Summary: God sent His Son so that no one would have to be hell bound, but, as always, the choice is ours.
“How Can A Grace-filled God Send People to Hell?”
The Case for Faith Series
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42
(quotes taken from the NKJV unless noted)
Wakelee Church ~ March 13, 2005
Theme: God sent His Son so that no one would have to be hell bound, but, as always, the choice is ours.
Introduction – A Meeting in a Hallway…
Illus. Back in college, I talked with a young woman about her faith. She believed in a gracious God, as did I. She believed that God didn’t want anyone to perish, so did I. She believed that God was so gracious and so bent on saving everyone that the whole hell thing was a myth. At that time I didn’t have the answers to give her. I wish I did.
There are some people who still believe that as long as they are mostly “good,” God’s grace will be enough. There are others who believe it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are, but that God won’t allow any punishment…therefore no need for hell. The Bible tells us differently.
I – What is Hell? Bottom line: Hell is a place far from God’s grace and no one should want to be there!
This is one point in this sermon series where I struggle with Strobel and the person Strobel
interviewed, J.P Moreland. In the book, Moreland attempts to create an analytical argument for a
softer, gentler version of hell.
As always, there will be some that will take the Bible more literally than others. As well as some who will take God’s Word more symbolically. Strobel and Moreland seem to fall in the symbolic camp. Instead of the place that Jesus describes, the book presents a hell as a place that is without God’s presence. All the descriptions of hell, they claim, are merely “representations” of how people will feel because they have missed out on God’s gracious offer.
I do have to say that Strobel and Moreland make the argument compelling. Deep in our heart of hearts, that part of God that lives in us, we don’t want to believe that God would allow anyone to go to a place of “hellfire” and “brimstone.” The struggle is that this is exactly what Jesus said it would be.
If you turn to your handout you’ll see just a few of the references Jesus makes. Jesus called this place “the eternal fire” and “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” In the story of rich man and his servant, the rich man cries in agony for a cup of cool water just because he “is in agony in this fire.”
And Paul used the same imagery when talking to the church at Thessalonica. He said that hell was the place of everlasting destruction, where people will be shut out from the Lord’s presence.
According to the Scriptures, hell sounds menacing enough for me. The bottom line in either theological argument remains the same however, “Hell is a place far from God’s grace and no one should want to be there, and if you end up being there, you would have wished that you hadn’t!”
Jesus said, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” – Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power…” – 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (NIV)
Jesus said, “If you hand causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out…And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” – Mark 9:43,47 (NIV)
Jesus said, “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’” – Luke 16:23-24 (NIV)
II. Each individual has a choice. It is a choice given by God, to God’s creation, so that they, by God’s grace, may choose to live eternally in God’s presence.
So, considering hell is the place that it is, the question still remains, "Does our gracious God actually send people there?"
A quick look at our Scripture lesson for today may lead us to say that it looks like it. When we start talking about casting people into the furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, it sounds pretty logical that it will be the Son of Man, Jesus Christ himself, doing the casting.