A well deserved Hell…

“For the wages of sin is death…”
(Romans 6:23 (ESV)

Rob Bell and Love Wins notwithstanding, there really is a place called Hell, there is a final judgment, and God is righteous in His anger and wrath against sin.  It’s not fun to talk about, but then neither would it be “fun” to ignore the subject altogether only to find yourself already there when it’s too late to do anything about it. 

Unfortunately, God’s judgment has gotten a bad rap by those who stand under it.  We hear God’s righteous decree to be holy, for He is holy (Lev. 19:2), but we know that’s impossible, so the call must be impractical.  We try to live a good life, we do our best anyway, and we look for whatever joy we can find – even if the Bible says it’s a sin.  We tell ourselves, “God really wouldn’t hold this against me, surely He will understand.”  When confronted with the truth of God’s Word, we kick against the goads.  We bristle under correction.  We despise discipline.  “Who died and made you god,” we complain.  In our arrogance, we think we are more compassionate, more just, more forgiving than God himself.  We’d prefer the toothless and tame god of our own creation who is kind and generous to all, giving everyone a hall pass through life.

Living under such a delusion will lead to our destruction.  We worship a holy God who cannot even look upon sin, how then can we presume to stand before Him in our sin?  Psalm 5:4–6, teaches us, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.  You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”  Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…” 

The fact of the matter is that we must deal with a Holy and Righteous God who has issued His decree on all of humanity.  We are called to live in holiness before Him, but “we have all sinned fallen short of His glory” (Rom 3:23), “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12).  Under this judgment of God we stand condemned, for the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).  God is just in declaring that sinners are bound for Hell.

The preaching of judgment is not intended to scare you into believing or acting a certain way, but to tell you that you do indeed need a savior.  Luther called it one side of the gospel coin.  Unfortunately for many of us, it is a lesson we need to hear again and again.  We tend to insulate ourselves from the need for help.  I can manage just fine on my own.  I’ve got Jesus is in my life as a “spiritual insurance” policy – just in case things get bad, but hopefully I’ll never have to call upon him.

Friends this is not gospel living, this is not the gospel faith.  The truth of the gospel is this: you are in desperate need of a savior.  Things are bad, they are beyond repair.  Your life is not acceptable to God, in fact, our lives apart from Christ are offensive to God.  We owe to God a perfect life we cannot live, a tremendous debt we cannot pay, an offering we cannot make.  Only when you see your life as forfeit before God do you truly begin to appreciate the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  God is gracious in calling the redeemed to His side in glory!

It is true that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but the story does not end there.  Paul goes on to say we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).  It is true that “the wages of sin is death,” but it is equally true that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).  To preach the judgment without the gospel would be cruel, but to preach the gospel without the judgment would be meaningless for us today.

We deserve Hell, but our loving God has seen to it that, by faith in Jesus Christ, we can be made fit to live in heaven.  We are covered by his righteousness, made alive by his spirit, redeemed by his blood, purchased with his life, given victory over death and hell by his empty tomb.  This is the free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is nothing we could ever do to deserve this gift, to try would keep us from receiving as it was intended, as a gift.  We live by responding in joyful obedience; God equips us and sends us for the work He has prepared for us from before time (Eph 2:10), but these works are always in response.  God, from the beginning of time, has always been the one to act first in grace, we were created to respond and live in the joy and splendor of His grace and glory!

Richard Baxter, the 17th century Puritan preacher, wrote in his work The Saint’s Everlasting Rest, “So let ‘DESERVED’ be written on the door to Hell; but on the door to heaven and life, ‘THE FREE GIFT.’”

I’ll say “Amen” to that.

More Recommended Reading

Every now and then I like to share with you the books that I have read.  I do this not to say, “Hey look at how much I read,” but, rather, to encourage you with some of the resources that have been an encouragement to me and to my ministry.  I hope that these resources will be a blessing to your faith.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxes.  ”In Hitler’s Germany, a Lutheran pastor chooses resistance and pays with his life… Eric Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication, often challenging revisionist accounts that make Bonhoeffer out to be a ‘humanist’ or ethicist for whom religious doctrine was easily disposable… Metaxas reminds us that there are forms of religion — respectable, domesticated, timid — that may end up doing the devil’s work for him.” — Wall Street Journal

One of the hardest things for a biography is making the written account of a life seem worthwhile reading, but that is precisely where Metaxes’ book excels.  Giving a comprehensive view of Bonhoeffer’s life, theology, work, and passion, the book makes you feel a part of the story more than a distant observer.  And while you know how the story ends, you find yourself praying for the impossible, for escape, release, for freedom and love to triumph (which, in some ways, truly does).

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Tim Keller.  I have really come to enjoy Tim Keller’s writing.  In books like The Prodigal God, and Counterfeit Gods Keller applies great perspective and insight from Scripture to our lives today.  King’s Cross is not different.  Walking through the Gospel of Mark, Keller shows how Christ has come to cut through all the layers we have used to insulate our broken and dying souls, so that he might bring us to new life.  “Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God.”

 The Purpose of Man: Designed for Worship, by A.W. Tozer.  We all can recite the first answer of the Westminster Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  But what does it really mean that our purpose in life is to live for God’s glory?  Tozer, a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1919 to 1963, argues that in the Garden, man did not have to ask what it meant to worship God, because he lived with and communed with the very presence of God.  But since the fall, this sweet communion has been lost, and with it, we have also lost our very purpose in life.  Tozer suggests that Christ overcame “death and rose again from the grave… that he might make worshipers out of rebels.”  A powerful yet easy read, I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in regaining a passion for worshiping God.

 Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who ever Lived, by Rob Bell.  Okay, a disclaimer first.  I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book.  As a matter of fact, I pretty much disagreed with everything written in it.  I did not appreciate Bell’s use of Scripture (taking things grossly out of context, or basing an entire argument on one verse while ignoring other passages that might contradict his conclusions), neither do I think that his “deconstructionist” (my term, not his) view of the Church, the Faith, or the Bible is at all helpful to the Kingdom of God.  I do not recommend this book to those who are not well versed in Scripture or secure in their reformed faith.

Still, I pass it along to you for this one reason: often times we who think we know what we believe and why need to be challenged out of our complacency (which was one of the reasons I attended Princeton Theological Seminary).  Being confronted by something that goes against everything you believe can sometimes help you come to articulate and reform your faith.  Bell’s book on Hell has done that for me.  There were times I couldn’t stand the book.  I’ve highlighted and written my comments throughout his pages.  But, praise the Lord, Bell caused me to go back to the Bible and reread what I thought it said, discover what it doesn’t say, and reevaluate my beliefs accordingly.  In that regard, I cautiously recommend this book (just don’t let your evangelical friends catch you reading it).

Good Reading!