Tuesday, May 23, 2017
 

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Hell: Fact or Fiction ]


HELL: FACT OR FICTION
Lonnie Branam

Your attention is called to a statement made by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:29,3o, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, and cast it from you, for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” I want to speak to you about one of the most frightening subjects in the Bible, the subject of hell. I believe that there will be a place called hell because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have revealed it to the human race as a fact. I am conscious of the fact that the subject is not a very pleasant one, but this is not a make—believe world. There is no value in running from reality. It seems that about everybody these days is using the word hell more in daily conversation than preachers and those who believe the Bible. We don't talk about it any more. I hear the word used on television, and it is commonly used in the movies. The film industry has been using it for years. It is used all the time in elevators, trains and airplanes. How shall we explain the fact that the word hell is used frequently in everyday conversation in all walks of life, whereas the word heaven is seldom used? One psychiatrist explained it by saying, “Something deep inside of our subconscious makes us afraid that we may go to hell, and so we use the word hell all the time.” Be that as it may, the human mind wants to know if hell is fact or fiction, superstition or truth. The Bible is the only authority on the subject; hence, we shall reason by inductive reasoning and gather all facts from that book. I consider the Bible to be the divinely revealed will of the one and true and living God. I do not doubt or question any of its statements. The Bible contains absolute truth on any subject of which it speaks. I hope you are of the same persuasion. If you do not believe that the Bible is absolute truth, this discussion will perhaps mean little to you. If you do not know that the Bible is a book of truth which God has given mankind, you have not even reached first base in the game of life. I suggest you begin the study of this book at once.
The first thing we should all clearly understand about hell is that it was never meant for human beings to go there. When Jesus returns in all of His glory all nations will be gathered before Him and will be separated on His left hand or right hand. He will say to those on His right hand, “Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” but He will say to those on His left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”(Matthew 25:34,41). Please note the statement of our Lord that the place called hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, not human beings. Now if you want to blame someone for this frightening place called hell, don't blame God; blame Satan, and all fallen angels who joined him in a rebellion against Jehovah God. They disobeyed His laws and defied His authority and caused a gigantic disruption and disturbance in heaven. They refused to submit to their Creator and divided the angelic inhabitants of heaven into good angels and bad angels, holy angels and sinful angels. This rebellion involved creatures far higher than human creatures and took place long before God created the earth and man upon it. For their sin and transgression they were cast out of heaven and are now held in prison in a place called Tartarus awaiting the day of judgment. At that time they will be cast into hell, and they will be destroyed forever.
Jesus made this statement about hell to His disciples in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear them who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This passage involves the human race in this place called hell, and he clearly revealed that disobedient human beings can go to the same place that disobedient angels will go to. He states God is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. No one knows what that word “destroy” means. The Bible speaks of it as an eternal condemnation. However, the statement brings to mind a matter of great concern to human beings. The soul can be destroyed as well as the body. This raises a most important question. What can human beings do that would cause God to destroy their souls as well as their bodies? Whatever it means it is a frightening thought. Let us be assured that human beings can also go to this place that was created for sinful angels and not man for the same identical reason that angels will go there. Man can do the same thing Satan did and other angels did. Man can defy God like the fallen angels did. Man can disobey God's laws like those angels did. Moreover, we learn here that the conduct of Satan and his fellow angels was such that fitted themselves to be destroyed. Second, let me say a few words about the derivation of this famous word. The English word “hell” is a translation of the Greek word Gehenna which literally means the, “valley of Hinnom”. This valley located south of Jerusalem had a special association with fire. In this valley Israelite parents burned their children as an offering to the fire god Moloch. Ahaz, king of Israel, burned his children in this place. The Bible says of King Ahaz in II Chronicles 28:3, “Moreover he burned incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.” God said in Jeremiah 7:31, “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.” In the verses which follow, Jeremiah foretold that God would visit this awful wickedness with sore judgment, and would cause such a destruction of the people that the valley would become known as the valley of slaughter. From the dread of its fires, the valley became a type of sin and woe, and Jesus used this place as a fitting symbol for the place of final punishment of the wicked after the judgment. In later times this valley became a trash dump, and fires were burning constantly in this location. Our English ancestors must have coined the word hell but its derivation is lost in obscurity. Webster's dictionary gives us little help on the origin of the name. The Bible translators interpreted the word instead of translating it. They gave the name hell to the inspired word Gehenna. It is now one of the most common words spoken in the English language, but by derision.
