What an awful thing for a person to go to hell-to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and there to suffer eternally. There is no possible deliverance from the flames of hell (Rev. 14: 11): “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and they have no rest day nor night.” That is, no relief from the torment. Not like a night of pain when one cannot rest and yet finds rest in the morning. Not like thirty years of affliction. But forever, without any possible pause-eternal torment. To be in the company of the Devil and his angels, experiencing precisely what sin which is committed against God deserves.
Will God cast people into hell? Yes. He has. He does. And He will.
The question is not whether or not you choose to believe in hell. That is not the question. The question is whether or not you believe in the Bible. For the Bible testifies that the Son of man (Matt. 13:42) will gather all them which do iniquity and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Nor can you come to the Bible and select what you will believe out of it and what you will not. If you do not believe the Bible as one unity in all of its truth, you do not believe any truths of the Bible. You cannot believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and simply dismiss the truth of hell and those who go to hell.
It is from this punishment of eternal hell that Jesus Christ has delivered repentant believers given to Him of His Father. And it is standing by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we have perfect assurance over the flames of judgment and hell.
By nature we, or ourselves as Christians, would live with all men and women under the supposition that we really do not deserve the hand of God. We think that we are really good people-at least better than others. But the grace of Jesus Christ changes this and gives us to confess: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
There are many who grit their teeth at the reality of hell. They will not believe that. They say, “How can that be?” These, says the Word of God, are willingly ignorant (II Pet. 3). They are blinded by the god of this world, they are blinded to their sin and to a holy God. There are others who try to modify the Scriptures. They say that all infants who die in infancy go to heaven, denying depravity, denying the need that each soul that goes to heaven must be born again with the spiritual resurrection life of Jesus Christ. And that life must also be implanted then in an infant according to God’s power and Spirit. There are those who say there is a purgatory-that is, the place where a person goes to suffer for the deeds that he has not atoned for in this present life. When that suffering is done, he may go on to be with God. This is the imagination of man. There is nothing of this in God’s Word. There are many who outrightly deny the truth of hell. Many churches no longer preach the gospel at all. Rather, they preach the word of self-improvement. Let us not mention hell. Let us not mention curse and sin and the judgment of God. Let us talk about self-worth and self-betterment and self-improvement.
“And my people love to have it so,” says Jeremiah in his prophecy.
But the Bible, God’s Word, is clear. Take it up and read.
If you do not repent and trust in Jesus Christ as seen in new obedience, you shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5): “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Who are going to hell? God’s answer is the only one that counts. And the answer of the Word of God is: everyone who does not repent and sincerely trust in Jesus Christ as seen by new obedience. II Thessalonians 1:8, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is our only Savior. Not a savior, not an expression of a God somehow or some way. There is no way to heaven but through faith in Jesus Christ. I said “way to heaven.” For the grounds on the basis of which one goes to heaven is the work of Jesus Christ. Christ gives Himself for the elect of God upon Calvary’s tree to remove our guilt. But then Christ also works in those for whom He died, the elect of the Father, a saving faith whereby they believe in Christ and repent of their sins.
There are other things that the Bible reveals of those who will perish eternally. The Bible tells us that they are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:15): “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The Bible speaks of God’s eternal reprobation, of God’s eternal determination of those who will be lost in hell, in the way of their sins. Romans 9 speaks of vessels prepared by the potter who are fitted for destruction. I Peter 2:8 speaks of those who stumble over Jesus Christ, who are disobedient, who are offended in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Peter adds these words, that they were appointed to do so. The Bible teaches that there was an eternal determination of God, what we call a sovereign decree of God, from the very beginning appointing certain men and women to eternal death and destruction.
Still more. The Bible says that those who worship the Beast and receive his mark upon their foreheads will be those who go to hell (Rev. 14:9-11): “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, … and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” And the Beast is explained to us in Revelation 13 as the antichristian kingdom, the kingdom of man which shall arise at the end of the world, inspired by Satan, who will deceive men to worship him, claiming to be God-to worship the Beast, to worship man, and to take his mark as identifying you as belonging to this world of rebellion and unbelief. All who take this mark shall end eternally in hell. They are those who mind earthly things and whose god is their belly (Phil. 3:17).
We know that. That is the Word of God. God’s sovereign predestination, His eternal determination of who will be saved and who will be lost. His election and His reprobation. Romans 9:11: “That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.)” And verse 13: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” We know that the elect, by grace, will reveal themselves as those who seek the things which are above and who will not worship the Beast, nor receive his mark. These things we know.
But we must also understand that those chosen and delivered from damnation through Jesus Christ will show, will manifest, will give evidence of that election in repentance and faith. The command of the gospel is: Repent and believe the gospel. Those who go to hell lack, are in hatred of, true repentance and saving faith. So we examine ourselves in the words of I John 4, that we might assure our hearts before Him: this is the gift of God; this is the gift of grace through the Holy Spirit, that you experience godly sorrow over your sin and a sincere trust in Jesus Christ.
Those who go to hell are those who repent not and those who believe not.
Before setting those two marks before you from the Word of God, the two marks of all who perish, I must bring out a truth of eternal damnation which reflects upon each one of those truths.
