Summary: The Bible teaches a solemn and terrible truth about the reality of hell
Two weeks ago there were about a hundred protesters picketing the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. This was a group of Hindus who were upset that the Southern Baptist Convention was encouraging its churches like Second Baptist, which incidentally has over 10,000 members, to make a special effort to share the gospel with Hindu people. This group was no doubt encouraged by the Hindus in India who insisted that the Pope, during his recent trip there, declared that Jesus Christ is not the only route to salvation. As one Hindu leader said, "A religion that condemns all others to eternal hell is selfish, exclusionist and promotes hatred." Jews and Muslims are also angered over the fact that Southern Baptists have been encouraged to pray for them. Many in the media have expressed outrage toward what they see as the intolerance of evangelical Christians. One newspaper editorial said, "These conversion efforts are reminiscent of the Middle Ages when the church burned at the stake anyone who refused to convert."
In a recent Breakpoint Commentary, Chuck Colson points out how ridiculous this reaction is. Praying for people, or even efforts to verbally persuade someone to embrace a new religion, can hardly be compared to burning people at the stake. He notes that Christianity has always been seen as a universal religion which claims to offer salvation to all people, no matter what their ethnic or religious background. Yet, the objections which are raised do tend to raise some uncomfortable questions in many of our minds. Does it make sense that Christianity would be the only true religion? Are people out there who don't believe, or maybe have never even heard of Jesus, really going to hell? Well, I'm not sure we'll fully answer these questions today, but we are going to look at a parable of Jesus which gives us His perspective on this very important topic. Our text is Matthew 13:47-50. As we explore the Word of God, let's pray that He would help us understand what these words mean to our lives.
The New International Version calls this The Parable of the Net. I call it the parable about catching fish. Matthew 13:47 "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish." In most situations, fishing with a net is not legal in Minnesota, but in the 1st Century it obviously was the most efficient method. The phrase "all kinds of fish" doesn't mean a large number, but rather a wide variety of fish. 13:48 "When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away." Good and bad has nothing to do with the moral character of the fish but rather refers to the fact that some fish were big enough for eating, while others were not; some fish were ceremonially clean or kosher, while others were not, or maybe that some fish were worth keeping, while others were not. In fact, "bad fish" literally means "worthless fish." A simple story. What does it mean? Jesus answers that question in the next two verses. 13:49,50 "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."