Friday, June 19, 2015

What Jesus and the Apostle Peter teach on Hell

2 Peter 2:1-2 "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves."

Today's post may not be the easiest subject to read, however the reality of hell and final judgment is crucially important. The aim in this particular post is to understand how Jesus and the Apostle Peter allign with one another in regards to this sobering but important truth.

Jesus' Teaching on Hell
In my own study of Jesus' teachings on various subjects, it is surprising to see how often he mentions "Hell" in comparison to other topics:

1. Heaven = 34 times
2. Salvation = 21 times 
3. Hell = 17 times
4. Love = 17 times
5. Money = 12 times
6. Prediction of his crucifixion = around 10 times
7. Not judging people = 3 times

Further study reveals Jesus' description of hell, which matches the Old Testament understanding but with far more detail:

1. Unquenchable Fire   
Mark 9:43 compare Num 16:25; Ps 106:17,18

2. Everlasting Fire      Matthew 18:18

3. Outer Darkness      Matthew 25:46

4. Gates of Hell          Matthew 16:18 compare Ps 9:13; Is 38:10

5. Place of conscious existence. Luke 16:25-28

6. Place of wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Mt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28

7. Place of constant burning and stench. 
Matt 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; Matt 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5

In sum, Jesus is carrying on what God revealed in the Old Testament with far more specific and pointed detail in all his parables, teachings and sermons. The question now is: what did his followers, the Apostles, teach on this subject? One of them, the Apostle Peter, will be the focus of our attention for the remainder of today's post.

The Apostle Peter's teaching on Hell in 2 Peter
Peter's statements on Hades (or Hell) alligns with Jesus' teachings. Peter also emphasizes on several occassions the presence of demonic beings in hell. 

1. Hell will be a destructive place. 
2 Peter 2:1 refers to false teachers bringing upon themselves "swift destruction" and in 2 Peter 2:3 we see reference to "destruction" and "judgment". Peter uses similar terms in 2 Peter 2:4,9,12. In 2 Peter 2:4 we see specific reference to certain fallen angels who are being held in reserved judgment. The rebellion mentioned here occurred either in the ancient cosmic rebellion led by Satan in Revelation 12:4,7-9 or the abomination of certain demons inhabiting men to commit immorality with the daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-4. Jesus' describes both Hades and the final Lake of fire as being places of destruction with destructive fire in Matthew 18:18 and Mark 9:43. 

2. Hell will be a dark place
As Peter and Jesus both teach, Hades and the final place of the Lake of Fire will not only be destructive, but dark places. Peter onces again mentions how in Hell there are places that are extremely dark. (2 Peter 2:4 "pits of darkness"; 2:17 "black darkness") As he did in his descriptions of hell's destructiveness, the darkness of hell is heightened by the presence of demons (2 Peter 2:4) Jesus teaches how hell will be a place of "outer darkness" (Matt 25:46). 

Many people over time have question what appears to be two conflicting descriptions of hell (both Hades and the Lake of Fire) as being places of fire and darkness. If there are unquenchable fires burning, how can there be darkness? Let the reader be reminded of what takes place when a major fire occurs: there are flames for sure, however there is thick dark smoke that makes seeing the flames hard to see. To heighten this image to the level of the types of fire and darkness occurring in Hell escalates the picture. When we add in the frightening details of demonic beings more frightening than those that even roam freely on this earth, it ought to cause even the most hardened sinner to be moved to responds to God's saving call of salvation. 

What Jesus and Peter both teach on escaping hell
Jesus repeatedly taught that He alone was the way, the truth and the life and that no man could come to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6) To escape hell is simple: believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. (John 3:16). To not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is to remain settled in your decision against Christ and preference of Hell over Him. (John 3:17-19, 3:36) The Apostle Peter as well urges His listeners both before 2 Peter 2 in 2 Peter 1:3-4 and after in 2 Peter 3:18 to know Christ and continue partaking of Him in faith. 

All of the warnings and disturbing realities of 2 Peter 2 give readers reasons for avoiding the awful realities of hell. 2 Peter 3:17 urges readers to be on guard against the false teachers and seductions of this age so as to not get sucked into their ways. Avoiding hell is a matter of relying upon the Spirit of God to do as commanded in 2 Peter 3:18 "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." We are saved by grace through faith alone apart from the law and we are being saved by a grace that is not lawless.  Both Peter and Jesus both explain clearly the only escape from Hell - namely Jesus Christ. 

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