THE RETRIBUTION TO COME
Hell is a hard, distasteful, and most unpleasant theme. Almost any theme is preferable. Yet, to talk about hell--does not make one the creator of it. Nor does it mean we want anyone to go there. What we must face is an honest, full interpretation of the Word of God on the subject. The popularity of the subject is not the criterion for judging truth. Jesus wanted the truth of hell and the retributions of God upon sin to be well known among people in order to make them come to Jesus for salvation.
A keystone of our faith is the doctrine of hell. Without that truth, there is no justifiable reason for the necessity of the cross. If there were no hell, why would there be an urgency of preaching the gospel ?
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Three or four terms refer to places of judgment in the New Testament.
Gehenna =valley of Hinnon- this was a valley where dead bodies were thrown to be burnt. In this valley the garbage of the city was also burnt. It is used in the Bible to refer to a place where the sinful dead will be tortured by fire eternally.
Hades = This refers to a place of the departed dead, the underworld.
Tartarus = (II Peter 2:4 only) This is the place reserved for fallen, sinful angels. They are bound there, in that abyss, temporarily, until they will later be put into the Lake of Fire.
Lake of fire = This is the place where those bound in hell will be put after the destruction of the earth. The Antichrist and the False Prophet will be put in this place a thousand years earlier than the rest of the wicked.
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We must admit that the proclamation about hell is heard very little in these days. Some ministers have neglected the teaching, some have denied its existence (even though it is referred to more often than heaven in the Bible), and some have thrown out all end time concepts.
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There are many scriptures that tell us of the judgment time to come. Let's look at some of them.
"AND I SAW A GREAT WHITE THRONE AND HIM THAT SAT UPON IT FROM WHOSE FACE THE EARTH AND THE HEAVEN FLED AWAY AND THERE WAS FOUND NO PLACE FOR THEM. AND I SAW THE DEAD SMALL AND GREAT STAND BEFORE GOD AND THE BOOKS WERE OPENED WHICH IS THE BOOK OF LIFE AND THE DEAD WERE JUDGED OUT OF THOSE THINGS WHICH WERE WRITTEN IN THE BOOKS ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS. AND THE SEA GAVE UP THE DEAD IN IT, AND DEATH AND HELL DELIVERED UP THE DEAD, AND THEY WERE JUDGED EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS. AND DEATH AND HELL WERE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH. AND WHOSOEVER WAS NOT FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LIFE WAS CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE."
"BECAUSE HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY IN WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED, WHEREOF HE HATH GIVEN ASSURANCE UNTO ALL MEN IN THAT HE HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD."
"IN THE DAY WHEN GOD SHALL JUDGE THE SECRETS OF MEN BY CHRIST ACCORDING TO MY GOSPEL..."
There is coming a day when the wicked dead (those who have died in their sins from Adam's day until the end of the Millennium) will be judged.(Rev. 20:5-6,12-15) This will take place at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7-15). The earth will be renovated by fire at that same time (Rev. 20:11, II Peter 3:7-13, Hebrews 1:10-12, 12:25-28, Romans 1:21-23). The place where it will happen is called "the Great White Throne." (Rev.20:11,Ps. 9:7-8)
God will judge these wicked people according to their degree of revelation. Some will be judged by their conscience (Romans 2:12-16), if that is all the revelation they have received. Others will have their memory testify against them (Luke 16:25). The law of Moses will condemn many, who have only known it(Romans 2:12-16). The gospel message, and their failure to appropriate its grace, will testify against many (Romans 2:12-16). However, men are judged, they will find God has recorded all their personal acts. (Matthew 12:36, Luke 12:2-9, John 3:18, and Rev. 20:12). If people have not repented of their sins, and had their names written into the Book of Life, they will be damned (Rev. 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12,15, 21:22, 22:18-19).
The judges of this judgment are both the Father and the Son.
God, the Father -
Rev. 20:12 "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God..."
Jesus, the Son -
John 5:19-27 "...For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son..."
The Father will decree-
-the Son will execute that judgment. (Acts 10:42, 17:31, Romans 2:16)
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This judgment will not be an invisible, spiritual, endless process. It will be a literal, visible trial in God's court. This trial will be similar to a trial on this earth. (Rev. 20:11-15, Psalms 9:8, Matthew 7:2,21, Hebrews. 9:27) The purpose of this trial is to give every man a fair hearing before final judgment is pronounced. It will reveal the secret sins of the wicked. It will judge all the works, thoughts, actions, and sins of people. (I Timothy 5:24, I Peter 1:17, Rev. 20:12-13, 22:12) Degrees of punishment will be meted out, according to the deeds done, and according to the degree of revelation one had to encourage them to repent. (Matthew 7:2, , 10:15, 11:22-24, 12:41-45, 23:12-14,33, Revelation 20:11-15, 22:12)
The end result of this judgment will be that those judged here will be sent to the Lake of Fire.
