Read: Matthew 25
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. (Matthew 25:41, NLT)
Is hell for real…and forever? Once again, that has become a hot topic in evangelical circles. A certain well-known pastor of one of America’s so-called “mega-churches” has seemed to indicate that possibly, just maybe, perhaps there is an escape clause in the whole “eternal” part of the doctrine of hell.
On what does he base this departure from orthodox theology? The love of God. The thought behind this is that God’s love will ultimately triumph over man’s sinfulness, and in the end (even after death), every human being will come to the faith Christians have expressed in this life that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. The general term for those who hold such a belief is “universalism.” Theologian J. I. Packer says this of universalism:
A universalist is someone who believes that every human being whom God has created or will create will finally come to enjoy the everlasting salvation into which Christians enter here and now…it appears as an extreme optimism of grace, or perhaps of nature, and sometimes, it seems, of both. But in itself it is a revisionist challenge to orthodoxy, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant evangelical; for the church has officially rated universalism a heresy ever since the second Council of Constantinople (the fifth ecumenical council, A.D. 553), when the doctrine of apokatastasis (the universal return to God and restoration of all souls) that Origen taught was anathematized.
According to Jesus, who knows more about heaven and hell than anyone, and according to other Scripture, hell is not a temporary place to pay for sins, it is a place of eternal hopelessness where sooner or later those who are there will realize there is no second chance. Leighton Ford said,
“The fire, outer darkness, the thirst [of hell] depict spiritual separation from God, moral remorse, the consciousness that one deserves what he’s getting. Hell is disintegration—the eternal loss of being a real person. In hell the mathematician who lived for his science can’t add two and two. The concert pianist who worshipped himself through his art can’t play a simple scale. The man who lived for sex goes on in eternal lust, with nobody to exploit. The woman who made a god out of fashion has a thousand dresses but no mirror! Hell is eternal desire— eternally unfulfilled.”
Hell is an awful reality, and that is why we must to do everything we can to make it really hard for people to go there. Love requires that from us, and God’s love sent Jesus to give people every chance on this side of eternity to escape it. He, himself, paid the price to get you out of hell and into heaven!
The great preacher Henry Ironside told the story of pioneers who were making their way across the country to a place that had been opened up for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons, and progress was very slow. One day they were horrified to see a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie. It was evident that the dried grass was burning toward them rapidly. They faced certain death. But one man knew what do, and he set fire to the grass behind them, then had them move back on it once it had burned.
As the flames roared on toward them, a little girl began to scream in terror, “Are you sure we’ll not all be burned up?” The man replied, “Child, the flames can’t reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been!”
What a picture of being safe in Christ! The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Jesus, and those who are in Christ are safe forever.
Hallelujah! We are standing where the fire has been.
“No one who is ever in hell will be able to say to God, ‘You put me here,’ and no one who is in heaven will ever be able to say, ‘I put myself here.’” ~John Hannah
What If God Took Over?
Do you know someone who has not received eternal life by placing saving faith in Jesus Christ? What would God’s love have you to do for them? For starters, you can pray!