Mr. Robin Webber
June 16, 2001
What Does the Bible say
Last week we discussed what does the Bible really say about heaven. And today we’re
going to cover another topic that I hope will be just as beneficial.
On an American troop ship a bunch of soldiers crowded around their chaplain and
asked him a question. They simply asked him, "Sir, do you believe in hell?"
The chaplain came back. He said, "No, I do not."
"Well, then, will you please resign, for if there is no hell, we do not need you. And if
there is a hell, we do not want to be lead astray."
Now these men that crowded around this chaplain on a troop ship were asking one of
the big questions of life that you and I need to be able to answer. The subject of heaven
that we discussed last week and the subject of hell are subjects that are on people’s
minds, and amazingly even today on the early side of the twenty-first century, more
people today believe in hell at least in the United States than even in the 1960’s or even
a mere ten years ago. Allow me to quote from U. S. News and World Report, January
31, 2000, when it says, "Hell’s powerful images will no doubt continue to loom over
humanity as they have for over 2,000 years as a grim and ominous reminder of the
reality of evil and its consequences." Now this is out of the same article where it did
mention that more people today in America in 2001 believe in a hell than ever before.
For a moment with an audience this large and this big I think we need to provide a
common working definition before we go any further. So I’d like to create a definition so
that as we move forward in this message that we can all indeed be on the same page.
And I’d like to quote for a moment from the Encyclopedia Americana regarding hell. And
here’s the summation of this popular belief:
"As generally understood, hell is the abode of evil spirits, the infernal regions, where the
lost and condemned souls go after, to suffer indescribable torments and eternal
punishment. Some have thought of it as a place that has been created by the deity
where He punishes with inconceivable severity and through all eternity the souls of
those through unbelief or through the worship of false gods have angered Him. It is the
place of divine revenge, untempered and never ending. This has been the idea most
generally held by Christians, by Catholics and by Protestants alike." Now that is the
common definition that we find in the Encyclopedia Americana.
My question to the audience today is how do you perceive hell. What does hell mean to
you? And what kind of a god would create a hell for humanity? These are some of the
big questions that we need to ask today and not only ask the big questions, but
hopefully find even the bigger answers from our God regarding these scenarios.
As we ask the questions we come into a couple of quandaries that I’d like to share with
you for a moment. The great quandary is simply this - how can a God who proclaims
that He is indeed love seemingly torture individuals forever in a God-created inferno?
Number two: What about the billions, and I do mean billions with a "b" of individuals that
have never been reached, touched or molded by the name and the life of Jesus Christ?
Not only the name, not even knowing about the life, but knowing the mission and the
ministry of Jesus Christ and what He is about - are they condemned to an ever-burning,
ever-tortuous, tormentable abyss called hell? Simply, are they lost? What about some of
your relatives that don’t have this message, that don’t know this message, that have
never submitted to the rule of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. Are they
condemned forever to an ever-burning hell? Is that the God that you currently worship?
Is that the God that you can have trust and you can have confidence in? Is that the God
that we just heard in the opening message that you really have a desire to invest in
because you understand His great love for you? Or are we simply approaching God
based upon fear and based upon trepidation and not knowing exactly what He wants of
You know when we think about this, we come to two conclusions, that if we do believe
in this kind of a hell, number one, is it kind? And number two, is it simply fair to judge
people based upon something that maybe they have never known about in their life? If
this be the case, and with this knowledge and with this definition whether it be so or not
it has been the case in many people’s minds that creates a deep cynicism or even a
sarcasm towards God.
Let me talk about for a moment the life of Charles Darwin. Most of us know Charles
Darwin as the father of evolution. It is very interesting what Charles Darwin once
mentioned in a private autobiography when he wrote, "Thus this belief crept over me at
a very slow rate, but was at last complete. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to
wish that Christianity be true, for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that
men who do not believe will be everlastingly punished. His conclusion is that this is a
damnable doctrine." Charles Darwin.
Let’s notice a verse found over in Hebrews 6, if you’ll join me there that will set the
stage for the rest of our discussion today as we probe what the Bible truly says about
hell. And let’s use this as a springboard of discussion and understanding regarding this,
because the answers do lie in your Bible, and we will find it. In Hebrews 6:1 the author
of Hebrews discusses some of the very fundamental beliefs and doctrines of
Hebrews 6:1 - "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ,
let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead
works and of faith toward God.
Verse 2 - "Of the doctrine of baptisms, of the laying on of hands, of resurrection of the
dead, and. . ." and then lastly, and notice. . . "and of eternal judgment." Now it is here
that I would ask that our audience draw a focus, and if you haven’t opened up your
Bible yet I encourage you to do so, or if you’re listening to this tape. . . now, if you’re on
the freeway listening to this tape, please don’t open up your Bible. Keep your hands on
the wheel. But beyond that, let’s notice what it says, and perhaps notice what it says by
noticing what it doesn’t say for a moment, if I can add a few words. And it doesn’t say,
"and of eternal torture." It does not say, "and/or of eternal punishment," but what it most
assuredly says is that there is an eternal judgment. And that’s what we need to
understand, and that is the answer that you and I are going to move forward to in the
course of this message. Friends here and those in our Good News magazine mailing
audience, the problem is not that the Bible and/or a loving Father teaches a "damnable
doctrine," to quote Charles Darwin for a moment. But rather that men and women have
misunderstood, or never seen what the Bible clearly states and shows out of its words.
