Saturday, October 13, 2012

Three big problems of denying hell's reality

Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

For the past couple of days we have been focusing on the doctrine of Hell, noting the man who went to hell (Korah, Numbers 16); the man suffering in hell (The Rich man, Luke 16) and the man who avoided it through faith in Jesus (The thief, Luke 23). The Bible clearly asserts its reality and awful nature.  In today's blog I want us to think about the consequences that denial of hell can have on core doctrines of the Christian faith. 

In other words, if we were to deny the reality of hell, what else would we have to deny?

1. To deny Hell is to deny the Justice of God.
The prophet Habakkuk says these words in Habakkuk 1:3-4 "Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me;  Strife exists and contention arises. 4Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted."  To deny the doctrine of final judgment or hell would mean denying final justice and judgment.

If there is no final way of judgment, then in the realm of this life, evil will truly prevail, and God's justice in the visible realm could never be upheld.  Without Hell, scriptures such as Psalm 89:14 would not be true: "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You."
Clearly if Justice is not fundamental to God's character, then there is no basis for objective morality nor truth. 

2. To deny Hell is to deny the love of God
This point may sound truly shocking, since many of those today who deny hell's existence claim that they are upholding the love of God.  Rob Bell, a one time evangelical pastor, shocked the world of Christianity earlier this year with his controversial book entitled "Love Wins".  In the book he proposes that in the end, God's love will triumph and all beings, even satan, will be saved.  That heresy, called "universalism", has been around since the second century of the church.  Ironically, when we deny the reality of hell and judgment, we also have to deny the love of God.

Consider the passage I quoted earlier, Psalm 89:14 - "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You."   The Bible clearly shows that because God is a Good and righteousness God, He is also fair.  Because He is a fair God, He knows what is proper to love.  Since He is a truthful God, He also knows what is proper not to love (i.e sin, injustice).  God's Wrath is not out of control anger as popularly believed.  Rather wrath is His holiness expressed negatively towards what is opposite of His goodness; whereas His love is His holiness expressed positively toward what He deems to be in allignment with His goodness.  If God loved everything, He would have to also love sin.  Hell, whether people like it or not, demonstrates the reality of God's justice.  Without Him being a Good and Just God, He could not also be the loving and fair God revealed in the Bible.

3. To deny Hell is to deny the need for the cross
Why did Jesus come to die?  To suffer the wrath of God and to save all those who would believe on Him from such wrath. (Romans 5:6-10).  On the cross, Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God, so that all who by grace through faith believe on Him would not have to.  Consider John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 

If there were no such place as Hell, then we could simply conclude God was going to save everybody.  The meaning of the cross would radically change, since Christ's death would no longer be about fulfilling the demands of justice or prolonging the wrath of God.  John 3:16 would be emptied of it reality and truth.  The possibility of perishing would be nothing more than Divine saber rattling. 

Universalism, the belief that all creatures will be with God in eternity, including the unrepentant and the demonic realm, is an incoherent theology when it tries to proclaim the cross.  This is why all forms of universalism throughout church history have been deemed heretical.  This is why Universalism has never been considered true to the character and heart of of the Gospel.

I know that these truths are heavy - my own heart breaks at writing these blogs.  To think about all of those dying without Christ, and the reality of Hell, is no doubt difficult to imagine.  However to deny such truth leaves Christianity in far greater jeopardy than when we affirm it.  May we be spurred onto renewed urgency to share Christ with those who need Him.