Summary: Hell is a reality within God’s created order.
Passion/Palm Sunday March 27, 1994
Sermon: "Hell" Rev. David Anderson
Matt. 13:49-50; Zech.9:9-10; Philp.2:5-11; Mark 15:1-39
Sermon ~ “Hell”
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Our Lord spoke about the doctrine of hell, and often, even as we read from Matthew 13:49-50, and we do so in Jesus name: "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels welcome and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teach."
According to a 1990 Gallop Poll, 78% of Americans say that they believe in the existence of heaven, while only 60 percent indicate that they believe in hell. I’M AMAZED AT THIS! Not because fewer people believe in hell than heaven-- I expect that!-- but that 60% of the people interviewed actually believe in hell. I would have thought that far fewer people would take hell seriously.
To say it another way, I do not believe that 60% of Americans live as if they believed that there really could be a hell for them in their future. I don’t see lots of evidence that people are concerned about hell. For example, the average weekly worship attendance within Christian congregations is 1/3 of its total membership. We at Immanuel have about 800+ souls, and we average about 325 in weekly worship attendance. So we’re slightly above the 1/3 watermark.
Still, if 60% of our people really believed that hell could be in their future, it seems to me that at least 60%, or 480+, of our people would be attending weekly worship. Doesn’t that seem to make sense? It does make sense, unless, and I think that this is the key to our quandary, many of those 60% who believe in hell have made it so difficult to get into it that they feel sure that they’ll never end up there... nor will their uncle who never worshiped... nor will their
friend who is an adulterer... nor will Sam who uses God’s name constantly in bad circumstances... etc., etc., etc.
I really think that many Christians who say they believe in hell don’t see a significant relationship between sin and damnation, and so they’ve made hell almost impossible to get into. This was not the view of Jesus when he said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
It’s so easy, for example, to stay at home on Sunday morning rather then worshiping our great God. It’s so easy not to take on duties in the church. Then again, it’s so hard not to channel our money into the things that give us pleasure and short-change the Kingdom’s work. It’s so hard to give of our selves for others; it feels so natural and right to have others serve our interests and appetites.
Ah, but some will say (and especially the good Lutherans), “Hey! Aren’t we saved by grace through faith-- not by our works!”
This is absolutely true, but it’s not the whole truth. We are saved by grace through faith in a very unique Jesus Christ who tells us in His word how He seeks that we should live. The problem is that many believe in the Christ crafted within their imaginations who is so indefinite that faith in the fabricated Jesus is easy.
A dramatic scene in a movie that was about the life of Martin Luther shows Luther defending his position that we are saved by grace through faith. He is lecturing to students who have been raised on the notion that we are saved by faith and works. A student stands up to
protest Luther’s ideas concerning salvation by faith alone. "It can’t be that easy!"
"Do you think faith is easy?" quips back Luther.
Faith is not easy! The very powers of hell, spiritual hosts with intellect and resources beyond our imagination, are trying to destroy our faith. Dark forces want to keep us away from the Word of God. Dark forces want us to neglect worship. Dark forces minimize the importance of prayer, Bible study, and daily. Dark forces seek to keep us from the very stuff that creates and builds faith.
And why do they seek to destroy our faith in the genuine, living, biblical Christ? So they can substitute an imposter and then feast upon us and lead us into hell.
SO ASSUMING THAT THERE IS A HELL, LET’S BRIEFLY CONSIDER:
IS IT A PLACE?
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE?
AND WHOSE IT FOR AND WILL ANYONE EVER GO THERE?
First, is hell an actual place? Interestingly enough, I just read an article by a scientist who argued that new understandings gained in physics might be used to explain the location of hell. But we don’t need to look to science in order to speak about hell. The true and trustworthy Word of God tells us that there is a hell. It’s a place, but it’s also a state of mind or conscience.