And because of that there have been men and women, families for generations that
have been led astray just as much as those sailors on board that troop ship talking to
that chaplain were afraid that they were going to be led astray, humanity at large has
been led astray regarding this vital subject of eternal judgment and what is in store for
humanity. So today let’s explore, if I can say it, let’s explore hell together in the Bible,
and what does the Bible really say about hell?
First of all, we need to ask ourselves a basic question. Where in the world does our
modern concept of hell come from? Where in the world does it come from? The reason
being using that statement we will find very much that the common popular concept of
hell very much is an earthly creation. It is not a creation of God. It does not come from
God, but it comes from other sources, and I’d like to weave a web of thought here to
allow you to understand where this earth-driven concept slowly moved into Christianity
at large. We have to actually go back, afar back, at least to 800 B. C. to the Greeks.
The Greeks had for many centuries traded with the Egyptians in commerce and in
trade. And they had very much borrowed many ideas from the Egyptians who were very
much obsessed with the culture of death. Some of our first readings, of what the Greeks
actually believed or were taught, come out of the writings of the classical Greek poet,
Homer. I think all of us know of the blind poet of Asia Minor who wrote the great classics
The Iliad, and The Odyssey. Homer called the place of the dead "the house of Hades."
Hades was the Greek king of the underworld. He was the ruler of that which was
underneath the earth. Later on the entire realm that he ruled over basically took on his
name which simply was - Hades. The stage is set again then when we use that thought
to recognize that later on in his second classical writing of The Odyssey, which is the
story of Ulysses and his wanderings after the fall of Troy that Ulysses for many, many
years wanders; he’s trying to get back to his beloved wife, Penelope. He cannot make it
back so he wanders the world, goes into all sorts of places and one of the places that
he goes into is the abode of departed spirits. And he does that in desperation. Odyssey,
or Ulysses, repeatedly found his way into the abode of departed spirits to learn from the
ghost of a famous seer how he might find his way home. It is at this point in
remembering that the odes of Homer were about 800 B. C., the underworld described
by Homer was a shadowy place of dreary darkness lying beneath the secret places of
the earth. Though a place of gloom at this point, it was not pictured as one of
punishment and torture as in the traditional Christian or Oriental hell.
But the story builds as so often happens as one story mixes in with another story and
somebody begins to build on that, let’s take one of the classical writers, being Virgil,
who writes actually the other sequel to Troy, and that is the story of the Aeneid. And
Virgil writes this great Roman epic about the Trojan hero, Aeneas fleeing the burning
ruins of Troy after the Greek victory. And what happens here is that Aeneas is brought
over by the ferryman Charon for passage into an infernal region to consult his dead
father. It’s interesting that Virgil’s reference to this place is not Hades, but he calls it
Tartarus or Tartaroo for this fabled infernal region. And in this now the story develops
Aeneas enters the underworld through a cavern at a foul-smelling lake near Naples,
Italy. And descending on a road as mentioned in this epic, wrapped in shadows, this
hero encounters numerous horrors and frightful terrors.
Now this is later on coupled as we go down through the centuries with Plato, Greek
philosopher, student of Socrates, who writes in his Phaedo the concept of the immortal
soul. This, then is later on, as we go down through the centuries, not from above, but
down here below, going back to the Egyptians, coming into the Greeks, Homer, Plato.
Later on, this is cemented into Christianity by what is often times termed as the last
great classical writer of the classical period, and that would be Augustine of Hippo,
otherwise known as Saint Augustine. And it is with Augustine’s writings, as he cannot
help but be effected by the Greek and the Roman and the Latin world of the classics
around him, that what he does then is, he combines the underworld and the soul that in
a sense cannot die and begins to mix it, and it is under Augustine then, that he reasons
in places within religious thought the concept of a temporary cleansing of imperfect
souls in a purgatorial fire.
Now interesting at this point, we’re at around 400 A. D. so please stay with me for a
moment; we’re around the fall of Rome, but now we need to speed forward another
eight hundred years because now we come to the concepts that perhaps you are all
very familiar with, and that is by the writings of Dante Alighieri. Now please stay with me
in this brief history lesson because this history moves toward why the subject of hell
ultimately is a mystery for most of humanity. Many of us, to one degree or another,
whether we’ve ever read the books or not, are familiar with the name Dante who lived in
Italy during what we call the high middle ages of 1250 to 1300 A. D.
Dante is writing basically a satirical piece of literature really dealing with the
personalities and the dramas of his day. But there is no mistaking beyond the poetry
that Dante is basing his foundation upon the teachings and the theology of another
great medieval theologian named Thomas Aquinas. And it is Thomas Aquinas who was
a great student of, in that sense, of Aristotle, and Aristotle being the student of Plato,
being the student of Socrates, that we are locked into the concept then of the Greek and
the Latin world, not the Christian world, but the Greek and the Latin world infusing itself
within the Bible. And it comes down then into what we call this section of the Divine
Comedy which is actually divided into three sections, this section which is basically
known as The Inferno.
Let me read just a little bit about that for a moment. Now so far, we haven’t even gone
to scripture, but this is the basis of where it’s led to by 1300 A. D. Let me just mention a
little bit of The Inferno to you. Dante is conducted through hell by the spirit of the Roman
poet, Virgil. The trip begins on good Friday, 1300 A. D. in a wooded area near
Jerusalem. Over the gate of hell, the two travelers find a fearful and now famous
inscription that in today’s words would be: "abandon every hope, you who enter here."
Dante then witnesses in his imagination the eternal torments of the wicked. He
describes hell as being divided into varies levels, descending conically into the earth.
Souls suffer punishments appropriate to their sins. For example, hypocrites wear gowns
brilliant outwardly, but are made of heavy lead instead of cloth. They must bear the
weight of them forever. Gluttons are doomed to forever lie like pigs in a foul-smelling sty
under a cold eternal rain. Dante’s descriptions are vivid, are frightening. And those
pictures locked into his writings, going back to the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas, to
Augustine, back to Virgil, back to Homer, have nothing to do with what is written in your
Bible, but is locked into many, many sincere people’s minds as to their vision and their
image of what God is doing. Fearsome, tortuous, scary, forever, and some people,
people that you may know, maybe yourself; you may feel for one reason or another that
the way that an individual lived, that right now they are in that sense tasting the flames
Kind of reminds me of the story of the man that was preaching a sermon on hell. And
the preacher quavered in his voice, "Oh, my brethren," and he begins quoting scripture,
"for the wicked, there will be wailing in the world, weeping and wailing, and gnashing of
And one of the people out in the congregation, he raised his hand, and he said, "Pastor,
Pastor," he said, "wonder if you don’t have teeth."
And the Pastor looked down at the individual and said, "Brother, teeth will be provided."
Those teeth are supposed to gnash.
I hope by giving this brief discussion of the background of how so much has
unfortunately entered the average mind of the average Christian that we can begin to
realize that we cannot rely on Homer, or Virgil, or Augustine, or Dante to unlock the
mystery of what the Bible really says about hell, but we do have One that has the keys.
Would you join me please over in Revelation 1, and let’s notice who holds the keys to
understanding this, literally and figuratively.
Revelation 1:17 - "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right
hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid." That’s one of the first things that God
always says, "Do not be afraid." For why? "I am the First and the Last.
Verse 18 - "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.
Amen. And I have the keys of Hades," of hell, " and of Death." The good news in
understanding who holds the keys of understanding on this subject is that we do not
have to even one moment descend into what we might call a man-made hell. That’s the
good news. The good news is you can understanding what eternal judgment, as
mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3, is actually all about.
Let me, to begin with, offer you three simple scriptural keys to understand where and
what God is all about. Let’s allow the Bible to define the Bible.
The first key that I’d like to share with you, and this will be our compass and our guide
as we go through this subject. I John 4:8 - Come with me there for a moment. Let’s look
at it with our own eyes. I John 4:8. These are the overarching principles that we must
put everything else together with because God’s word does not contradict itself.
I John 4:8 - "He who does not love does not know God." Why? "For God is love." "God
is love." That’s the overriding arching principle that we have to understand. Here we are
the day before Father’s Day in America. And to think about it for a moment, fathers that
you do love your children, your sons and your daughters, and for those of you that are
grandfathers to think of the little ones that you love and you care for as your family
extends. What would you do, or what would you not do, for your little ones? How would
you treat them? What would you do for them? That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time
to discipline or punish, to direct, to guide towards a wrong action. But what would the
discipline be? What would be the response? What would be the penalty? Would the
penalty match what the action was all about?
Jesus Christ Himself said, "Look, you as fathers, if you think you love your children, just
imagine what God’s great love must be." The first overriding, arching principle is that
"God is love."
The second principle that I would like to share with you is in Isaiah 55. Join me there.
The second principle. Isaiah 55, and we need to understand this. Found in the middle of
the old testament, Isaiah 55.
Isaiah 55:7 - "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let
him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will
Verse 8 - "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the
Verse 9 - "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than
your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." As I’ve been mentioning, friends,
God’s way, as we’re going to come to find, is not to torture immortal souls in an
ever-burning hell. That is something that man has fashioned, something that man has
conjured up. That doesn’t mean that there is not an eternal judgment, and we will
discuss that. But that is not the eternal judgment that is being discussed in Hebrews
6:1-3. Our loving heavenly Father would not do that. That heinous thought comes from
earth. It does not come from above, and so we must understand that humanly our ways
are not God’s way; the way that we find God’s way is to search, blow the dust off of our
Bible and to see what He has to say.
The third overriding arching principle that I’d like to share with you is found in II Peter 3.
In II Peter 3, at the end of the new testament, II Peter 3:9. Let’s understand what it’s
II Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness,
but is longsuffering toward us, not willing. . ." notice, "not willing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance." Now this is not talking necessarily about
universal salvation. That can be a whole topic in another sermon for another time. But it
is talking ultimately about a universal opportunity to come to understand God, the
Father, and Jesus Christ. It allows us to understand that God does not - are you with
me? God does not have a hit and miss gospel. He is on His throne. He knows what He
is doing. He knows when and how He is going to reach all of humanity, and it is His
desire that all of humanity have the building blocks to a wonderful and successful life,
and then, once they have that understanding, then they will be judged, but they are not
judged before they have the understanding, and we’ll come to find that out.