"WHOSOEVER WAS NOT FOUND WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE WAS CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE."
The world needs warning. Much of the warning of hell came from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is called the "TRUTH". He would never lie, exaggerate, or incite needless fear. Satan's first recorded lie is "YE SHALL NOT SURELY DIE." Satan continues to promote this same lie. Many will say-"There is no hell." Others will say - "Hell is on earth." Some will try to say -"It isn't everlasting punishment, just death." All of these have their root in Satan's lie. All of these encourage man to be braver in their sins.
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Jesus taught the certainty of future retribution.
"...WHOSOEVER SHALL SAY 'THOU FOOL' SHALL BE IN DANGER OF HELL FIRE..."
"IF THY RIGHT HAND OFFEND THEE, CUT IT OFF AND CAST IT FROM THEE FOR IT IS PROFITABLE FOR THEE THAT ONE OF THY MEMBERS SHOULD PERISH AND NOT THAT THE WHOLE BODY SHOULD BE CAST INTO HELL..."
"BUT THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM SHALL BE CAST OUT INTO OUTER DARKNESS...THERE SHALL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH..."
"ANGELS ...SHALL GATHER ...THEM THAT DO INIQUITY AND SHALL CAST THEM INTO A FURNACE OF FIRE AND THERE SHALL BE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH..."
"YE SERPENTS, YE GENERATION OF VIPERS, HOW CAN YE ESCAPE THE DAMNATION OF HELL?"
"DEPART FROM ME, YE CURSED, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE, PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS."
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Into the Lake of fire will be put (according to Revelation 21:8, 22:15) these classes of people:
fearful =This word refers to the worthless, vile, cowardly people.
unbelieving =(apistos) These are the ones who did not have faith.
abominable =(bdelusso) These are those polluted by unnatural lusts, i.e. perverts.
murderers = (phoneus) This is self explanatory.
whoremongers = (pornois) These are the fornicators. People have tried to put prettier names for this sin, but it is still damnable, even if it is called "an affair."
sorcerers =(pharmakeusin) These are ones who by drugs, enchanted potions, charms, etc. try to produce unnatural effects.
idolaters = These are those who worship idols, cars, money, position, jobs, etc. in place of God.
dogs = False prophets and homosexuals are called "dogs" in Scripture. (Deut. 23:18, Isaiah 56:10-11, Philippians 3:2, Revelation 22:15)
liars = We all know the meaning of this term.
lovers of lies = These are those who have sincerely believed the lies of Satan. Some think if they are sincere, God will take that into consideration. But if people get caught up into cults, or the lies that they don't need faith in Jesus for salvation, they will someday end up in the Lake of Fire.
Physical life is the union of the body with the spirit. When the spirit leaves the body, the body dies. Spiritual life is the union of the spirit with God. When God is not within the person, the person is spiritually dead. When one dies a sinner, his body is buried in the ground. Yet his spirit has gone to hell to suffer while awaiting the White Throne Judgment. At that White Throne, the body is resurrected and the spirit is reunited with it. Then the "second death" is when the body and the soul are both cast into the Lake of Fire. There, the eternal body, will suffer along with the spirit of the wicked person.
The future retribution of the wicked is described in horrifying terms. Seven times Jesus said "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Twice He referred to "fire that never shall be quenched." Three times He indicated that the person would not ever cease to exist--"Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched."
Jesus indicated that memory would be active in that place of torment. (Luke 16:23-25 "SON, REMEMBER.") People will remember their misspent time, misused talents, omitted duties, committed sins, lost opportunities, and the past blessings of God that they wasted.
Hell is a place to avoid, whatever the cost. It is not fiction. Many warnings of this place came from the lips of Jesus--who is LOVE. Rejection of Him is the reason people will go there.
"...IF YE BELIEVE NOT THAT I AM HE, YE SHALL DIE IN YOUR SINS..."
