Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors. ( Psalm 7:9-13)
The Judeo/Christian teaching of a God of Holy wrath has by and large been rejected by the new psychologized, humanistically influenced evangelical world. Decades of weakened teaching and preaching have had a soul numbing effect on millions of confessing christians. The very idea of a place of fiery, eternal, punishment in hell is a “turn off” to the new evangelicals.
Rob Bell is the founder of Mars Hill church in Grandville, Michigan. He is also the author of a widely acclaimed book called “Love Wins”. Bell calls into question the doctrine of final and fixed judgment in hell for the “billions” who will not be saved. The following is from the preface of Bells book,
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.
Note the loaded way Bell frames the issue, speaking of a “select, few christians” in order to appeal to the egalitarian impulses of his readers, as if the difference between heaven and hell is a matter of social status to those of us who believe in God’s righteous Judgment.
It is my purpose in this little essay to proclaim how the punishment of Hell glorifies the God of the Bible, and His Son, Jesus our Lord.
Modern ministers seeking to become ‘relevant’ and identify with this unbelieving generation, are obviously ashamed of the traditional teaching of the church regarding the final punishment of evil. We shouldn’t be though. Jesus certainly wasn’t ashamed to warn people of an eternal hell.
Hell and the Lake of fire were created by God for a specific purpose, to punish the Devil and his fallen angels. God only does what pleases Himself, for God’s pleasure is the highest good. Therefore Hell itself is to the glory of God. Look with me at some of the ways Hell reveals God’s holy glory.
* Hell is a revelation of the utter hatefulness of sin – There is a sense in which the whole subject of Hell and punishment shows us our own heart. We stumble over the subject because we can’t believe that sin is so evil that it merits hell.
The fall of man has the same effect on us, we reason, “What’s the big deal, Eve eating a piece of fruit, sharing it with her husband, wanting to be ‘like gods’ ?”. And yet every tear of anguish, pain, shame, rage, fear, and humiliation that was ever shed, comes as a result of the man and the woman eating the fruit.
Eating fruit is that big a deal? No, but trusting God is. Being willing to remain as a worshipper under God, rather than aspiring to be a rival God in your own image, is a huge, infinite deal with eternal consequences.
Hell and the lake of fire are a revelation of the utter hatred God has for all that is evil, false, selfish, and unbelieving. God knows what sin is, an awful evil, incredibly damaging, and of enormous consequences. Sin is the evil of evils! It is worse than hell for it caused hell, and all suffering and separation came about as a result of it.
It is to God’s glory that He hates something so hateful. Would we want to live in a universe of a God who delighted in malignant evil? Who loved lust? Selfishness and covetousness? Such a world would be unbearable.
* Hell reveals the Righteousness of God – I would hate to think of a world wherein both Hitler and his victims ended up in the same condition. We know better than that, and furthermore we know that this life isn’t long enough or of sufficient breadth to fully satisfy Justice.
For example, Hitler shot himself in the head in a bunker, after slaughtering millions of millions of his own people, and plunging the world into the most devastating war to date. He wasn’t even brought up on trial, he eluded all attempts to bring him to justice of any sort. Had he been brought to Nuremberg after the war, the worse that could have been done to this mass murderer, would be to hang him.
The doctrine of final judgment, and a fixed eternal state tells us that justice shall be eternally satisfied, there is a place where every last farthing will be demanded, all accounts will be put into order.
* Hell reveals the infinite worth of God – As we said earlier, people can’t believe that sin is really as evil as it is, therefore they can’t understand the severity of Hell.
In the same way, people don’t really believe that God is as glorious, exalted, majestic and high as He is. If they could see God they would instantly realize why there must be a hell, for they would know that to sin against such an infinitely good, Holy and beautiful being could only merit such a punishment. All sins are against God himself.
The very definition of evil, is to spurn, resist or ignore God, for He alone is the source of all that is good. You cannot spurn such a God with impunity! Hell shows us that God is so high, lifted up, so good, so beautiful, that to sin against Him is to hate goodness itself. It is the epitome of pride and impiety to refuse to worship such goodness and beauty!
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God…(Psalm 9:17)
Where else could they Go? Heaven itself would be hell to the wicked for they hate God!
Part two tomorrow