With that said, now, now with those three overriding principles in our mind - do you have
them firmly squared? God is love; God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s will is that
all human beings come to repentance. Let’s go a step further, and let’s find hell in the
scripture. Come with me to Mark 9. In Mark 9, join me there, because Jesus has some
very powerful words in relationship to this subject. Mark 9:42.
Mark 9:42 - "And whoever causes one of these little ones. . ." now Jesus Christ is giving
a warning here, "those who cause these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it were
better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the
Verse 43 - "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into
life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be
quenched." So, Jesus Christ Himself is talking about hell, but you say, well, then why,
Mr. Webber in discussing this so far, Jesus Christ Himself said there is a hell. What’s
going on here? Let’s take it a step further.
Verse 44 - "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
Verse 45 - "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into
life lame than having two feet, to be cast into. . ." where? "to hell, into the fire that shall
never be quenched
Verse 46 - " where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." It actually
goes on to another set of verses that again says that it would be better for you to do this
rather than to go into hell. The question is this, then, my friends - so there is a hell?
What is the hell that Jesus Christ is discussing here?
To understand that we must understand first and foremost that the Bible is written
primarily in two different languages. This may come as a revelation to some of you that
have not had the chance to study the scriptures, or to have a background in Bible study,
but the Bible’s basically written in two languages; in the Old Testament primarily
Hebrew, and in the New Testament, Greek. The word, "hell," is an English translation.
It’s an English word of four different words that are found in scripture with three entirely
different meanings. And to understand what Jesus Christ is saying here we must
understand that. Now what I’m basically telling you to a degree is you might be saying in
a sense there is more than one hell in the Bible. Think of it that way. But wait a minute.
What I’ve thought about hell so far, one is enough, and now you’re saying that there’s
more. But we need to understand what the words mean out of the original languages
that they were spoken in. Let’s go through a few of these for just a few minutes to build
a basis of discussion where we move from here.
The first meaning: The first meaning that we find is found in the Old Testament in the
Hebrew word is Sheol. It’s Hebrew. And in the New Testament, its counterpart that it is
synonymous with is the word, Hades, that we already discussed when we were
discussing Homer. So we have Sheol in the Hebrew and Hades in the Greek. And these
words, two words, with one meaning, simply mean, "the grave or "death." It is very
interesting that the English word for these words, Sheol and Hades, is hell. Research
will lead you to understand that more than three hundred and fifty years ago, when the
authorized version of the Bible was being written, that hell was a rather popular
expression in merry old England. The people of England calmly talked about putting
their potatoes in hell for the winter. Why? Because it’s a good way of preserving
potatoes. For the word then simply meant a hole in the ground that was covered up, a
dark and a silent place. Now when you think of a definition of grave, you think of a hole
in the ground, and a dark and silent place that is covered up. But because of the
misconceptions that have creeped in through religion it only went to mean something
Let’s notice this scripture for just a moment. Come with me to Psalm 16:10. Let’s just
peek at a few uses of these words. In Psalms 16:10, notice what it says here:
Psalms 16:10 - "For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow Your Holy
One to see corruption." What is being spoken of here is for you will not leave my soul in
the grave, neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption. We find this over in
Act 2:27, if you’ll join me there for a moment, because Peter in the sermon on
Pentecost goes back and quotes this, but now he uses the other word, the Greek word,
Hades, that Luke records here for our edification.
Acts 2:27 - "For you will not leave my soul," where? "in Hades." In the Old Testament, it
was Sheol; in the New Testament in the Greek language, it is Hades. "Neither will You
allow Your Holy One to see corruption." In fact, the verse that we just read in
Revelation, if you’ll join me there again, in Revelation 1:18, when it speaks of Jesus
having keys, notice what it says:
Revelation 1:18 - "And I have the keys. . ." of what? "Hades and of Death." And/or of
the grave and of death. How can Jesus say that because we recognize what He
claimed in the book of Luke when He said, "I am the resurrection. I am the life." Jesus
Christ is the son of God, and as our redeemer, has the keys to the grave. Now when
you put all this together in its true Biblical usage, we come to understand something
plain and simple. In one sense all the dead do go, are you with me? All the dead do go
to this hell. It’s appointed for all men once to die. So in a sense if we simply use the
word, "hell," it is appointed for all men to go to this hell based upon understanding what
Let’s look at the second meaning. Join me over in II Peter 2. Come with me, that you
should explore the scriptures with me; we find it over here in II Peter 2:4, the second
word that is used; let’s notice what it says.
II Peter 2:4 - "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to. .
." notice where? "to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for
judgment;" Well, right there? Darkness, chains, but let’s understand something here.
