Category: Last Things, Word: HELL
March 11, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
VIII. LAST THINGS
Teaching on the fulfillment of Bible prophecy still brings a crowd. Sometimes the approach is sensational. Well-meaning Christians (who understand that they shouldn’t read horoscopes or go to fortune tellers) sometimes fall prey to preachers with the latest twist on the signs of the times. This becomes their way to peer into the crystal ball of the future. It is a matter of both amusement and consternation that thousands of sincere Christians have formulated opinions about last things based on popular novels rather than by the study of Scripture. Date setters have abounded through 2,000 years of Christian history. So far, all of them have been terribly wrong. Christ’s cause has often suffered great embarrassment from overzealous prophets.
Study of Christ’s coming often generates more heat than light. Yet Christians of many different views about the details share common ground. The Apostles’ Creed rightly included the words, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” The seven articles that follow are meant to emphasize the common ground that Christians throughout the ages have found in Scripture. Inevitably, some of the areas of controversy have been touched on. Whatever your perspective on the tribulation (pre-trib, post-trib, or other) and on the millennium (amill, premill, or other), you should recall that equally devout, Bible-believing Christians have taken an opposite view—and that opposing views can’t both be right. Perhaps we should all agree to be “pan-trib” and “pro-mill”, that is, the tribulation will “pan out” according to God’s plan, not ours, and we can all be for (“pro”) the millennium, even if we disagree about whether it is literal or spiritual. Our responsibility is to live now with the awareness that earthly life is preparation for eternity.
“My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has the authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear.” (Luke 12:4-5)
DEFINITION: Hell is the final place and condition of unregenerate humans (and evil spirits) in which they consciously suffer everlasting punishment, separated from God forever.
“Hell” in the Bible is different than “the grave” (Hebrew sheol; Greek hades). In some passages sheol-hades means “the place where all the dead go to, whether a place of happiness or punishment” (see Job 3:13-22; Lk. 10:15). In other texts, however, sheol-hades implies an intermediate place of punishment before the final judgment (Psalm 49:14; Luke 16:23). The rest of this study focuses on hell as the ultimate doom of the wicked and notes other terms that deal with eternal punishment. Two notions predominate the biblical teaching: separation from God and Condemnation (Jn. 3:36: Matt. 25:31-46).
Jesus had more to say about hell (Greek gehenna) than anyone else. In fact 11 of the 12 New Testament instances of gehenna are found on His lips. Thus, those who deny the reality of hell are basically accusing Him of falsehood. Further, the argument that God cannot justly punish someone forever for sins committed in time does not adequately consider that temporal sins insult the infinite holiness of God. If there is no hell, the holy God revealed in the Bible unjustly allows affronts to His righteous majesty to go unpunished.
How long does hell last? The term in the New Testament is “eternal” (Greek aionios), from the noun “eon” or “age” (Greek aion). For the biblical writers there were two ages: this age and the age to come (Mk. 10:30; Eph. 1:21). “This age” was temporary; the coming age was everlasting. As surely as the eternal life of the redeemed will be endless in heaven, so the punishment of the damned will be endless in hell. With reference to the future condition of the wicked, aionios plainly means endless duration (Matt. 18:8; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2).
What is the nature of hell’s torment? Without doubt the Scriptures teach that hell is a literal place and a permanent condition. Some of the phrases used are these:
Outer darkness (Matt. 8:12)
Eternal fire prepared for the Devil (Matt. 25:41)
Their worm does not die (Mk. 9:48)
Wrath [of God] (1 Thess. 2:16)
Everlasting destruction (2 Thess. 1:9)
Lake of fire (Rev. 20:15)
Second death (Rev 21:8)
Outside [the holy city] (Rev. 22:15)
It is hard to understand how these can be all simultaneously true if they are all equally literal. (How can we conceptualize complete darkness in a fiery lake?) Thus, some believe that these descriptions are figurative of something indescribably horrible, just as the description of heaven as a massive, cube-like city in Revelation 21 symbolizes something indescribably wonderful. Throughout the centuries, however, most Christian thinkers have believed that the description of fire so dominates the biblical account of hell that it must entail literal flames.
[Contrary to this, there is the view that the description of fire is used metaphorically to impart how horrible hell really is. This is, indeed, a matter of interpretation and how the writers of Scripture used literary devices such as figurative language to convey biblical divine truths. One thing is certain and scripturally informed: whether or not fire is literal, hell is a very real place that will last forever.]
REFLECTION: Why is it important to believe that hell is a literal place? How would you counsel someone who said, “hell is just the bad stuff you go through on earth?”
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help me to see others around me as destined for hell unless they come to You in faith. May I testify this day to the reality of my belief in heaven and hell. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.