Hell; Then and Now

Go to Hell
To Hell and back
What the Hell?
Give em Hell
Come Hell or high water
We’re proud that our Preacher doesn’t preach  “Hell, fire, and brimstone”
The Road to hell is paved with good intentions
“Hell is other people” — Jean Sartre (No Exit)
Going to hell in a hand-basket
People will say of the soon to be deceased, “They will split hell in half.”
Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.

So the idea of “Hell” is much in our lexicon but increasingly we as a people don’t believe in Hell.

We know that because in a 2007 Barna survey it was revealed

that only 32 percent of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”

We know that Hell isn’t in our belief system much because as Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist Seminary has said,

“You can traverse the entire United States on any given Sunday morning, and you very probably will not hear a sermon on the judgment of God or eternal punishment. Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in (the doctrine of hell) or else no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and say anything about it.”

Because Hell is so little spoken of and because it is one of the themes in Scripture, I try, every couple of years to preach at least one sermon on Hell and that in the Summer time because there is an easy to connect corollary.

First, we must note

I) The reality of Hell

A.) The New Testament speaks openly and repeatedly regarding the reality of Hell. It is,

The final abode of those condemned to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41-46, Rev. 20:11-15)

Described as a place of fire and darkness (Jude 7, 13)

Described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30)

Described as a place of destruction (II Thes. 1:7-9, II Peter 3:7, I Thes. 5:3)

Described as a place of torment (Rev. 20:10, Luke 16:23)

B.) Jesus Himself repeatedly speaks of Hell

HADES — Abode of the Dead

(1)  Capernaum exalted to heaven, then brought down to hell (hades) Mt 11:23 / Lk 10:15 …two mentions on SAME OCCASION
(2)  Lord says He will build His church: Mt 16:18 …one mention, ONE OCCASION
(3)  Parable of Rich man & Lazerus:  Lk 16:23 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

GEHENNA

(1) Sermon on the mount: Matt 5:29-30,22 and Mark 9:43,45,47… all 6 on the SAME OCCASION reported by both Mark and Matthew…
(2) Warning the Apostles to fear: Mark 10:28 Luke 12:5  two mentions…SAME OCCASION…
(3) Upbraiding the Pharisees:  Matt 23:15, 33 …2 mentions …SAME OCCASION
(4) Warning against offending little ones: Matt 18:9 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

The Greek word for Hell here is significant. Gehenna or the valley of Henna was a deep, narrow slight valley south of Jerusalem. Here the ancient idolatrous Jewish Kings and people would offer up their children in sacrifice to Molech ( 2 Chronicles 28:3 ; 33:6 ; Jeremiah 7:31 ; 19:2-6 ).

Later in time this same valley  became the Jerusalem dump. Here the corpse’s of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast away and consumed by a fire forever stoked and smoldering. The Gehenna dump thus in process of time became the image of the place of everlasting destruction.

This is the word used for the place of the wicked. It is the word used to speak of the Devil’s residence along with his servants. Because of the constant burning fire of the Jerusalem dump we easily understand the connection to everlasting fire as associated with Hell.  However, there might be more observed here about the nature of Hell with the usage of the word Gehenna. The Gehenna in Jerusalem like all city dumps was a place where no order existed nor meaningful relationship between objects exist. Hierarchy was non-existent.  It was a place of utter chaos and destructiveness.

Contrast that with this sanctuary or with your own homes. There is order here. Everything is in the place it is in for a reason. All is in a meaningful relationship with all else. The pews are faced in all one direction. The Cross, in the center, is ever before us. The pulpit is in the center thus communicating the centrality of God’s Word. The acoustics are designed for sound. The Windows for the movement of air. All is in order and all is properly related to everything else. Even our brass Church mouse speaks of meaning as it speaks of the necessity for quiet in God’s house.  (Quiet as a Church Mouse.) So there you have it. As humans we thrive on order, hierarchy, and meaning but a city dump as standing as metaphor for Hell there is no order… there is no natural relationship between objects. There is no meaning in the dump. There you find a once priceless Grandfather clock next to some old tattered sheets next to an old tennis shoe, next to a empty box of Frosted mini flakes, next to used kitty litter. The city dump is meaningless chaos. The city dump is total destructiveness.

In the words of Rushdoony,

“This tells us then something about Heaven and Hell. Heaven is that realm where all people and all things have a meaningful, loving fulfillment, one in another. There is a totality of meaning, a totality of purpose, a totality of fulfillment; whereas in Hell, there is a totality of isolation. There is no community between one person and another. There is a total isolation, so that everyone is his own world, his own universe, his own god.”

Well, what might we say here? We might note that as man constantly flees from God he at the same time integrates downward into the Gehenna dump with the result that he creates cultures of Hell where meaninglessness is prized as meaning. Where order is surrendered in pursuit of chaos. Where hierarchy is given up in favor of equality.

“Hierarchies are celestial. In hell all are equal.”

~Nicolás Gómez Davilla

One thing that is certainly true in a dump is that all the refuse and junk is equal … equally useless.