The Greek word here is Tartarus, or Tartaroo. And we need to understand as we look at
the Bible and what it is saying or not saying in reading it in context, this not talking about
human beings. This is not the fate for humanity, but is the fate for fallen spiritual angels
that today we know as demons. And how much they would like humanity to think that
their fate is ours. This is the only time that you’ll find this one rendering of hell by the
Greek word, Tartaroo. Here it is known primarily, or defined primarily as a place of
The third meaning now, the third meaning that we find over in Luke 12; join me there for
a moment. In Luke 12:4. We might say that this is where things begin to literally heat
up. The third Greek word is the Greek word, Gehenna, and we will notice it here in Luke
Luke 12:4 - "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do." But I will show you whom you should
fear. "Fear him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell:" Now, that’s kind of
a common parlance, to cast into hell. Sounds like you’re going down into a pit, and
"Yes, I say to you, fear Him." Now the word here, as I said, is the word, Gehenna. And
we need to understand that when Jesus Christ was saying this, and the Greek word that
fits it exactly what was being talked about here. This particular word of Gehenna, the
Greek word, is actually used twelve times in the scripture. And what it refers to is a fire
that was made and kept burning in the valley of Hinnom. The valley of Hinnom was a
rocky, narrow valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem. You might say that’s where the
dump yard was; that’s where the trash was collected and taken to and burned. And not
only was the trash burned in there, but the corpses of criminals, and the corpses of all
sorts of different kind of animals, be they clean or unclean. So you have to understand
that when Jesus was talking about this Gehenna or this fire in the valley of Hinnom, this
was not lost on the audience that He was talking to. Ordinarily, everything that was
thrown or cast into this pit that had fire burning in it was completely consumed. So that
when Christ was talking about this, there was in a sense of an understanding of the
dread and the destruction that this place meant. It was not lost on the audience, and
there was only one certain meaning that came into the understanding of the hearer of
Jesus Christ that this was a place of death and destruction. I beg you to understand this
point. It was a place of death and destruction, not, not of eternal torture or punishment.
That’s very important to understand.
Where do we go from here? We just looked at four different words, three Greek, one
Hebrew. We need to understand something that the audience of Jesus Christ
understood when He was speaking to them. Those people understood that when you’re
dead, you’re dead. You say, wait a minute, that makes sense. But today much of the
world is caught up with the underlying girder or thought that there is an immortal soul.
That when the body dies, the soul either goes up, or the soul goes down. Some
religions even have a middle ground for the soul because God doesn’t quite know what
to do with it, whether it should go up or go down. Where did this begin? What is this all
about? Come with me to Genesis 3:4, if you will for just a second. We discussed this at
length last week in the sermon, "What Does the Bible Really Say About Heaven?" And I
don’t mean to go into the full discussion that we did last time, but let’s just notice for a
moment who brought in the concept that somehow life goes on and on and on and on.
When we understand what God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 2, that if you eat of the
tree of good and evil, you shall surely die. The serpent comes along in what we now
know as Genesis 3:4.
Genesis 3:4 - "And then the serpent said to the woman. . ." "Oh, you can disobey God.
You can go ahead and have of that tree. See, God’s afraid that you’re going to be like
Him, and by the way,. . . you shall not surely die." And from the very beginning, and
that’s what we have to do, we have to go back to the beginning, that’s what Genesis
means, foundation, or beginnings, or origins. We come to understand the greatest lie
that has ever been perpetrated, that somehow humanity or this supposed soul that is
within us is the captain of it’s own destiny, the master of its own fate, not recognizing
that every human being ultimately is under the sovereignty of God, Almighty.
What does God say when it comes to the soul. Turn with me over to Ecclesiastes 3 for
just a moment. Let’s go to the literature of wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3. We notice what is
mentioned here, Ecclesiastes 3:19. Notice the simple words here.
Ecclesiastes 3:19 - "For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals;
one thing befalls them;" one thing befalls them, "as one dies, so dies the other. Surely,
they all have one breath: man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity." Now this
is primarily reminding us that when it says in Genesis that God created a living soul, that
the word soul comes from the Hebrew word, Nephesh, and we do notice in that verse
that man became - it doesn’t say that man had but that God created the Nephesh, the
breathing, living object to live, and it had a purpose to live, but that when it dies, it dies.
Come with me to Ecclesiastes 9:10. Let’s notice another scripture here.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 - "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is
no work and there is no device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are
going." Now to put it in the modern-day parlance you might say, "There’s nothing
happening down in hell, down in Hades, down in Sheol, down in the grave." There is no
knowledge. We say, "But there must be the knowledge of God."
Join me for a moment, then, over in Psalms 6:5. Let’s notice something here in Psalms
6:5. What are the dead thinking about? Are they thinking about God? Maybe they’re not
thinking about anything else; maybe they’re not thinking about the Lakers winning.
They’re maybe not thinking about the two-peat, maybe there’s going to be a three-peat.
That’s just simply not in their minds. They’re not thinking about what they’re going to do
tonight, on Saturday night, or what movie they’re going to go to, but while they’re not
doing that, at least they’re tied into God. Psalms 6:5.
Psalms 6:5 - "For in death there is no remembrance. . ." there’s no thought "of You. In
the grave who will give You thanks?" The Bible clearly, my friends, points out that when
you’re dead, you are dead. Another verse. And then I’ve got some very good news for
you because there’s tremendous, wonderful news that I want to share with you today.
Let’s go to John 5 for a moment, and look at this verse, understand what it says. It has
a powerful meaning of hope and encouragement and in a sense, it nails a stake in the
heart of the wrong-headed doctrine of hell as many people know it today.
John 5:26 - "For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He granted the Son to have
life in Himself,
Verse 27 - "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the
Son of man.
Verse 28 - "Do not marvel at this. . ." Now why does God say that - because God’s
ways are not our ways and our ways are not His, so He has to tell us, "Don’t marvel,"
because we will. Don’t marvel. ". . . for the hour is coming in which all who are. . ."
