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Choosing Hell? [3-7-21]

Let's begin with a prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, who died on the cross, so that by faith in him we might be saved from the wrath of God, which is demanded for our sinfulness. Keep us alert to any false teachings, and give us discernment to identify and expose those teachings that mislead people. We pray for any who have traded your truth for lies; by your grace, bring them to a knowledge of the truth. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

We know hell is real. That's not in question. In a few moments, we'll look at what Jesus said about hell. The questions we're looking at are, who goes to hell and why?

We know hell is real because Jesus talked about hell. Here's what he said in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus:

The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

- Luke 16:22-28

One would be hard-pressed to disagree with Jesus on heaven and hell. In fact, Jesus had a lot to say about judgment and hell, which we'll see moving forward. Ten years ago, a popular megachurch pastor in Michigan wrote a book about love winning, in which he appeared to argue everyone goes to heaven. It started out huge, but soon flamed out. Apparently,

there's only so much pabulum people can take. Again, the weakness of the book was that it didn't take what Jesus said about judgment and hell seriously enough. That's something we never want to do.

So who goes to hell and why? We looked at the wrath of God last week, and we've looked at how God's wrath is poured out on people like the Rich Man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Now, I understand that there are people who don't want to read about or hear about the horrible things people do because it's sad and troubling and frightening and threatening at an existential level. I understand that and I respect that. There are horrible people in this world who do horrible things because they are far away from God. It is painful to hear about or read about. Beyond those reactions, when I hear about the evil in this world, it drives me into a deeper appreciation for the wrath of God and hell. I see God's judgment as vindication of His Holiness. People do horrible things in this world. Some even escape earthly justice. But no unrepentant sinner can escape God's wrath and eternal judgment. There are consequences to rejecting God's call to righteous living and His offer of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

All people don't go to heaven. Hell is a place of torment for those who die

separated from Jesus Christ.

Here is what C.S. Lewis said about hell. He stressed that people are not sent to hell but become their own hell. He once wrote of:

A bad man's perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is.

In other words, people who choose to be separated from Christ are in hell because they chose it. So one can conclude that, "All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want."

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus seems to lead to one such conclusion. The Rich Man, tormented himself in hell, wants to at least warn his brothers so they will make a better choice.

Many have disagreed with Lewis' point here. The most vocal disagreements come from those who embrace double predestination. Remember, predestination = God determines those He saves. Double predestination means that unbelievers have been chosen by God to not believe in Jesus Christ, thereby set apart by God for hell. Proverbs 16:4 is often cited for

this purpose:

The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Hard-line Calvinists…those who affirm double predestination…cite this verse to support the conclusion that some people are created wicked for the expressed purpose of being sent to hell. But there are other Scripture passages that send us seeking out a different interpretation of this Proverb. They are:

  • 1 John 4:8 & 16: " Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

  • John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

  • Lamentations 3:31-33: "For the Lord will not cast off forever, but,

though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the

abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his

heart or grieve the children of men."

  • Ezekiel 18:30-32: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4: "This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

  • 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

Here we have passages from Old Testament and New Testament that teach about God's love for all people, not wanting anyone to suffer and be separated from Him eternally. In light of these passages, how ought we

interpret Proverbs 16:4?

Let's look carefully at the passage. There is a moral order to things. God set up creation such that good is eventually rewarded and evil is eventually punished. Notice I say eventually. Sometimes we aren't happy with the timing of things, but sooner or later, God's will is done. In this sense, this purpose {evil eventually punished}, will be the day of trouble that comes upon the wicked. In the original Hebrew, the verb translated as "made" can also be translated as "works out." In other words, things work out for the wicked such that their end fits the moral order of creation. One way or another, justice will come to the wicked.

As we look at the broader witness of Scripture, then, Proverbs 16:4 shows how God works things out so that in the end, the wicked answer for their wickedness. They eventually reap what they sow. There's no need to accept the notion of God creating certain people for hell. They suffer of their own consequence.

So, back to C.S. Lewis. There's a lot to like about what Lewis said. When

he said, "All that are in hell choose it," I'm certain he doesn't mean that at death, all those who were not followers of Jesus Christ are given one last

shot. Clearly, that's something like what the Rich Man was asking. "Let me go back to my brothers so they won't make the same mistake I made." If that's how it worked, nobody would choose hell. That's not what Lewis meant. What Lewis was saying was that when we choose to live for ourselves, not following Jesus Christ, rejecting faith in him or embracing another faith, then at death we get the fate reserved for those who reject the gospel. In that sense, hell is a choice people make in this life that carries on into eternity. There is no second chance. A choice is made. And for many people, that choice is hell.

Here's where we'll leave off until next week.

We're saved because God called us to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We're not saved because we chose to believe. Faith is a gift from God. It is a gift of grace. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have freely accepted that gift. And you are honoring that gift of faith by living your life in service and obedience to him. You have freely accepted that gift. You have decided to faithfully live out of God's claim on your life. Remember what Jesus said in John 15:16:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

We are saved from God's wrath and hell because Jesus first chose us. That is the gospel.

Here's something to take with you. To say that God chooses to save us based on His foreknowledge that we will follow Jesus is to make salvation an act of works, not grace. It means that we are in charge of our final destination. That is not the gospel. In many ways, that is as troubling as double predestination. We will continue this thread on who goes to hell and why next week. Meanwhile -


To the Glory of God Alone!

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