Summary: 4th in a 4 part series dealing with topics that tend to divide people from each other and God.
THE GREAT DIVIDE - PART 4
“Would a Loving God Really Send People to Hell?”
INTRODUCTION TO SERMON:
A church that was seeking a new Pastor asked their top two candidates to preach a trial sermon and gave them the same topic and same text. The topic? Hell. Well, they both preached and did an excellent job. Yet one was hired and the other was not. The man who was not hired asked why and the Chairman of the search team said, “You preached on Hell as if you were glad that people were going there, the other Pastor preached on Hell with a tear in his eye.”
You know, what we are discussing today is an unpleasant topic. And it is a topic that needs to be handled with sensitivity. Because not only are we talking about hell but we’re talking about combining that horrible destination with a discussion about God’s love. Wouldn’t love and hell be an oxymoron? Here is an objection to the Christian message that seems insurmountable. But the NT has over 50 references to hell and if we as a church are going to be true to our commitment to study the whole counsel of God, then we can’t exclude this topic just because it’s not popular or because it poses some intellectual or emotional challenges. So, let’s look at hell as a place, then at why such a place exists and then deal with our question of how a loving God could ever really send people to such a place. (Prayer)
Video Clip - “Little Nicky” Start: Chp. 3 - 9:16 - Stop: Chp. 3 - 10:15 = :55
I. THE PLACE: What is hell?
That clip and that movie, like a lot of movies, comedians and even some Christians, deals with the subject of Hell and Satan, very lightly. I think that’s because in some people’s minds this whole concept of punishment in a place of eternal torment is just not feasible, it just can’t be real. And so, you may have heard people say things like, "Well, I may go to hell but all my friends will be there and we’ll have one huge party!" Even Mark Twain once said, “I’ll take heaven for climate, but hell for company.” As if hell is where the fun people will be. Others who don’t necessarily joke about it will often say things like: "I could never be happy for eternity in heaven, if I knew some of my loved ones were in Hell." -or- “The idea of hell is just an ancient tradition from by gone days when people thought of God as an angry tyrant.”And although joking about Hell is not terrible in itself, it can give us a false sense of security. In fact, those ideas, statements and feelings have led some to the doctrine of Universalism, which teaches that God will ultimately save everyone, regardless of how they lived or how they responded to Christ. A recent Harris Poll found that while 89% of Americans believe there is a heaven, only 73% believe in hell. But that figure is misleading because people differ in how they define hell. When defined as an actual location, a place of real torment where people will be sent, only about three in ten adults (31%) believe in hell.
Well, even though the world views Hell with skepticism and often makes light of it, what does the Bible teach? Let’s look at several Scriptures that point out that hell is a real place. Because we can choose to listen to sinful man who doesn’t know everything and whose theories come and go. Or we can listen to God through His Word, the Bible, which has stood forever.
When Jesus spoke of hell He used the word that referred to a real place. The word "Gehenna" which is what the Greek word is for hell describes the valley of "henna" or more properly, "hinnom." This was a valley SW of Jerusalem that was the city’s garbage dump. Here all the waste and filth was dumped, even bodies were burned there. It was a foul place of stench and rot and this is what our Lord used to illustrate
hell. Now keep in mind this garbage dump as we look at three gripping phrases that the Bible uses to describe hell. Everyone of these phrases is frightening.
(1) Hell is called a place of unquenchable fire. In Mark 9:43 Jesus says, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better to enter heaven with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands."(NLT) Do you know of any pain that is to much more excruciating than being burned? If you’ve ever touched a stove or hot iron you know the stinging awful hurt of a burn. But in this place, Jesus says the fire never goes out. You burn but you don’t even get relief from death.