Where? In heaven, or in hell? No. ". . . in the graves are going to hear His voice." Just
look at what the Bible says. And throughout all of the misconceptions or what you think
it has said, or what even Grandma said or taught you, and please understand there are
a lot of well-meaning Grandmas. I said that last week; I love Grandmas. I’m married to
one. I’ve had one. But you know you can be sincere, and you can be sincerely wrong.
Just look at the first syllable of "sincere," and what’s that spell? You can be wrong. You
can be devoted. You can be on fire; you can really believe in something; you can give
your life for something. But is it where God wants you and me to be at? This call is
going to go out, ". . .and those in the graves are going to hear His voice."
Verse 29 - "They’re going to come forth - those who have done good, to the
resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."
Oh there is eternal judgment. There is a punishment for the wicked, but now notice
Verse 30 - "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous,
because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who has sent Me." Are you
with me? Let’s look at this verse for what it says and what it doesn’t say. It says that the
dead are going to be called out of the grave. Now a lot of people today think, when you
look at this scripture then, does that mean that the dead are going to be called out of
hell? And then brought up for judgment? Why would you do that? Remember, God is
love and God is fair. You don’t punish somebody before they’re judged. The judgment of
a righteous God and of a loving Father must precede the punishment. You wouldn’t do
that to your own children, would you?
Hopefully if we’ve ever had to correct our children and give them a few little taps, maybe
taps on the derriere. You’re explaining what you’re doing. You don’t just do that out of
anger, do you? Or do you have principles and do you have rules that govern your
household, and then you explain what happens when you do well. And what happens
when you do bad. And then watch what happens. And then to make sure the
punishment fits the - (I hate to say this about our young kids) the crime, or the incident.
No, you don’t spank a little one before they know what’s happening. Well, if we don’t do
that on earth, why in the world would our Father, who’s in heaven right now, do that to
you and do that to me. I think these are questions that we need to ask ourselves.
Romans 6:23 - Join me there for a moment. Now, we covered this last week, but again,
this is one of the great verses of the Bible, and let’s read just very clearly, very plainly
what it does say, and thinking then of tying this with Hebrews 6:1-3, which is speaking
of the basic doctrines of the church of eternal judgment.
Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is. . . " burning in hell-fire, deep in the pits of a
conical hell, tortured by little demons that tickle your feet forever and ever and ever and
ever. Is that what it says? Or are we reading the same Bible? No, it says the wages . . .
what you buy into, what you invest in, what you buy into in this life, where your life’s
energy and devotion is, "for the wages of sin," what you buy into, what you work for, "is
death." No discussion of an immortal soul here. You will not find the words, immortal
and soul connected together in the Bible. That is an assumption that theologians make.
As I said last week, just break down the word, assume. Your mamma and your daddy
probably taught you that. What happens when you assume? You make a - don’t go
there - you make a donkey out of you and me. We’re talking about gigantic
sweepstakes here that we cannot assume about. Let’s read the Bible for what it says.
Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ
Jesus, our Lord." If there is an immortal soul, then there is life outside the orb of God.
Only God has life inherent in Himself, and it is His to give, otherwise it’s by our works;
it’s by what we’re doing, rather than by the great love and compassion and tenderness
and mercy and patience that a loving Father in heaven has. So, "the wages of sin is
death, but the gift of God is eternal life."
Let’s understand something when we discuss this. Okay, that sound great, but wait a
minute. What about those who have never been exposed to the purpose, or the name,
or the function of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior. Are they lost? Where do they
come in? Remember what we mentioned as being one of the great three cardinal
verses that we needed to understand in discussing the subject of hell? Number one,
that "God is love"; number two, "God’s ways are not our ways"; number three, out of II
Peter that God’s desire and will is that every human being have an opportunity to
repent. Let’s understand this through scripture for a moment. Revelation 20:4. Join me
there. Notice what it says here. Envision. John, the Apostle, is being given a revelation
of God through Jesus Christ.
Revelation 20:4 - "I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed
to them. And then I saw the souls of those who’d been beheaded for their witness to
Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or the image, and
had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and they
reigned with Christ for a thousand years." Now we discussed this last week as far as
being the true reward of the righteous and the saints of God. That there is rulership in
the family of God. It’s not simply playing a harp in heaven; it’s not just simply sitting on a
cloud; it’s not simply being one more bleep in a beatific vision preceding from a throne.
There is a government of God; there is a kingdom of God that is coming to this earth.
But then let’s notice what this says.
Verse 5 - "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were
finished. This is the first resurrection." Now there is a parenthetical thought in there
when it says - "the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were
finished. This is the first resurrection." Shouldn’t that in one sense follow right along
verse 4. And then we have mentioned here - "but the rest of the dead," those that have
died, those that are in hell, Sheol, and Hades, and the grave, what about them? There
is a marvelous truth that we find over in Ezekiel 37. Join me there please. As we go to
Ezekiel 37, let’s understand that God made a compact, He made a covenant with the
ancient nation of Israel. They were the first nation to come into connection with God.
He, being their god, and they, being His people. And being the first fruit of humanity, not
a monopoly, but a model of what ultimately will be in store for all of humanity, we
understand that the first goes first; they were the first to have God revealed to them, His
law, His love, what the blessings, what the cursings were. We also recognize that to a
great degree the nation of Israel rejected the ways of God. Seemingly they were low on
hope; they were helpless; they seemed discarded. And then we look at Ezekiel 37, and
notice what it says here.