There are degrees of eternal punishment in hell. This is determined by one’s proximity, or closeness, to the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. In respect to the duration of the punishment of hell, all shall be punished alike. Forever are the flames of hell. But as to the degree of the torment, not all will be punished alike. Those who have the least punishment in hell shall have enough. But some shall have a hotter place, a greater damnation. They shall be beaten with greater stripes. We read in Mark 12:40, “These shall receive greater damnation,” referring to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in their religious pride. We read in Luke 12:47, 48, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” The degree of punishment corresponds to the closeness in which a person stood to the light. Matthew 10:15: “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” That passage is very striking. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their gross violation of God’s law, for homosexuality, for sexual uncleanness, for violation of God’s purity and holiness. Yet, the measure of accountability, the degree of punishment before God, is determined by the light of revealed truth in which a person stood. Sodom and Gomorrah will be punished in the day of judgment; but it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for those cities, than for the city which has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, the city in which Christ has stood by proclaiming His Word of faith and repentance in Him as the only Savior, the city which nevertheless rejects that light of Christ. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, punished for their homosexuality, than for that city which has turned its back upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That is the Word of God. That is not my word, that is the Bible. And that makes me tremble. Not to repent and not to believe is treason, defiance of God. How much worse when that is done under the light of God come to a person, when one rejects the Word, and then sneers and scorns at those who do repent, and says, “Oh, goody-goody two shoes!” It is better that you had never been born than that you had heard the Word of God and turned not from your sins.
I will not hide from you the place in which you stand now. You stand close to the light of the gospel. You have heard the gospel upon this radio program. That is a great blessing. But it can also lead to the greatest of all curses. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall one be counted worthy, having heard that gospel of Christ and not repented and believed?
Do you repent and believe, by the grace of God? No, not perfectly! Not looking to yourself as if your repentance and your faith is now good enough to bring you to heaven! No, no! But do you experience these two realities in your life, by God’s grace: the sorrow for sin before God, and trust in Christ?
The Scripture makes very plain that those who are destined of God to suffer the torments of hell reveal themselves as those who do not repent. Revelation 9:20, 21, “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” Here the Word of God speaks of men who are under the most severe physical judgments of God. There are judgments which are falling all around them, even as the brimstone fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah. They see that their life is tortured in misery and that they are being ruined. Judgments which prefigure the final judgment. Yet, they repented not of their murders or of their sorceries or of their fornications.
In Revelation 16:9-11 we read: “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain. And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
Take note of that! That establishes the closest possible tie between the state of one’s heart towards God and repentance. What are the two things spoken of those who repented not? They gave not God the glory, and they blasphemed God. Repentance involves, at its core, a fundamental, crucial, basic change of heart toward God, as He is revealed in His Word. A change from resentment, from resentment of God’s power and sovereignty, from hatred of His holiness, to bowing before Him in joy and praising His virtues.
What is repentance? Repentance is the change of heart that God makes in a person-a change of heart toward God and toward sin. Most people have a general idea of what repentance is; they say, Repentance is giving up sin, turning away from sin. But repentance is much more-much, much more than simple human enlightenment. Repentance is not simply when a person wakes up, becomes a changed person, sees things in a different light, understands that the way of his life was bringing all kinds of problems, simply outgrows a certain sin, does not get any pleasure out of it, says it’s not worth it anymore. No, repentance is more than that. Repentance is when God changes a person. Those in hell who repent not are those God willed not to change, determined not to give them the grace of repentance, but to leave them in their sins as monuments to His own justice. Repentance is not simply realizing how terrible hell is and then fleeing from it. People do not repent even in hell. When they know from experience how terrible hell is, yet they repent not. Only God can cause you to repent and be saved. If He changes you in your heart, bringing you the Word of God and showing you what kind of
person you are, you repent. If He does not, you will not. Not threats, not death, not accidents. God must confer repentance. It is a gift of God. Acts 5:30, 31: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 11:18: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” II Timothy 2:25: “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Give them repentance!
The Living Bible (some of you may be acquainted with that- “Good News for Modern Man” it is sometimes called) takes each of the above passages and translates it this way: That God gives opportunity to men to repent. Now if they had done that once, I could have given them the benefit of the doubt. But when the Living Bible translates it that way each time, rather than saying that God gave men repentance, then I will say that the Living Bible is nothing but a deliberate perversion of God’s Word in order to give the glory to man, in order to take from God what alone is His and supposedly entrust it to the will of man.
God must change a person from the inside out. He works a work of grace in the heart. He gives a new heart, which He alone can give, out of pure mercy. The impenitent heart must be changed. It must be changed in its position before God and sin. When a man with an impenitent heart says, “I repent,” he means, “I’m sorry about going to hell. I don’t want to go to the everlasting furnace.” But he does not have a sorrow for sin, only a sorrow about suffering for sin. The old heart still loves sin. It just does not love the consequences of sin. It will do anything to avoid hell.
How severe is the bondage of sin, and how great is the grace of God to free!
May God give repentance to the acknowledging of the truth to you and to me, a gift of His grace worked through the gospel of Jesus Christ which comes to you today and says: Repent and believe the gospel.
We will return to this subject next time, D.V.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we ask that Thou wilt bless Thy Word to our hearts, that we may stand in all humility before Thee, and that out of the grace of God in our hearts we may see our sin for what it is and praise Thee for so great a deliverance from the flames of hell in Jesus Christ. Amen.