Thursday, August 1, 2013

Outer Darkness


The doctrine of eternal damnation is an admittedly difficult truth, to say the least. Let me say that this is a horrifying and distressing doctrine for anyone to contemplate and attempt to understand, let alone accept. It is heart-breaking beyond words. I have struggled with it my whole walk with Christ (about 37 years), especially the last 16 years of serious study. This is why some Christians cannot believe in a literal, eternal hell. They allegorize it so that some day everyone gets to Heaven or they believe in the annihilation of the soul. But, a literal reading of the Bible clearly reveals that this is not the case. Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else in the New Testament, and He spoke of it as a real and eternal place.

"But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mathew 8:12, see also Mark 9:43, Revelation 20:14)

What I will share with you is what I have come to understand hell will be like, from a literal, plain reading of the Bible. 

First of all, not many people know that the Bible indicates that there are degrees of punishment in hell. The New Testament has a lot to say about degrees of rewards for believers in Heaven (see Matthew 5:11-12, Matthew 6:1-2, 2 Cornithians 5:10). In the same way, there are degrees of punishment in hell. Consider the following Scriptures:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:27)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile ... (1 Peter 1:17)

"Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town." (Matthew 10:15)

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)

As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely." (Mark 12:38-40)

“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)

Now, this is huge! We haven't dealt with the eternality of hell yet, which may be the tougher issue to comprehend, but in terms of fairness of punishment, this should rattle some critic’s past arguments. We hear all the time about how unfair it is for God to punish some generally nice person in the same way as Hitler. But, as we can see from these Scriptures, it is not true.

Now, Jesus said, “no one is good but One, that is God,” so all that reject Him deserve to go to hell because only God is perfectly good. But, there will be a difference in what is experienced there for each individual person, according to their works. Even though each will get a punishment fitting to their sin, hell is not a place anyone wants to go. It is a place of darkness, torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth for everyone sent there. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, is the only one that can keep you from this horrible place.

Okay, so the punishment will be appropriate for each person in hell, but how can an eternal hell be appropriate, just and right? I believe eternal damnation is justified for at least 5 reasons.

1. The punishment will fit the crime, so to speak, in that there are degrees of punishment for the wicked based on each one’s works.

2. God is eternal and created human spirits to be eternal. Because people were created to live forever, hell is necessarily eternal. 

3. As a person continues to exist eternally in sin, separated from God, they bring about for themselves "each day" in hell the just punishment for their sin. In order for justice to be served, an eternally sinning person does demand an eternal punishment.

4. God has made hell a choice. It is the option for human beings who do not want to spend eternity with Him. For those who never heard of Christ, before or after the cross, they are saved by faith in God. Each heart will be examined by God for sincere faith and He will not send anyone to hell wrongfully. For those who have heard the good news of the cross of Christ, they will be judged based on whether they have received Jesus as Lord and Savior or not. 

5. God has made a way for everyone to avoid eternal damnation in hell, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone can receive Christ by faith and have their sins forgiven, so no one has an excuse for not being able to achieve eternal life with Jesus.

Have you repented of your sin, sincerely and from the heart? Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation? If you have not, there is no sin that is unforgivable except for the sin of rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus paid the price for all of your sin at the cross so that you can be saved freely by God’s grace, through faith in Him. One cannot be made right with our perfect Creator by doing good things. We must be forgiven of our sin by Him. God is love and a God of justice. The Creator of all things became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, and took our punishment upon Himself so that we can live forever in His Kingdom. Ask God for forgiveness now, and receive new life through our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Some additional resources:


http://www.gotquestions.org/levels-hell.html







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