Ezekiel 37:2 - "Then He caused me to pass them all around, and behold there very
many in the open valley; indeed they were very dry,
Verse 3 - "and He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ So I answered, ‘O
Lord God, You know.’
Verse 4 - "Again He said to me, teach to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones,
hear the word of the Lord!" I know all of us are very familiar with the old Negro spiritual,
"Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Dry Bones." This is where it comes from.
Verse 5 - "Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter
into you," Now that’s not occurring yet because there is no knowledge and there is no
device that goes into the grave. That’s the clear understanding of scripture, that the
dead are dead. But there is a time in the future when the rest of the dead are going to
be raised. Are you with me? And it says that breath is going to enter into them, "and you
Verse 6 - "And I’m going to put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, and cover you
with skin and put breath in you; and you are going to live." You’re not alive right now,
but you’re going to live. You are going to live. Notice verse 11. The plight, the plea of
humanity. Israel speaking on behalf of all humanity:
Verse 11 - ". . .our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!
Verse 12 - "Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, O
My people, I’m going to open. . ." they’re not open right now. "I’m going to open your
graves and cause you to come up from your graves. I’m going to bring you to the land of
Israel." But it’s not just simply going to be for the nation of Israel, join me over in
Matthew 12:41. Let’s remember the kind of God that we worship. He has great, great
scope, great depth, great love. Even those that have rejected Him in the past, He is
going to give them the full opportunity to come to know Him. We notice in Matthew
12:41 speaking of the nation of the gentiles.
Matthew 12:41 - "The men of Nineveh are going to rise up. . ." That means they’re not
going to stay down; it says they’re going to rise up. What that means is they’re not going
to stay down. It says, "the men of Nineveh are going to rise up. . ." This is speaking of
the Gentile world. ". . .in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because
they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here." And
then it goes on to talk about:
Verse 42 - "The queen of the south is going to rise up. . ." When? ". . .In the judgment
with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the
wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater one. . ." There’s a time in the future, brethren,
and friends that are taking the "Good News" magazine that God is going to lift a veil
from all humanity. Sometimes you say, well, why is it that seemingly so many of the
people of Africa and Asia and other parts of the earth have not come to know Jesus
Christ or God, the Father, or what the gospel is all about. Because you have somebody
in a rain forest in the Amazon, not by their choice, but because of backing up to who
their great, great, great, great granddaddy is, and because somehow they have not
heard the name of Jesus Christ; are you with me? And because God has chosen for
one reason or another not to deal with them at this point, does that mean then that they
are lost? What kind of trust; what kind of confidence could we have in a God that picks
and chooses that way?
Isaiah 25:7 You’re already there. Allow me to join you.
Isaiah 25:7 - "And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over
all the people, and the veil. . ." It’s as if there’s a blinder right now; there’s a veil; there’s
a covering ". . .that is spread over all the nations." It’s a curtain that much of humanity
has not been allowed to see through at this point. That veil, that curtain is going to come
down, and as it says so poignantly in the book of Revelation that "God will be their God
and they will be his people."
Again, as we begin to conclude, let’s review some very basic principles. Are you with
God is a loving God. One of the shortest sentences in the Bible says it all. We must
work off of that premise to guide us and give us light. God is love.
God is fair. God does not play favorites. Yes, God has first fruits, whether it be a first
fruit nation of old like Israel, or the first fruits of Christians today. But first fruits
also demand more fruits to come along that God has a plan for all of humanity to
at least come to understand who He is, to understand what He is about, to have
the ability to repent, to reconcile and be restored fully to the kingdom of God.
You know, it’s very interesting when we discuss this subject of hell, so many people
think that all of the incorrigible are basically in a fiery prison down below us, here. Do
you realize that in ancient Israel when God set forth the way to run the nation, to deal
with people, that in ancient Israel there were not prisons. Do you realize that? There is
no systematic prison system mentioned in the Old Testament that God devised. When
you see the word, or the stories about prisons, these were among the gentile nations of
Babylon or of Egypt.
God’s way is not to store up a whole bunch of problems together and warehouse bad
attitudes, whether in this lifetime or whether for eternity. God’s way is never simply
about ongoing punishment. It is about swift and sure punishment, but it’s also about, for
those that can be worked with, repentance, reconciliation and restoration. It is true that
there is eternal judgment, as mentioned in Hebrews. There’s an eternal judgment that
will be visited upon the righteous to inherit the kingdom of God, and there’s also another
punishment. You find it over in Revelation 20 defined. Revelation 20, join me there
Revelation 20:6 - Notice what it says: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first
resurrection, over such the second death has no power." This punishment is defined as
not the first death, but is defined as the second death. We also find it again in verse 14:
Verse 14 - "Then death and the grave were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second
death." What, then, is the second death? Join me over in II Peter 3. There is a
reckoning, brethren. There is a time that when individuals have come to full knowledge
of God, the Father, Jesus Christ, what they are, what they need to be, and that they
have the glorious truth of the gospel revealed to them, and to realize that the very son of
God died for them, and lived for them, and lives for them, and wants them to be a part
of His kingdom, there are going to be individuals, hopefully very, very few, but there are
going to be individuals that are going to meet another fate. And we find this mentioned
over in II Peter 3:8.
II Peter 3:8 - "But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is a
thousand years, and a thousand years is one day.
