Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Agonizing Eternal Hell? Really?

It was just a few days before Easter, of all times during the calendar year, when a story broke about one of the primary doctrines of the Bible. The subject was the very existence of  Hell itself. And the source of the controversy was, from of all people, the Pope himself! 

A reporter wrote in an interview with the Pontiff that it was stated that people who are not saved, and therefore don’t go to heaven, are not punished in a literal Hell. Instead, according to the story, they are just annihilated or simply snuffed out forever.  And of course, without being there, it is not possible to know exactly what was said or what was not.  But the Vatican quickly claimed that the reporter was wrong and gave an incorrect account of what the Pope actually said. And yet it is somewhat curious as to why the Pontiff did not just come out right away and publicly correct the problem once and for all.

The subject of the reality and horrors of a literal eternal hell have been under a growing spiritual microscope for some time now. More and more are stating that this place of everlasting suffering does not really exist.  Just a few years back it was Rob Bell, a well-known pastor, who rocked the evangelical world with his book, ‘Love Wins’ - A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’

Bell was raised in a traditional Christian home and attended Wheaton College in Illinois and Fuller Seminary. He and his wife Kristen started and ran the prominent Mars Hill Church. Their theological beliefs on the Mars Hill web site were written in narrative or story form. They affirmed a belief in the inspiration of God’s Word and the sacrifice of Christ. But they promoted the idea that the primary reason for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was to restore ‘relationship’ both to Him and among ourselves. But there was virtually no mention of a ‘hell’ or punishment for unrepentant and lost sinners.  Although Bell left the church several years ago, the doctrinal statement still does not really speak today of Hell as a literal place of suffering for those who reject Christ. 

So Bell, and a growing number like him, are teaching what  is called Universalism. This states that all eventually get to heaven one way or another in the final analysis no matter what. And  the logical outcome of that view is that, if God eventually saves all men, there is no real  need for a Hell – or at least one that lasts forever. So when all is said and done all are saved and thus God’s Love wins.

In another article I saw these kinds of views and from an interesting source: The story said was titled this. “Hell’s glory days could be over.” National Geographic science correspondent Mark Strauss said, ”The idea of eternal punishment is not as chic as it was in olden days. He explained that a “campaign to eliminate Hell” headed by a “new generation of evangelical scholars” are taking issue with the idea that sinners are doomed forever. Many find it hard to reconcile a just, loving God with eternal punishment.”

And even as there seems to be a growing acceptance of a hell-less eternity even in church circles, it is even easier to see what many in the world reject a literal hell. And why would they want to believe otherwise?  If they scorn it, then they don’t have to fear or someday face it - or so they hope.. But here is the way one agnostic atheist blogger put it and perhaps what many choose to think.  “The whole concept of an infinite punishment for a finite crime is immoral. I doubt a "loving" god would be that cruel. So yes. It is utterly ridiculous and clearly the product of barbaric, vengeful, ignorant, unenlightened, human minds.”  This man may believe this fully. But he best be very right or he is in very big trouble!

The too, even those who do believe there is a Hell don’t seem too worried about ending up there.  A recent Lifeway Research survey found these results and said this.  “Hell is a real place, but you have to be really bad to go. Overall, Americans don’t seem too concerned about sin or being sent to Hell. Two-thirds say most people are basically good, even though everyone sins a little bit. Fewer than 1 in 5 Americans say even small sins should lead to damnation, while only about half say God has a wrathful side.”

But even among those who do believe in a Hell, there are differences in how they interpret the biblical descriptions. Some believe that in Hell people will literally burn forever. Others believe people will literally burn for a certain period of time and then cease to exist or be released. Still others believe that, although it is a place of punishment, the descriptions of fire are simply imagery meant to convey judgment. So the beliefs in the existence of a literal Hell as a place of eternal suffering, along with who ends up there, are all over the lot today. But with that all said, the idea of any literal place of eternal suffering is certainly losing ground as is the related view about the seriousness of sin. So logically, if sin were not that big a deal, then why would God design a real place of everlasting torment to deal with it?

So what is the truth about Hell and how show we view it?  The truth about Hell is whatever the Bible clearly  teaches about it. When taken together, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the existence of a literal and eternal place in no uncertain terms.  I saw an article at a site called that offered some good thoughts and facts of this all-important subject. The author wrote, “Hell is one of those subjects that makes people uncomfortable.  We hear stories of hell being a place of fire, demons, and endless torment. Throughout history, many authors have written about it. Western culture is very familiar with the concept.  Even Hollywood has made it the subject of many movies.  Whatever the context, whatever the belief, Hell is definitely taught in the Bible.”

The bottom line is that God consists of many attributes. He is loving and merciful. But He is also fully just. To believe He is incapable of eternal judgement is to be na├»ve and it denies part of who He is. Yes, his nature is love – a level of love most of humanity cannot grasp even though they saw it evidenced on the cross.  But God’s ultimate love is not about allowing every sinner who rejects or scorns His Son’s sacrifice to slide by or be eliminated. His love is rather seen in Romans chapter 5, which reads,  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him’.”

