Last time we began to discuss the question of who is going to hell. We showed from the Word of God that hell is a reality which is taught by the Bible and that if one refuses to believe in the reality of hell, then one must refuse to believe in the Bible itself. For the Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the One who has delivered God’s children from the flames of eternal hell.
We saw, further, that the fruits of God’s grace in the life of those who are saved are the fruits of repentance and faith. Those who will perish eternally in hell are those who repent not and who believe not the gospel. The Bible makes very plain that repentance and faith is a gift of God-a gift that God has given to those whom He has chosen in Jesus Christ. It is a gift that they experience in their lives which brings them to sorrow for sin and a lively trust, a personal faith, in Jesus Christ the Lord.
We were talking last time about the need of repentance. We said, from the Word of God, that God must change the heart from the inside out, and that God must give repentance unto the acknowledging of the truth of Jesus Christ (II Tim. 2:25). We reflected at that time upon how horrible is sin, impenitence; how severe is the bondage of sin; how great is God’s grace to free us. A person, apart from the grace of God, would rather die in hell than to be without sin. The impenitent heart says, I love sin, I live in sin. Even hell’s fires cannot burn the love of sin out of a person. And the impenitent get their wish, for in hell they sin to eternity, and are in the company of sinners all the time. Those in hell repent not at all. For one sin committed there is no repentance.
We must be changed. When God gives a new heart it is a heart of repentance, a heart that bleeds, a heart that is soft, a heart that hates sin in principle. It is a heart which gives up sin as sin. Not simply giving up sinful things, saying, No more drunkenness; no more beating of my wife. But it gives up the love of sin in principle. You see that the consequences of your sin are just. You do not pout about the consequences. You do not say, It’s unfair that I have to suffer for these things which I have done. You do not try to get out of that punishment. You used to hate to be found out. You stole money, and you only worried about getting caught. But now you restore and you accept the penalty. Those who, by grace, admit that hell is the just reward for sin do not go to hell. Those who say, “Hell is not just,” because they are haters of God’s holiness and lovers of sin, go to hell.
Who are those who go to hell? Those who repent not, those who find no place of repentance ( Heb. 12). Those who have many tears for being cheated and having to suffer for what they have done, but have no tears for a sinful heart. Imagine that! To love sin, to find no place of sorrow for sin, never to say with self-knowledge, “I am undone in sin,” to remain proud before God.
Such shall receive the wages of sin which is eternal death (Rom. 6:23).
But also those who believe not the gospel are those who shall go to hell. The Scriptures make very plain that all those who do not trust in Jesus Christ by a living, Spirit-worked faith shall perish. All who continue in unbelief shall be cast into the lake of fire. The Scriptures say to us in II Thessalonians 1:8 that Christ, with flaming fire, takes vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, in that chapter, is counseling the Thessalonian believers who were suffering persecution for Jesus Christ. He says, Now you must rest, you must find your comfort in Christ’s second coming. God will then take vengeance on those who believe not the testimony of the gospel, upon those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel.
The apostle says again, in II Thessalonians 2:12, that they all will be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. All who receive not the love of the truth, all to whom God sends strong delusion (v. 11): “and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.” All will be damned who believe not the truth.
We read in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Again, in Matthew 11:20-30, Jesus upbraids the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida because they repented not and did not believe Him through His mighty works. He calls to faith His own: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Faith in Jesus Christ, the gift of God, that is the way of salvation. And all who believe not the gospel shall perish.
But what is faith? Faith is union to Jesus Christ. Faith is seen in trust and confidence in Jesus Christ. Faith is seen in sincere obedience to Christ. Faith is not simply an acknowledgment that God is. The devils also believe that and tremble, says James in the second chapter of his epistle. It is not the mere knowledge of a system of truth. It is very important to understand the truth, for the truth, said Jesus, shall set you free (John 12:31). But it is not simply a matter of the intellect, of the mind. Faith is an attachment, a living attachment to the Son of God, bringing knowledge of Him and confidence in Him. II Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” And always that faith is evidenced in obedience. To believe is to obey the command of the gospel, to delight in the ways of God, and to follow the path of righteousness in Christ. Faith, you see, brings one to the battlefield. Spiritually you fight the good fight of faith, you lay hold on eternal life (I Tim. 6). You hold fast to the word of truth. You follow after righteousness and holiness in your life.