Verse 9 - "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but
is longsuffering toward us. . .
Verse 10 - "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the
heavens are going to pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with
fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it. . ." will burn. Is that what your
Bible says? No, it’s not what it says. It says: ". . .and what is in it will be burned up."
Let’s understand something. In speaking about the valley Hinnom and Gehenna, so
often it talks about the fire that will not be quenched. Now kids, don’t go home and do
this, except under parental supervision, and you’re on your own. But if you take a piece
of paper and you wad, (shouldn’t tell this boys this at all!) but anyway, you wad up a
piece of paper and you put it in the kitchen sink. And then you light a match, (I’m not
liable for this,) you light a match, you stick it to the fire, not yourself, you stick it to the
fire, and it begins to burn. And that fire is not quenched. The fire that is not quenched. If
you don’t quench the fire, what happens to the paper? Paper doesn’t go on, keep on,
burning, does it? If you have paper that keeps on burning, get the patent. Go out
tonight. Get it. You need it. You’ll make a fortune! No, when you light a fire, you light a
piece of paper with a match; the fire that is not quenched, what does the fire that is not
quenched do? It burns the subject completely.
Join me, if you would, for a moment here, because this is made manifest at the end of
the book of Malachi. Malachi 4, let’s notice what it says. Clean, pure and simple, what
scripture says here, Malachi 4.
Malachi 4:1 - "For behold, the day is coming. . ." sounds like II Peter, ". . .burning like
an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble." They’re not going
to wear outward gowns like Dante brought out. They’re not going be wearing chains.
They’re not going to be suffering forever and ever and ever. A loving God would not do
that. ". . .and the day which is coming shall. . ." What? ". . .burn them up, says the Lord
of hosts, that will leave them neither root nor branch.
Verse 2 - "But to you who fear the name the Son of Righteousness shall arise with
healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. . .
Verse 3 - " and you shall trample the wicked for they shall be. . ." What? ". . .ashes
under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,’ says the Lord of Hosts." You see,
the plan of God is this: The eternal judgment that is mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3,
eternal judgment is either life forever with God, the Father and Jesus Christ in the
kingdom of God, that is eternal life. Or on the other hand, for the wicked, for those that
will not repent; there’s eternal death. Eternal death. God has already seen problems in
the spiritual realm with Satan. He’s not in the process of creating more spiritual
problems to hang around forever. He means business. There is judgment.
With these thoughts, let’s conclude today by going back to II Peter. With the
understanding that we have discussed, and these two messages, what the biblical
reality of heaven is all about, and the glorious future that God has in store for every
human being and the biblical reality of what hell is, and/or is not, we are then challenged
with these questions in II Peter 3. And notice what it says.
II Peter 3:11 - Understanding that this world, everything that is around us, ultimately is
going to come into the orb and the sovereignty of God. "Therefore, since all these things
are going to be dissolved. . ." the question then comes. . . "what manner of persons
ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness." After you’ve heard these messages;
after you’ve heard about the glorious kingdom of God coming to this earth with Jesus
Christ literally coming to Jerusalem bringing world peace once and for all and you can
have an opportunity of that and also recognizing that somehow if we neglect or reject
the wonderful call of God, on the other side of it, eternal death. ". . .what manner of men
ought you to be. . .
Verse 12 - "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God." When the heavens
are going to be dissolved.
Verse 13 - "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a
new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Verse 14 - "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent. . ." We don’t
need to be lead astray by tradition, or superstition, or what other people are telling us is
in the Bible. God can lead us into truth. He can lead us into understanding. All we have
to do is ask Him: "Father, take away that curtain. Take away that veil."
You know, friends, one of the hardest things to do in this life is to unlearn what you have
learned. Have you ever done that one? It is hard to unlearn what you have learned,
especially when you have learned from the unlearned. Now take that home and think
about it a little bit. It’s even hard, humanly difficult, to unlearn what everybody else
believes is happening out there. But let’s understand something, brethren, when Jesus
Christ calls disciples, He doesn’t lower the bar, He raises the bar. And He says this is
where I am; this is where you are, but if you will trust me, and if you will have confidence
in Me, and if you will take Me at My word, and recognize that I alone have the keys of
life, then I will bring you life.
Verse 17 - "Therefore, with these subjects at hand. . ." we are to
Verse 18 - ". . .grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus
I hope these topics have been of interest to each and every one of you that are here,
and those of you that are listening to this message in the months, maybe even the years
ahead, I hope that we’ve been able to illuminate what the Bible says about these vital
subjects of heaven and hell.
I want to mention that the United Church of God has booklets that I’d like to offer to you
if you are interested. We’ve only been able to touch the top of the iceberg on both of
these subjects of heaven and hell. If you are interested, you can request these two
booklets: the first one is "Heaven and Hell, What Does the Bible Really Teach," and the
second one that I’d like to offer our "Good News" magazine audiences: "What Happens
After Death?" You need to know. You can know those answers. Please just call:
1-800-55-UNITE. I hope this series has been profitable to our own congregation here, to
those of you that will be listening to this message in the future. You can indeed by God’s
grace and God’s guidance know the answers, the big answers, to the big questions of
life. Let’s always remember that we have a wonderful and great and a loving God, who
has an awesome and an incredible future in store for you. And always remember it’s
found right here in God’s word, in the Bible that’s on your lap.