“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Jesus, in Matthew 25:46
Is that a question? I don’t think so; it’s a curse! Expressed with vehement emphasis. But how strange most cursers who want their cursee to go there do not even believe Hell exists. According to polls, few believe Hell is a real place; even a high percentage of professing Christians, we are told in those polls, do not believe in Hell. Many of these must be unaware that Jesus in the Gospels spoke of Hell, the fire of Hell, or outer darkness, even more than he spoke of Heaven; or, just as likely, this makes no difference to them. It is also more than a bit odd that Hell is such a common swear word when its existence is considered pure fiction, even while cursing others with, “Go to Hell!”
It is just as odd that “Jesus Christ” is a very common curse word of people who know Him as their favorite epithet and never Savior and Lord. I have yet to hear someone use “Allah!” or “Muhammed!” or “Buddha! as curses, which sound weird. The unobservant ought to consider while they try to ignore and flee this God, who alone constitutes their cursing vocabulary, why He only is the deity they use as a curse. The fact that it is this God who has become their primary curse word, along with, of course, the popular “F” word desecrating one of the great blessings of God-designed, sacred marriage, is powerful evidence for the truth that this God is truly God. Why other than this, are God and His Son Jesus Christ so universally a curse, even in other languages? People of foreign languages do not curse in their native god’s name or even some evil person’s name. The Germans or Jewish people do not swear using the name “Adolf Hitler!” which would be understood. Evidently God is who he says He is, Satan is alive and at work, and cursers prove it. “OMG is the most common taking of God’s name in vain, as often as breathing in many people’s “ad nauseam” use; their vocabulary could use more erudite breadth of expression. Cursing, in reality, is simply being Satan’s mouthpiece, for these are the very things Satan desires to denigrate and destroy: the one true God, and all good He has created. In other words, cursers are Satan’s willing lackeys.
But Hell itself is not the figment of some mere mortal’s imagination; it is a real place of which Jesus was well aware, and of which He never ceases to warn of its horror. C.S. Lewis said Hell is a truth of Christianity that he wishes was not, but he knew he could not deny Jesus’ clear, unequivocal testimony; man’s unbelief does nothing to disprove Hell any more than its dislike does. Of course, we are not all warm and fuzzy concerning the teaching and existence of a place of eternal punishment; it is impossible for any to truly envision Hell without trepidation, doubts, and terrifying questions.
Additionally, “eternal” is something we just cannot get our minds around; living into infinity is a total unknown, even in your imagination. There is no doubt that eternal life in Heaven or the New Earth is far easier to contemplate than eternal life in Hell. The Bible knows nothing, unfortunately, of the concept of annihilation; nowhere is it taught in Scripture; not even a mention. On the other hand Scripture teaches that man is an eternal being. One of the reasons it may be that God banishes Adam and Eve from Eden and posts a guarding angel with a flaming sword to keep them out, is, as sinners, God does not desire them to eat from the Tree of Life in the Garden and live forever in such a fallen state. Eternal man unrepentant and unpardoned has but one destination according to Scripture. The rebellious man shows his hatred for God with the desire that God would just stay completely out of his life, apparently regardless of the consequences.
There is great incoherence, then, in an unbeliever’s notion of God. Despite his insistence that God is a nonentity, he still uses His name as a curse, complains about Him, and even calls out to Him when in desperation; as they say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Incoherence is the best descriptor of an agnostic/atheist/spiritually apathetic mind; they are consistently contradictory in attempting to live in what they describe as a God-free universe, when it is actually God-filled. This incoherence is so because, contrary to what they emphatically profess, they bear in their being the image of God, all the while denying He is; basically denying their own inescapable, divine DNA.
Since unbelieving man is an eternal being, and rejects His Creator, God will eventually give Him the desire of his heart: eternal separation from Him. Which means that God, who is light, love, goodness, and all the other attributes He possesses, removes these pillars of life by His absence. The metaphoric descriptors of Hell as a lake of unquenchable fire cannot be worse than the total absence of light, love, goodness and all else God is. Eternal hell is exactly this absence, producing eternal darkness, complete loneliness, total alienation, and the opposite of all good; surely this is a horror of horrors.
The graphic depiction of Hell found in Jesus’ words and in Scripture elevates the wonder of the salvation of believers; it shows the steadfast commitment and love of Jesus in giving His life to snatch you out of the jaws of Hell and of Satan, and bring you permanently home to His and your Father’s home. The nature of Hell causes you to appreciate the love of God and of the Savior far, far more than you would if there were no Hell. Those who inhabit Hell are there by their own willful choice. Hell is a horror not only because of what it is, but in the knowledge it was chosen in preference to Jesus and His words. They would rather be in Hell than live in intimate fellowship with God.
Hell is not a consideration which elicits joy, except in your own assurance in Christ that it will not be your eternal home. But you cannot will it out of existence just by hoping it isn’t. Jesus spoke of it with certainty and emphatic warning. As a Christian, you need to take those warnings to heart, fear God, and draw near to Him and His Son. No one who professes faith in Jesus wants to be party with those who call Him, “Lord, Lord” and do not do the will of His Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23); people who think they know Him, but don’t. Hell is never something to ignore. It ought to motivate you to pursue the speaking of the Good News into your neighbor’s ear and heart. Your tireless persistence in this will not go unrewarded.
I have heard people say they do not want their motivation to believe to be mere “fire insurance.” This is a meaningless excuse. Whatever it takes for you to draw near to God and begin to seek out God’s Son, I say again, whatever it takes, even the fear of Hell, is fully warranted; for your salvation will draw you into a love relationship with Him that erases every other consideration. He will become to you in time your all in all!
“When this passing world is done, when has sunk yon glaring sun, when we stand with Christ in glory, looking o’er life’s finished story, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe.”
“When I hear the wicked call on the rocks and hills to fall, when I see them start and shrink on the fiery deluge brink, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe.”
(Verses 1 and 2 of Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn, “When This Passing World is Done”, 1837)
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