So, hell in Scripture is a place of endless burning. This stands in contrast in Scripture to heaven which is a place of endless blessing. Hell, like the Gehenna Jerusalem dump is a place of chaos, equality, and meaninglessness. Heaven, to the contrary, is a place of perfect order, eternal hierarchy, and total meaning. Hell is a place of total isolation whereas heaven is a place of complete community.

Here we can find a measuring rod for our family, churches, and communities. Do our community relationships take on the flavor of heaven or do they take on the character of the city dump — everything in isolation, nothing unique, all equally rotten and corrupt?

II.) Church History and Hell

For the Augustinians…….“They who shall enter into the joy of the Lord shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”

Augustine, The City of God

SECTION 1.“In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.”

Aquinas
Summa Theologica

“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.

Jonathan Edwards
[“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

“God shall not pity them but laugh at their calamity. The righteous company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s judgment, and shall sing while the smoke riseth up for ever.”

Thomas Boston, Scottish preacher, 1732

III.) Hell and the Character of God

A.) Lose the Doctrine of Hell, and you lose the Justice of God

1.)  The denial of the eternality of Hell is another example of putative Christians or unlearned Christians or immature Christians attempting to make God out to be nicer than He makes Himself out to be. It is an attempt to save God from being God. It is sentimentality trying to rescue the alleged mean glowering character of God. It is another example of do gooders, who by doing their good, end up making Christianity crueler then any Devil could. This denial of the eternality of Hell is taken up by those who, at the very least think, “My God would never be that mean.” It is the argument which attempts to make God “reasonable.”

But God is not “reasonable.” At least not by modern man’s standards. This is something the Reformed Evangelist Rolfe Barnard understood. Barnard quotes two Psalms,

Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God”

And in Psalm 7:11, we find these words: “God is angry with the wicked every day.”

Despite everything we hear today, Hell, God’s eternal penitentiary of the damned, is a terrible reality that men need to be faced with these days. I am aware of the fact that the popular “god” of the popular Christianity today is not the God of the Bible. Like a dead trunk, the popular “god” has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no arms to punish the ungodly. But the God of the Bible had fire in Sodom. He had a rod of iron for Samaria, for Tyre, for Jerusalem, and for Belshazzar. The God of the Bible dashed to pieces entire nations like a potter’s vessel. However, the modern “god” has no judgment in his hand; according to the popular gospel today, the modern “god” has sheathed the sword, and sits down as an indulgent weakling. His arm which used to visit vengeance upon impenitent sinners, now hangs nerveless and paralyzed–that is the popular “god” of today. I refuse to worship such a “god”–such a “god” is the creation of man’s wishes, but not the true God of the Bible.

Rolfe Barnard

 2.) Denials of Hell do not seem to comprehend that by altering the anchor example of God’s eternal justice (The condemnation to Eternal punishment for those who rebelled against God and His Christ) that the effect is a relativizing of temporal justice and punishment. If the anchor of justice is set loose and diminished in the Cosmic Divine realm the effect is to set adrift any ideas of absolute justice in the temporal realm.  If God’s justice is altered in terms of Hell and / or its duration then justice is the realm of man can be relativized and altered as well. One reason why we see so much injustice around us is that the Church no longer upholds the justice of God, by affirming the doctrine of Hell.
3.) Those who insist upon the conditionality of Hell or deny the eternality of Hell are those who will, in themselves or in their generations, become those who rebel against the whole concept of fixed Justice. When we deny the proper required Justice applied (eternal Hell) against those who commit crimes against God’s character and who do not find forgiveness in Christ, we will, over the course of time, deny the proper required justice against those who commit other lesser crimes. If the required proper punishment is denied, in our thinking, against those who commit the greatest of all crimes (unrepentant rebellion against the Character of God) then the consequence of that will eventually be the denial of justice implemented against all other lesser crimes.

So … getting rid of the eternal character of Hell guarantees the eventual arise of Hell on earth.

  4.) The Holiness of God is infinite and as such rebellion against God’s Holiness requires eternal punishment for those who do not close with Christ. The denial of the eternality of Hell is a denial of the august and majestic character of God. Low views of Hell insure, and in turn cause, low views of God.

The doctrine of Hell is a case where the punishment fits the crime. Any lesser punishment would suggest a lesser crime. The suggestion of a lesser crime would suggest that an offense against the person of God is somehow an offense that shouldn’t have the fullest possible consequences.  The eternality of Hell corresponds to the Majesty of God and His Law.

B.) And here we round off in speaking of Christ.

Christ is the who bore the Hell of God’s elect that that we might know God’s favor. If we deny Hell, we are denying at the same time the monumental importance of Christ’s work. If Hell, is not real … not eternal, then why is Christ dying for sins that merit the punishment of Hell?

A denial of Hell, ends up being a denial of the meritorious finished work of Christ. On the Cross Christ takes my punishment but if there is no eternal punishment why should I be grateful that He took it?

 

 

 

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Kinist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture . Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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