And this faith, this union to Jesus Christ, this loving and living attachment, is the gift of God. All are unbelieving and blind and ignorant and hardened of themselves. Faith in Jesus Christ does not find its origin, its genesis, its root in the will of man. A person, of himself, does not choose to believe. God must plant in him the power of faith. God gives faith. Philippians 1:29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
Those who perish are unbelieving. They are left by God, in His decree of election and reprobation, in their natural state of unbelief. Unbelief is pride; it is the natural man exalting himself and saying, I will determine what is right; I will determine what I want to believe and what I will not. Unbelief is folly. It is the rejecting of the truth of God. It is the rejecting of the living God who is truth. And it is the putting forth of one’s own folly in its place. It is to place one’s own darkened understanding as the standard of truth. “I’ll believe this and I’ll not believe that….” It is to subject the Bible to one’s own reason. It is to fashion one’s God after one’s own thoughts. It is to make a God who is convenient for oneself, suited to one’s own desires. Then, to trust for help and comfort in one’s own strength, to turn to man, to think of this world as the end-all-that is unbelief. Unbelief is the rejecting of the truth of the Bible, the Christ of the Bible, the God revealed in the Bible. And it is placing one’s trust in any other thing than God revealed in the Bible, and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is pride, folly, ignorance.
Who will perish? Those who die in unbelief-unbelief of the truth of the Scriptures; unbelief of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, the life; unbelief of Jesus as Savior and as Lord, the Lord of their life.
Those whom Christ knows not, those who know not Christ as their Savior. Instead of Christ on the throne of their heart, they sit on the throne as usurpers. God never intended man to be autonomous, that is, self-governing. He placed a throne on man’s heart. And the only rightful king for that throne is God. But, you see, unbelief is a rebel! Unbelief is a usurper on the throne. It places self upon the throne. And for that heinous offense, anarchy against God, an attack upon His throne-rights, all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire.
What is the Word of God? Repent and believe the gospel. We are shut up to the grace of God, for both repentance and faith are His gracious gifts given to those who are His children, the elect out of the pure, sovereign good-pleasure of God.
But we can know whether we are one of those children. We can know for certainty our own election. For when God elects in love He makes known to you that precious love in your own heart. I Thessalonians 1:4: “Knowing, beloved, your election (Paul says you can know your election). God gives you to know it. He gives you to know that you are delivered from wrath. And He gives you to know it by working in you these two heavenly, spiritual graces: repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus Christ.
Repentance, which is a shattered heart, over sin before God. An abhorrence of sin, an abhorrence of self as the sinner, and a cry to God for mercy and faith. Faith which is a trust in Jesus Christ alone-a commitment and assurance in Christ as Savior, who has saved and has saved me for no other reason than out of His own mercy and love.
All who are strangers to this repentance and faith perish eternally in hell. They hate God. They believe the lie. Their sinful self sits enthroned upon the throne of their lives. Their damnation is just!
But we are persuaded better things of you, beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone who, by the wonderful power of God’s grace, by the working of the Holy Spirit, repents and sincerely trusts in Jesus Christ shall have life. Everyone who repents and believes the gospel as seen in a life of new obedience shall never perish but shall have eternal life.
May God make His Word both powerful and effective in our life, turning us daily to repentance from our sins and faith in Jesus Christ, the wonderful, perfect, and only Savior, who has delivered us from so great a destruction of hell and has brought us forever into the fellowship of God.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word so rich and so free-the Word which is also very sharp; the Word which leaves nothing of salvation in the hands of man, that man can in any way attain it or contribute to it; the Word which tells us that salvation is of the Lord. We thank Thee for our Lord Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that of ourselves we deserve the flames of hell, that there is nothing that we could do even to desire to escape those flames. We thank Thee for the Spirit of Thy Son who has opened our eyes that we might believe and see the gospel. We pray now that Thou wilt use this message in Thy own will and hand for the building up of faith, for the turning from sin in the lives of Thy children. May Thy name, and Thy name only, be glorified. To Thee be honor and glory now and forever, Amen.