Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is Hell Simply This Life?

I was discussing the topic of hell with a friend of mine. Apparently they have been influenced by the popular opinion that hell, as has been taught by the church (and the scriptures, by the way), does not exist. They take the clear teachings of scripture and allegorize them away, offering an explanation that "hell is this life with all its woes and troubles."

Certainly this life has its share of woes and troubles. However, this is due to sin, and the fall of man in the garden of Eden. In my morning reading this morning I read in Matthew 13 about the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Thank the Lord that the disciples did not "get it" when Jesus told the parable originally. Because of their lack of understanding our Lord spells it out for us by offering the absolute true interpretation. Now, if the whole concept of hell was only contained in the parables themselves, then maybe we could walk away and disagree on the interpretation. However, when Jesus Christ Himself gives us the interpretation plainly, we can't expect that He adds allegory into His interpretation. He is, after all, unfolding the mystery to His disciples, not seeking it to cloud it over as He had done with the crowds. Let's read Matthew 13:36-43.

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43, ESV)

When does Jesus say this is going to happen? "Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. This is not something that is happening in this life. Rather, as can be easily observed, there are many sinners who are truly living their "best life now." Wealth and luxury in this life are not reserved for God's people. In fact, commonly quite the opposite is true. But at the end of the age, when the books are opened, those who are not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the fiery furnace. The imagery of fire and burning is a consistent theme throughout scripture whenever the topic of hell is discussed. If this were an allegorical device, surely the metaphors would change. Look at such passages that try to give people the sense of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Look at Matthew 13 in its greater context.

In v. 24 it is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. In v. 31 it is compared to a grain of mustard seed. In v. 33 it is compared to leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour. In v. 44 it is compared with a treasure hidden in a field. In v. 45 it is compared with a merchant in search of fine pearls. In v. 47 it is compared with a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. Yet, consistently throughout scripture hell is pictured as eternal burning.

I continue to post topics like these in the hope that my friend will listen to the clear teaching from scripture. I don't make this stuff up. I only herald what I read in the scripture. My deep desire is that at the end of the age I would not see my friend cast into that fiery furnace, but rather walk into the fulness of the Kingdom of Heaven along with those whom God has redeemed.

No comments: