Through the years, our church has had members who did not quite see eye-to-eye with their pastor. Usually that has not been a major problem. Probably only my wife agrees with me – 90% of the time. I don’t force everyone to believe exactly the way that I do about the Bible. And in fact I will acknowledge that I might just be wrong about some things. But there have been some whom we had to discipline and remove because of serious disagreements. There are some doctrines which, because of the Bible, are not debatable. And when a member tries to corrupt others with their unbiblical opinions, something drastic must be done.
For example years ago, we had to remove two long-time members. They had held to some relatively unimportant doctrines which are not taught by our church and which I had known about for nearly twenty-five years. But what I didn’t know is that they did not believe in a literal Hell. And what is worse, because of that – they accepted in some form of universalism – that Christ’s atonement provides salvation for every everyone. In other words, there is no NEED for Hell or the eternal Lake of Fire. Perhaps they granted God the right to annihilate the very wicked, but the relatively wicked and the man who simply dies in unbelief, would eventually come under God’s grace and be delivered from his sins.
Despite the published doctrines of our church, members are going to believe what they want to believe. Perhaps it is just a part of the human psychology. It doesn’t matter what the facts are – some people will refuse to accept those facts – Biblical or otherwise. “I don’t believe that the earth is round, because it appears to be flat from where I’m standing.” “I don’t believe that the Roman Catholic church has killed 60 millions Baptists down through the years.” “I don’t believe that Baptists, as a branch of Christianity, are more than 400 years old.” This kind of incredulity is most clearly seen in children: “These vegetables are poison.” “The sun is shining, and even though you say its January; I don’t need to wear my coat.” “I am sure that I can have sound teeth all my life without brushing those teeth.” If only life was this simple. Immature people believe what they want to believe, and it is sad to see that our world is filled with many immature adults.
And as I say, this phenomenon is particularly obvious in the world of religion and theology. Logic tells us that God designed and approved only one true faith, and yet there are thousands of different religions, with every one of them professing to be the one and only true religion. Every single man-made form of worship has been altered to fit the desire of its human author. It is like renovations to the White House: How many times has that residence been redecorated over the last two hundred years? Every President’s wife has been given a growing sum of public money to make the place look the way she wants it to look – even though she’ll be there only 4 to 8 years. It is a wonder that it hasn’t recently been painted to look like a rainbow. What would Abigail Adams think about the house that she first decorated 240 years ago?
Cain didn’t want to believe that blood is a necessary part to approaching God, so he create his own religion. King Saul didn’t want to believe that obedience is required by the Lord, so he spared an enemy king and the best of this flock. Joseph Arminius didn’t want to believe that man is totally depraved and spiritually dead, so he created his own religion. Not a single Pope has ever wanted to believe that the believer is a priest unto God, because that would destroy his man-made religion. There is an almost endless list of things people just don’t want to accept about the Bible and God’s worship.
What is the MOST obnoxious religious doctrine in the eyes of sinful men? I suppose that there could be some debate about this, but certainly there would be the sovereignty of God when it comes to salvation. Also at or near the top of every list would have to be that doctrine of eternal judgment – damnation, Hell. We aren’t surprised when people adapt their personal religions to remove this personal Hell. Recent surveys indicate that less than 1/3 of American church leaders believe in a literal Hell. And it’s not because 2/3 of the churches in the United States are Jehovah Witness Kingdom Halls. I am told, there are more Baptist pastors who reject eternal judgment for sin that who accept it. And what is really sad is that many of them will not openly declare what they DON’T believe.
And here is where I get just a bit excited: Many of the same people who deny eternal HELL-FIRE accept the idea of eternal BLISS. Truly, people believe only what they want to believe. They are like kids at the pot-luck lunch – very selective. At the pot-luck some of them can get away with eating only – and exactly – what they want to eat. At home they’d get no choice at all. Mom fixes dinner, and if they don’t want to eat it, they can go to bed hungry. Pot-luck religion is inconsistent with logic, with scripture and with good mental health. And if someone is going to believe in an eternal Heaven, then he has to accept an eternal, literal Hell and an eternal Lake of Fire. To be exact, Hell and the Lake of Fire, are not the same thing, and only the Lake is eternal. I say this because of scripture in Revelation says that Hell will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire. But for the sake of this message, when I mention “Hell” I am referring to both “Hell” and “the Lake of Fire.”
The title of my message this morning is this: “Hell, the Mirror of Heaven.” Hell and Heaven are not exactly mirror images of each other, but they share several very important traits. It is impossible to have one without the other, unless you intend to engage your imagination and pull out your “Etch-a-Sketch” in order to write a new bible.
For example Hell is like Heaven in that they are BOTH ETERNAL.