The verse mentions being saved from wrath. But from what wrath? It is the wrath and judgement revealed in numerous verses like found in the book of Matthew.  "But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."  "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”  "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."  “Jesus said, And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell." 

 In Daniel 12:2 we read. "And many of them that slept in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."  And in Revelation 14 we see that those who reject the Lord "will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and forever. There is no rest day or night" for them.” And the list of similar passages goes on and on like with the story of Lazarus in Like 12.

Tragically, Hell is a real place.  It is not mere unconsciousness or temporary.  It is forever torment.  Perhaps that is why Jesus spoke more of Hell than heaven and spent so much time strongly warning people to avoid going there at all cost.  If people just stopped existing after death, or got released after a lengthy and painful slap on the wrist, then why warn them so very much or at all?

I don’t know what your view on this subject is today. That is between you, God and what you feel is taught in His word. But I would think that any so-called Hell that is seen as imaginary, just temporary or non-existent would cause lost sinners to relax and not face their desperate fate and their need of a Savior. I would think that the adversary would be thrilled to sidetrack people into having no fear of any serious and lasting judgement in such a place. I would wonder why Scripture speaks so clearly, forcefully and so repeatedly about a place that has almost no lasting consequence - if it even exists at all? And I would wonder why Christ had to die as he did if sin’s consequences are not serious for lasting dire consequences in the end?

Finally, I would think that we should carefully analyze the words of the Apostle Paul. He wrote extensively about Christ’s redeeming love, sacrifice and forgiveness for him in light of his own great sin. And what was his view of this same loving God as far as those who reject or ignore the actions of His Son on cross for them? He said in 2 Corinthians 5,  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  And then these telling  words in verse 11. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”.

God loves us all and His Son died in our place to forgive our sin and grant us a heavenly home someday. But when that offer of salvation is ignored, then there comes the painful reality of verses like just mentioned along with many others like Hebrews 10:31. “It is a  fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Why chance such an unimaginable fate as Hell for all eternity when it can be forever avoided in mere seconds by acting upon Acts 2:21. “That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’

The bad news is that Hell is all too real. But the good news is found in the Good News.  “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9)

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, April 12, 2018

54 Years Sharing Biblical Truth

Dedication Evangelism is the ministry organization that sponsors this blog. A major part of our outreach is The Word and The World broadcast. It offers a timely Biblical perspective on current issues and events, and we have always sought to share the unchanging Good News of salvation. April 12 marks 54 years on the air – over 2,800 weekly broadcasts and countless hours of recording, production and ministry. We praise God for His faithfulness in bringing us to this significant milestone! It is a testimony to what can happen when one person follows God's call.

Beginning – When Rev. David Virkler founded Dedication Evangelism in 1961, his ministry vision included Gospel broadcasting. While holding a week of meetings in the fall of 1963, Dave was asked to speak on a daily radio program shared by the local ministerium on a commercial AM station. The opportunity piqued Dave’s interest in the possibility of seeing the vision for radio outreach become a reality. Several months later, on Sunday morning, April 12, 1964, the first broadcast of The Word And The World aired over WFRM in Coudersport, PA.

Expansion – Our station log has grown from one station in Pennsylvania to 77 outlets reaching 18 states and Ontario, Canada. What began as a radio ministry has also expanded to online outreach including our website archives and live streaming of stations’ programming.  Podcasts also significantly expanded our outreach. These outlets make The Word And The World available anytime and anywhere. Take advantage of these listening options!

Multiplication – God has used The Word And The World to reach people through means other than radio. Many of our audio and print resource materials have come from the broadcast. Popular items include our annual Year in Review and Sing Them Over Again (three CDs of music from the half-hour broadcast.)

Before the Internet made broadcasts available to anyone on-line, each month’s programs were compiled on one cassette. Examples of the far reach these had include a missionary who used the tapes to help teach English in South America, a Kenyan university student in Michigan who later used them in his teaching when he returned home, and prisoners who used the tapes in personal and group Bible studies.
PartnershipWe would not be celebrating this milestone without the prayer and financial support of God’s people and ministry partnership of many radio stations and networks. We are so grateful for the part each one has played in helping us to reach people through The Word And The World. (Click here to find out how you can help.)

In 54 years, there have been many changes in the world and in the Church. Our broadcast ministry has also seen changes in our studio, technology, and delivery methods. One of the greatest changes was Dave’s Homegoing, but God has graciously enabled us to continue even after that with Bill Breckenridge, our Director of Outreach, as speaker/producer. Through it all, we have seen God’s hand of blessing on our outreach.

The first listener to send a letter declared that The Word And The World was a good program and he thought God would bless it. And He has!