Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The man who went to hell

Numbers 16:1-3a "Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action, 2and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. 3They assembled together against Moses and Aaron..."

Hell's description in the Old Testament
Numbers 16 stands out as one of the earliest mentions of Hell in the Bible.  In nearly 100 places God's Word mentions or refers to the reality and truth of this place.  In the Book of Numbers in particular we see references to the wrath of God's consuming fire in Numbers 11:1-3, as well as early references to the realm of the dead called "sheol" or "the grave" in Genesis 37:35.  However it is here in Numbers 16 that we see for the first time the bringing together of the basic elements that would define the Biblical definition of the place called "sheol" in the Hebrew Old Testament, "hades" in the New Testament Greek or "hell" as we see it translated most often.

God's revelation of scripture is progressive and unfolding.  We learn that in Genesis, the patriarchs used the word "sheol" to describe the realm of the Dead where they believed they would go.  The Patriarchs of Genesis were given the revelation of the resurrection and existence of the after-life. (Genesis 37:35; Hebrews 11:19) 

Its not until we come to Numbers that we understand the word to be used more specifically to refer to the destination of the wicked like Korah in Numbers 16. In both Numbers 16 and Deuteronomy 32:22, Isaiah 14:9 and Ezekiel 31:15 we understand that "sheol" or "Hades" as it is called in the New Testament is located somehow within the earth and is a place of continual fire.  According to Wilmington in "The Complete Book of Bible lists", hell is described by Isaiah 5:14 and Habakkuk 2:5 as a gaping, craving monster.  No doubt, Hell is an awful destination and place which finds even further description in the New Testament.  

The Man who went to Hell - Korah
As we go back to Numbers 16 we run across a man by the name of Korah who had organized a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  From the testimony of scripture we can term Korah as the portrait of the man who went to hell.  Note his traits:

1. He was a religious leader  
Now Korah was no slouch when measured by the standards of men.  He was the great grandson of the patriarch Levi and first cousin to Moses according to the geneaology of Exodus 6:18-21.  Korah was listed among the first listing of the leaders and elders of Israel in Exodus 6:24.  He was of the priestly tribe and among those who served in the Tabernacle.  Korah's pedigree and prominence would had made his mutiny against Moses and Aaron an unexpected episode in the life of the nation.  Station in life and religious zeal does not make one right with God - as we shall see.

2. He was a rebel
Korah's true nature was going to be revealed as Numbers 16 unfolds the events of the attempted coup against Moses and God in Numbers 16:3.

3. He was repeatedly warned
I count no less than five times of Korah being warned by Moses that he has crossed the line with God.  In Numbers 16:5 he tells Korah that "God will show who is his, and who is holy".  In Numbers 16:7 we Moses' second statement, telling Korah and his band that "You have gone far enough, you sons of Levi!"  The third indicator or warning to Korah comes in 16:11, where Moses questions Korah as to why he is rising up against Aaron.  This tells us that Korah had rejected the sacrificial system set up by God, since to reject the high priest is to reject the provision of blood sacrifice. 

The fourth event that should had warned Korah that he had gone too far was when Moses and Aaron both, in the hearing of the whole congregation, beg God not to destroy the people in Numbers 16:22.  Despite that compassionate plea, Korah and his band hung onto their "rights", rather than repenting.  The final warning event is found in Numbers 16:26-29, where the word of the Lord comes, telling everyone to step away from the "tents of wickedness" lest "the people be swept away in all their sin".  Korah had five chances to turn from His sin and confess his wrong doing, but he, along with his 250 cohorts "stood at their tents", holding their ground so to speak.

4. He rejected God's Word.
Korah's rebellion was characterized by his rejection of God's word through God's man.  He wanted what he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted - the epitomy of a man centered on gratification of the self-life.  He along with his followers called evil good and good evil, by even referring to Egypt as the "land flowing with milk and Honey". (Numbers 16:13)  Despite the warnings and despite the space for repentance given by God, Korah would not recant nor retract.  Thus the sad consequence of hell would follow. 

5. Unrepentance unto death led to hell
Numbers 16:33 states - "33So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly."  The earth literally opened up underneath Korah and all of those who had followed them.  The Bible states they literally fell alive into "sheol" or "hell". 

Jude 11a-13 tells of men like Korah and their current estate following death - ...."and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever."

Hell is a true reality that only Christ can save you from
Sadly Korah is right now alive, suffering in torment for His rejection of God's Word and refusal to repent.  He, like the false teachers of Jude's day, demonstrated they had never taken in Christ by grace through faith.  Hell is a place that is both dark and full of flames.  Contrary to what many may think, flames and darkness match the conditions of a major fire.  I've witnessed a massive fire in my time and know this to be true.  The fact that Korah had lived 1400 years prior to Jude, and was still described as being in Hell, tells us that in hell, the soul is very conscious and very much intact - awaiting judgment. 

Romans 5:8-9 states -  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."