Please turn to Matthew 25, and notice particularly verses 41-46: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” The two words “everlasting” and “eternal” are translations of “aionios” (ahee-o’-nee-os). That word is translated only three ways in God’s Word – “everlasting,” “eternal” and “since the world began.” In other words, it essentially means only one thing – “for ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.”
Shortly after I left Bible School, I was out visiting and met my first self-proclaimed “expert” in the Greek language. Somehow, and apparently with his half developed education and his enhightened imagination, this man had convinced himself that “eternal” only meant “of long duration” or “of the length of an age.” He was sure that the Lake of Fire was going to come end at end of the “age” – whatever that meant. In addition to this mis-definition, among other things, that man was inconsistent in his logic. To say that Hell and punishment for sin are temporary, invites a whole flock of similar errors. If you put bird seed out in the back yard to feed the sparrows, nut-hatches, and chickadees, you’ll soon also be feeding flocks of starlings, magpies, goony birds and buzzards. Not to mention the neighborhood cats. To please ourselves and to say that the Lake of Fire is really only some sort of temporary purgatory, gives us problems with lots of important scriptures. Such as I Timothy 1:17 – “Now unto the King eternal, invisible, immortal…” I am not one those preachers who believes that God is dead or dying. In fact I am convinced that it is as impossible for God to die as it is for Him to lie. When the Bible says that God is eternal, I’m foolish enough think that He will be and live – FOREVER. And similarly, Christ Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and FOREVER.” John 12:34 may be the words of the Jewish crowds, but those words are accurate enough. “We have heard out of law that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” God the Father, and God the Son are not the only eternal – never ending things in Jehovah’s domain. For example, because your soul is eternal, it will never die. You need to be born again … “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
Let the truth of God sink deeply into your soul – “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night FOR EVER and EVER” – Revelation 20:10. “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up FOR EVER and EVER: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” – Revelation 14:11.
The day the fires of the Lake of Fire die out will also be the day that Heaven ceases to exist, because it will be the day of the decease of the eternal God. As God lives today and shall ever dwell in glory for ever, YOU may dwell in judgment just as long. That is – should you, by your rebellion and unbelief, be cast into the Lake of Fire, you shall never escape.
Furthermore Hell is like Heaven in its ARCHITECT and CONTRACTOR.
II Thessalonians. 1:6-10 – “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
How often have the saints of God rejoiced in the promises of John 14? “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Just think about it: The Lord Jesus has been preparing a place for us for over 2,000 earthly years. Surely it must be magnificent. And beyond that, te salvation of the just has been in the works for an eternity already.
Are there any questions about those eternal preparations? Well, as a matter of fact, yes there are – lots of them. Corinthians 2 – “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” We may not be able to grasp all that the Lord has done or is doing for us, but there should be no question about Who it is making those preparations.
Is there any doubt that same God Who has prepared Heaven has also prepared Hell? Matthew. 25:41 reports that Lord shall say to wicked: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Prepared by Whom? How many people have the insane idea that Satan is the owner and chief maintenance man of Hell? How many picture the Devil stoking the fires of the Lake full of burning brimstone? Truly, we believe what we want to believe. Millions of people apparently believe that GOD will forget our wickedness – but SATAN won’t. Who is the actual god of these people? Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Hell is a prepared place for unprepared people; natural people; graceless people. “The wicked shall be cast into hell and all nations that forget God.”
And just like Heaven, Hell is the BEST in its CLASS.
God has never yet made a mistake. He has never started any project and left it incomplete. When creating the earth, prior to sin’s intervention, He looked and said, “It is good.” Jehovah’s only standard is perfection – “Be ye holy for I am holy.” He has called His saints to wear the image of the perfect and righteous Son of God.
And Heaven will be the very paragon of perfection – in design, atmosphere, and glory. It will be a masterpiece of magnificence, and the quintessence of quality. It is beyond the imagination of our sin-corrupted minds. And only a FOOL would deliberately choose to miss it. As I said the other day, I don’t use the word “fool” lightly. Those are not my words, but the Lord’s. The Lord calls the man “a fool” who even by mere neglect misses Heaven. Luke 12:16-21 – “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou FOOL, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
On the other side of that coin, the Lake of Fire is also the very best of its class. Unlike modern prisons with their relative conveniences, Hell is the ultimate in punishment facilities. There will be the solitude of darkness so thick it will be impenetrable. The fires will be so hot that one drop of water would greatly relieve the sufferer – if it was given. The flames will be so intense that they will consume their own light. The nerves and minds of the sufferers will be so acute that their sins will never be forgotten. The conscience will be active, the mind active, the heart active and every sensory nerve will be active. Perhaps even lust, hunger and emotional thirst will be a part of that place and punishment.
