If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 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 14:9-11)
This generation has a hard time accepting the long-standing Christian doctrine of the certainty of Divine judgment, eternal punishment and the wrath of God. How could it be that simply for sinning, or unbelief, that one would have to suffer in the lake of fire for eternity? Doesn’t that seem extreme?
As I suggest in the title, they just don’t “get” hell, and as a consequence, in many formerly evangelical churches,by and large the doctrine is being jettisoned, as if it is an outdated ‘relic’ from the harsh,judgmental past.
One very important reason for this defection from orthodoxy, has to do with the lowered standard of preaching in the churches. All too often, particularly lacking is the exposition of the doctrine of God; his Glory, Majesty, attributes and perfections.
There have never been so many christian churches, teachings, books,seminars or conferences, but rarely do these sermons hold forth the doctrine of God. The vision of “the only true God”, is all but gone for too many christians, therefore it is difficult to believe in Hell and even to perceive the necessity of the cross.
The most important aspect to any person’s character is how they see God. This is the determining factor in every other area of life, it controls how they relate to others, how they live in marriage, business, family, how they parent, everything revolves around how one sees God. (This is true of everybody, even ‘Atheists’). All personal problems are theological in nature.
In order to believe in Hell and judgment, as Jesus, and the apostles described it, one must believe that there is a Divine person,GOD, who is so exalted, so high and lifted up, so Holy and awesome, that to reject and to spurn him, is to spurn goodness itself! Could there be anyone so “high and lifted up”?
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.(Isaiah 6:1-5)
The issue of sin and damnation isn’t so much a matter of what we actually did to deserve hell, rather it is more a matter of who we did it against, who we rebelled against, spurned, rejected, and disowned!
David, the adulterer, murderer and national stumbling block, confessed to the God whom he had grieved, ,“Against You, You only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51)
When we are given some sense of God in his majesty, Holiness and goodness, it becomes easier for us to believe in an ultimate banishment from all that is pleasant and good as the just judgment of those who reject God.
We are told by eyewitnesses to the Lewis revival of the 1950’s, that when the LORD Sovereignly revealed himself to teenagers at a dance, they fell on their faces and many separately confessed, “Hell would be too good for me O LORD….for I have seen you…have mercy upon me a sinner!”
Similarly, the suffering and agony of the cross of Jesus is difficult for this generation to grasp. There are new teachings, denying the wrath of God as being somehow beneath an “All loving God”. Worse yet there are those who reject the doctrine of propitiation, that is that Jesus died as a satisfaction for our sins.
They simply do not see that sin is “that bad”.Nor does this egalitarian generation believe that anyone at all is above them, let alone that God is “That awesome”; so high and lifted up, that it took nothing less than the suffering, agony and rejection of the man who is “The Lord from heaven”, to save us from eternal damnation.
But we behold in the cross of Jesus the awful holiness and righteousness of God, as well as His mercy and compassion. We shudder at the sight of the crucified Messiah, fixed between heaven and earth, and in trembling awe we ask ourselves,”Is this what it took to redeem us” ?
If they could but get a glimpse of who God is, perhaps this generation would be able once again to see the eternal danger they are in, and flee the wrath to come. Is this what the Proverbs taught us when Wisdom said,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.(Proverbs 9:10) ?
Oh for that understanding to be poured out on this erring generation!