and I recently had an "eye opening experience" when he had a relative die.....and she was blatantly against Christ and God. We sat through that whole service listening to people say how she is now in peace and rest, knowing in our hearts that the opposite is true. That she is in eternal torment. We get sick to our stomachs every time we think about her.....I would agree Justin, that hell is no laughing matter.....I still think about the sermon you did at our church on this topic....and the magazine you brought in and on the front cover there was a picture of people playing volleyball in hell. That is what our world views hell to be.....and I shutter to think what it will be like for them when they see that is not what it is like at all. But even scarier is when they will stand before Christ and be judged.....that’s the reality! I have to admit that I do not know that much about hell, except that it will be a place of utter pain and torment - unimaginable...that God will remove his goodness and mercy.....I am so thankful for the cross!

justin said...

Sarah, I am also thankful for the Cross!!
I cannot believe you still remember that message back in 1998-1999? I looked for that magazine cover this morning but couldn't find it (I think it is at home). For those who don't know what we are refering to:
There was a Newsweek (I think) magazine cover that had a "picture" of Hell on the front. It showed people getting a sun tan in bikinis and sipping on glasses with umbrellas in them. Others were playing volleyball and the devil himself was wearing a hawaian shirt.
I wept over that picture when I got it in the mail.

The Sinner said...

I agree. I also don't like jokes involving the Lord Himself.

Mark Redfern said...

Very good, Justin. This is an important topic, and a cavilier approach to hell over the longterm will harden into an irredeemable levity and callousness if we are not careful. Better never to start down that road.

Tony K. said...

I got the same feeling when I heard Max Mclean read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Edwards. I repented.

If we believed in hell we would feel it in our bones. Nothing we can imagine can make us feel the real horror of hell. I am cold to this reality. What can one do to stir up holy affections regarding this doctrine?

justin said...

Great question Tony. I hope some others will tell us what they think regarding stiring up holy affections regarding Hell.

Here is some Edwards help (from his Resolutions):

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.

Sarah said...

oh. I think I get what you mean now.....a burden for the lost....not just hell itself...sorry. I had a moment!

I cannot really comment on this one too much....I may cross over the teaching line...but I think I can just share my heart.....

I think for Dallas (my husband)and I the Lord has placed so many people in our lives that are lost...so many with no hope...thier lives are such a mess. Like last night for instance...I was in walmart, and this girl approached me and started talking to me...I worked with her like 5 years ago. But she remembered me. She started telling me about her life and what she is doing now. Its was awful. She stood there and justified sin after sin.....it was not an opportunity to be able to share the gospel bc she was going 90 to nothing about herself....but I did get contact info...but when I left her I was just so broken. My first thought was just how miserable she was. Second that she had no hope and she was going to spend an eternity of misery. So I just prayed that the Lord would give me opportunity through being able to contact her and build a relationship with her to share the gospel.....I dont know...its just a big reality to me every time I meet someone.....I dont know that I have done anything to attribute to that. I havent read any books on hell or anything like that..(not that it isnt a good idea)..just being surrounded by miserable people and seeing the condition of thier hearts....it grieves me....but I also keep in mind at all times that God is soveriegn and Just! Plus I have just studied the book of Romans for the first time....that gave me a good perspective on some of this stuff....and I pray regularly for my friends and people I come in contact with....I will admit, I could be doing that a lot more than I do....and then just taking evey opp to tell them the truth. Most of my friends that are not saved think they are....so thats even harder...(I know I cant say for sure, but thier lives show they do not love the Lord)so I share as much as I can....anyhoo- thats my heart, I know the guys can and will give you a much better insight! But thanks for letting me share!

Dutch said...

Your analogy relating Santa and Hell and your statement "Our cavalier attitude toward Hell proves that we don't actually believe it exists." really hits the mark.

Do Christians joke about hell because they do not truly understand the depth of it's meaning? Are we just simplifying the meaning of hell and in turn casting aside the intensity of it's purpose? Do we de-value the meaning of hell like we have with talking about the devil as something that is real because it is not nice to talk about? Or are we afraid that others will think we are morons?

Thanks for the provoking of my mind on this subject!

Tony K. said...

nice use of JE resolutions. Thanks