The eternal nature of the judgment is awesome. Some would like to have "hell" mean "annihilation." Some would like to teach that all will be saved. But Jesus taught that some will go to hell and the Lake of Fire. He used the word "aionos" =everlasting. He used this same word for heaven and eternal life, and for God's being. In Matthew 25:46 the same word is used for punishment and for the eternal life of the righteous.
"AND THESE SHALL GO AWAY INTO EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS TO LIFE ETERNAL."
Some may hear the gospel once and reject it. Others may hear it time after time, and fail to heed its message. In eternity, there is greater damnation for those who have had more opportunity. (Matthew 11:20-24, Mark 12:40, Luke 12:47-48)
Hell is not an incidental doctrine that can be occasionally taught. It is a fundamental part of the Gospel. It is the dark background against which the loving salvation of God shines through. Heaven and hell--stand and fall together. We must know of hell's reality. We must proclaim its horror.
In hell, people will have their own life be a constant witness against them. The conscience will no longer be deadened by the devil, but will be keenly alert. There will be no one to blame but themselves. Remorse will be unbearable. They will remember times of the Holy Spirit's conviction. They will remember that they shunned, ignored, or procrastinated. Prayer will be too late. It is hopeless, ineffective, to pray in hell.
Hell is clearly taught in Scripture. No person is so good that he can escape hell on his own merits. Yet no person is so bad that he has no chance of escape. People are destined to hell unless they accept Jesus as their personal Savior.
A final thought on the subject of future retribution, one that Christians do not like to face or acknowledge is found in the book of Ezekiel.
"SO THOU, O SON OF MAN, I HAVE SET THEE A WATCHMAN UNTO THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL; THEREFORE THOU SHALT HEAR THE WORD AT MY MOUTH, AND WARN THEM FROM ME. WHEN I SAY UNTO THE WICKED, 'O WICKED MAN, THOU SHALT SURELY DIE;' IF THOU DOST NOT SPEAK TO WARN THE WICKED FROM HIS WAY, THAT WICKED MAN SHALL DIE IN HIS INIQUITY: BUT HIS BLOOD WILL I REQUIRE AT THINE HAND."
This teaches that, if we neglect to warn the wicked that God sends us to evangelize, we will someday have to take part in their judgment. The terminology- "his blood will I require at thine hand"- is the same idea as the law in that day where the next of kin had the responsibility to search out the killer of their relative. Unless the killer reached a city of refuge, the next of kin was "deputized" to search out and kill the criminal. With these terms, God reminds Ezekiel that-- to omit the warning to the wicked will bring us to someday stand at the White Throne Judgment and perhaps have to escort the sinner that we neglected to warn over to the Lake of Fire. How horrible a thought ! ! !
This truth is one that we don't want to believe, or acknowledge. Seldom, if ever, will you hear it preached. We would rather ignore it now, yet if we do ignore it, we will probably stand at that place someday without having repented of our failed opportunities. We, as Christians, need to get our failures under the blood and to redeem the time by witnessing when the Lord gives us the commission to do so.
Some Christians who know the truth of "hell" and the White Throne Judgment---don't want to take the responsibility to use that knowledge. The truth, of the horrible hell and judgment to come for the wicked, should impel us to be witnesses.
In Revelation 10:8-10, John is told to eat the book that had the judgments written inside. John did, and it was "sweet as honey". But as it reached his "belly", it became "bitter." Ezekiel had a similar experience in Ezekiel 2:8-3:3.
The message is--that we may enjoy the revelation of the future, but the responsibility that the revelation puts upon us is a bitter responsibility. We carry the commission to tell the wicked how to escape the hell, and Lake of Fire. We must do it, it is not optional. We must, or someday be required to take part in their judgment.
Will we be able to shed tears of remorse as we stand behind that White Throne and see our loved ones be called forth for judgment ? Some think all tears will be wiped away in heaven. They will, but not until Revelation 21:4. The timing of this verse is as God makes the new heaven and the new earth. It is not until then that God takes away the tears. Our God weeps in heaven. He values the tears of His saints now. In heaven, we will still have feelings. We will have the Lord to comfort us there. We will not be emotionless robots. We will weep as those we love are brought before God, not yawn. We will have sorrow, at the horrible judgment. God Himself is not willing that any perish. I expect to see tears in the eyes of My Savior, for He loves our "loved ones" even more than we do.
The time to make sure we don't have to weep needlessly, is now--by becoming the evangelists that God wants us to be in these last days. Jesus revealed this terrible judgments to us so that we would be motivated to witness. He wants the sinners to know that retribution is inevitable unless they repent and allow Him to forgive their sins.