Both Heaven and Hell will be places of total consciousness. There will be no long winter’s naps, no black outs, no memory laps, and no drugs to deaden the senses. Smitty’s bar wont be there to help folk drown their sorrows. It will be the ultimate place of punishment and pain. The Lake of Fire will be Hell to the nth degree. Deny it if you dare; but deny it to the eternal peril of your soul.
Because like Heaven, Hell will be INESCAPABLE.
Isn’t it a joy to know that the Christian is “kept by the power of God unto salvation?” I saw again other day, one of the first books I put into my library: “Shall Never Perish” by J. F. Stromberg. I don’t know of any other person in the world who owns a copy of that book. Stromberg wasn’t a pastor himself, but a Christian businessman. That little book was such a joy to me in my early Christian life, because it proved and re-proved that once a sinner has been enveloped by God’s grace he will never be released. And it wasn’t until I had grown just a little bit doctrinally that I realized that book guaranteed that eternal life, because it emphasized the sovereignty of God – and particularly God’s sovereign saving grace. The child of God shall never perish.
Listen once again to John 10:27-29 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall NEVER perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Notice that verse 28 says “never” – not ever – the Greek word is “aion” – it is related to the word “eternal.” When you find one of those sad people who says “I was once saved, but now I am lost,” you’ve found someone who believes a lie. It’s a lie which pleases some people, but definitely not the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of “saved-sin-lost-resaved-sin again-lost again” – delights some people – but not Jehovah. It may please some preachers, who can chain their people to his church and to his bank account. It thrills Satan, who then can get these people to look to themselves for salvation, rather than looking to finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That kind of idea will damn hundreds of thousands of souls to eternal fire. God’s salvation is eternal, and the mortgage on the saint’s home in Heaven has been fully paid for eternity by the eternal Son of God.
There is a sense in which Heaven is inescapable – but that is even more true of the Lake of Fire. Once again I remind you of Revelation 14:11: “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” If you are rejecting Christ’s sacrifice and seeking another means of salvation, you will enter Hell, and then you can kiss all hope of escape good-bye.
And now we come to the nitty gritty – both Heaven and Hell are CONSISTENT with the NATURE OF GOD.
How often do we hear that God is too loving – too kind – to send anyone, but the very worst people, to Hell? It is shouted from the rafters in thousands of liberal churches around the world. It is apparently believed by a couple of our former church members. But it’s a lie of Satan, and people believe it only because it tickles their ears or their fancy.
God indeed is loving and merciful – so merciful that He designed a way to escape the judgment sin deserves. But above His love stands God’s infinite holiness. Just as you can’t stop the heart beating in your chest – God can not deny His Holy nature. The Lord has made a promise to all who, under the Holy Spirit, repent and turn to Him through Christ. Among other things there is His promise of eternal glory in Heaven. It includes forgiveness of all sin, a cleansed record, imputed righteousness and life eternal. But those promises can be kept only because Christ bore every aspect of the judgment that our sins deserve. And for the sinner who spurns the message of His grace, God must pronounce judgment. “The wages of sin is death” – eternally – and God is a debtor to no man. “Behold, all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
Hell is AS consistent with the nature God as Heaven is. If there were no such judgment, we couldn’t count on the Lord for anything – including Heaven. It would mean that sin is, at the very least, tolerable to the Lord. But it isn’t. Heaven is a part of God’s justice, and so is the Lake of Fire.
And finally, there is a sense in which both Heaven and Hell can be MISSED or AVOIDED.
When the “Rich man” of Luke 16 died and lifted up his eyes in hell, he couldn’t get to Paradise. He knew it instantly, and didn’t even ask for it. There will be no passports and no shuttles between the Lake of Fire and Heaven. There will be no paroles, pardons, transfers or prisoner exchange. And a simple desire to go to Heaven – a will or even a hope for Heaven – does not guarantee that place for sinful souls. Only by the free grace of God is there an avoidance – (not an escape) – from eternal judgment.
You may miss Heaven by your intellect, or by your neglect, or by your willful “reject.” It is often said that it’s possible miss HEAVEN by 18 inches, the distance between the head and the heart. But the only way to miss HELL is by turning 180 degrees toward Jesus Christ and His infinite grace. You must – and I stress MUST – you must turn from your pride and self-confidence. You must acknowledge that you deserve Hell – because you are a sinner. You must turn from yourself and your sin into the arms of Saviour. That is, you must repent. And you must put all your dependence for the future of your soul on the finished work Christ.
How can a sinner escape the eternal condemnation of Hell? The Lord Jesus put it this way: “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Is YOUR faith in Christ Jesus – the Father’s appointed Saviour – this morning?