Summary: I have heard the terms "GO TO HELL" and "SEE YOU IN HELL" used all too casually over the years. Hell, as described in the Bible, is not something you would wish on even your worst enemies.
Part 12 - Matthew 10:11-15 - THEY CAN GO TO HELL?
I was speaking to someone about New Zealand a couple of days ago and how when we went there we had explored the colourful natural volcanic areas of Rotorua - bubbling mud, steaming ground and geysers, huge volcanic craters and weird and wonderful rock formations. Although it was beautiful the smell of sulphur was strong and I couldn't help but think about HELL (Give me a break - I'm a pastor. I think about such things).
The volcanic eruption in Iceland was even more ominous. It adds a new perspective to the words "WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER". There were floods caused by the heat melting the glacier and then magnificent pictures have been taken of the lava spewing from the crater. The smell of sulphur was heavy in the air. People had to make a choice and be EVACUATED FROM THE AREA or be drowned by the steaming water rushing down the mountain. Then came the lava flow, like A LAKE OF FIRE.
I have heard the terms "GO TO HELL" and "SEE YOU IN HELL" used all too casually over the years. Hell, as described in the Bible, is not something you would wish on even your worst enemies. Yet many choose to watch and wait rather than be evacuated as death and hellfire engulfs them. The bushfires in Victoria were horrific, moreso because many refused to be evacuated, thinking that somehow they would survive. They died in the firestorms that swept through their houses. Jesus speaks about cities and villages like this when He sent out His disciples to share His message of hope and peace with God.
In Matthew 10:13-15 (NLT) Jesus says "If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day."
It's how Jesus uses the greeting of peace (see Matthew 10 - Part 11) that intrigues me... Matthew 10:12-13 (NASB) says "As you enter the house, give it your greeting. "If the house is worthy, give it your BLESSING OF PEACE. But if it is not worthy, TAKE BACK YOUR BLESSING OF PEACE."
Powerful words, but what does this mean? What is this "take back your blessing of peace" all about. At first it sounds as if the disciples CURSE the places that don't receive them, but I think it is more that the people whose houses they have entered are wilfully refusing to be evacuated into the arms of God's peace and they will face certain judgment, just as every person does who rejects the message which Christ offers. I can't assure people of peace with God when they openly reject Him and the message of Christ.
Obviously it was no good wasting time on people who are not going to be receptive. No use trying to heal someone who wants to remain sick. No use casting out demons from someone who actively invites them in. No use preaching the gospel of peace with God to someone who is not receptive. Receptivity is important.
Jesus says "I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day."
The disciples shake the very dust from their feet. Nothing given, nothing received. It's as if the footprints in that place indicating your presence have disappeared in the dust. There is nothing to say that you have been there, and the influence and impact of God's message is withdrawn. I don't argue with people or try to force the gospel upon someone who doesn't want it. I just leave.
But this passage says that "the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day." (Matthew 10:14-15 NLT)
How will Sodom and Gomorrah be better off? Surely they went to hell. Are there different degrees of hell? I think Jesus is simply saying that the physical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah will be nothing compared to hell. Genesis 19:24 (NLT) says "the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah." but hell is described as a lake of fire for eternity.
John sees a vision in Revelation 20:10-15 of the devil and those who reject Christ as their Saviour and Lord. It says "the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Revelation 10:15 says that "anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." (NLT)