Third, man has raised many objections to the Biblical teaching about hell. God has been ridiculed and misrepresented. Many ungodly words have been spoken against Him. The first objection is that such a place is inconsistent with the character of God. If God is love, how can there be a hell? If there is a hell, how can there be a God of love? The Bible says that God is love and the Bible says there is a hell. There is no contradiction here. When we condemn God for the punishment of disobedient angels and disobedient humans, we condemn ourselves. How can we criticize God for punishing those who break His just laws when we punish men and women for breaking our own human laws? The human race believes in punishing people. When people violate the laws of the land and violate our rights, we believe they should be punished according the full extent of the law. For murder in the first degree we give them the death penalty. We put kidnappers, thieves of all kinds, rapists, child molesters etc in prison. To all these people prison is a kind of hell on earth. We lock them up like animals. We will not allow the criminal elements in society to violate the good laws of society.d If they do we punish them. We freely take the right, and justly so, to punish wrongdoers, but many cannot believe in a God who will punish all wrongdoers at the end of the world. The laws of God are more just than the laws of man. What would you do with angelic beings who defied their Creator and caused great disturbance in heaven? What would you do with the human race that has refused to honor their Maker and creator and have lived immoral, criminal, unnreligious and disobedient lives throughout history. Does not God have right to punish human beings for disobeying His just laws? There is so much evil in the world that has gone unpunished, a day of reckoning for all mankind is absolutely reasonable and demanded. Bible says that God is a God of justice as well as a God of love. II Peter 3:9 says that God is not “willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Would God be just if He completely ignored wickedness? Many murderers and criminals are walking the streets unapprehended, but perfect justice will be meted out in the next world. No one will get away with anything. Complete separation from God is the natural result of living in rebellion to God. If men choose to disobey God, they will have to live with the consequences of that choice. Both God and Christians long for the conversion of every person, but God will not forgive a person against his will. God will not ignore sin and a bad life.
Finally, why did God put the terrible doctrine of hell in the Christian religion?. It is so frightening and disturbing that no one even desires to hear about it?. God put the doctrine of hell in the gospel of Christ for one very important reason. He put there so that it would convince us all not to go there. He gives it as a warning to the human race: “Do not go to this place.” His great love for the human race demanded that He use His most powerful weapon to drive people toward heaven and away from hell. I believe the thinking of God is, “If they will not be convinced by My love for them, perhaps they will be moved by their fear of Me.” An unbelieving human race needs more than God's love to move them;some need the fear of a just God to move them to repentance. Let us not have ill feelings toward God because of the place called hell. No person in his right mind, no reasonable person can have knowledge of this place and yet deliberately ignore the danger and choose to go there instead of serving God. This raises the question, why did God go this far to move people to faith, repentance, baptism and and a godly life in Christ? God has always had a plan to repopulate heaven with redeemed and faithful members of the human race. The new heaven will be a combination of redeemed earth people and the unfallen angels of heaven. God designed a plan from eternity to make it possible earth people to become people who would live in heaven and never die. He was so desirous that His plan would be successful that He sent one of the three persons in the Godhead to earth to become a man. For thirty three years the second person of the Godhead became incarnate in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. God gave Him a body to offer up as an atoning sacrifice for the entire human race. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the Jewish temple was rippen open, indicating that the Jewish religon had come to and, and a new way of drawing near to God in worship and service was now available both to Jews and Geniles. God wanted this plan to succeed, and He used both the love of God and the fear of God to reconcile the human race to Himself. God's plan in a nutshell was, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotton Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”(John 3:16). If anyone turns down such an amazing love of God, he will have to pay an awful price. The place called hell was an important part of the plan to induce all mankind to go to heaven. The only alternative is to go to hell. What more could God do? We will never know how many people will make it to heaven because of the doctrine of hell.
Sadly, there are millions of people in the world who believe that the Christian religonis a gamble. They believe there is no hard evidence that would stand up to scientific investigation. It is true that no one has seen God at any time, but the very esistence of this wonderful universe and the supernatural prophecies and miracles of the Bible prove the existence of God beyod all question to honest and reasonable-minded people. Furthermore when we put our lives in God's hands, God does not provide us with a written guarantee of safe conduct, but that is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Faith is the assurance of tings hoped for, the evidence of thigs unseen. No, the Christian religion is not a gamble.The real gamblers are unbelievers, for they are gambling with their souls. If unbelievers are right and Christians are wrong, neither will never know it, but if Christians are right and unbelieveres are wrong, both will be conscious of it to all eternity. This will be the fate of all non-christians whether they be atheists, agnostics, unbelievers, or simply worldly, earthly-minded people. If Christianity is true, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not b elieve shall be condemned."(Mark 16:16). Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins." The unbeliever runs the risk; the faithful Christian is safe.


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