Commander Spock called them “colorful metaphors” – expressions that would make our grandma blush and if found on the lips of our children might earn a swift rebuke. Hollywood screen writers are convinced that a good movie cannot be made without them. I suspect that the most popular one in use right now in this June heat wave is “It is hotter than h— outside.”
It is hot. Don’t get me wrong. It is hot AND humid. It is the sticky kind of hot that takes your breath away when you go outside. It is the kind of hot that makes you sweat even after the sun goes down. But hotter than the place of everlasting judgment for unbelievers? It’s hot, but not that hot.
I realized a couple of weeks ago that I had done you all a great disservice. I had mentioned a place called hell. I have been honest about hell. I have pointed to it as a place of judgment for the lost. But I realized that I have not preached about the reality and horrors of the place called hell.
It is interesting that the two pulpit topics that make people cringe the most are two of the topics that Jesus spoke of the most – money and hell. That shouldn’t surprise us at all because Jesus had a knack for getting to the heart of the matter. As I considered this, I began to wonder, why are we so uneasy about these two topics?
Money is easy to figure out. Discussing money is quick to reveal our idolatry. In our culture that is driven in so many ways by greed and gamble, this should not surprise us. Hell is a little bit more difficult. Why do we get nervous while talking about hell?
It probably has to do with two primary issues. First, speaking of the reality of hell raises questions about the validity of our faith. How many of us have not had that moment of doubt? If hell is a real place, then our life has real consequences. In so many ways, the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of annihilation for the lost is easy, you go to paradise or you stop existing. Unfortunately, the scriptures do not allow for that doctrine to be true.
Whereas the first issue deals with our faith, the second one deals with God’s faithfulness. The discussion of hell makes us nervous because it raises the question, “How can a loving God sentence people to a place so terrible?” That issue is settled with another question, “How just would a judge be who sentenced a child molester or mass murderer to picking up trash on the side of the road?” None of us would agree with this judge. We understand that heinous crimes deserve severe punishment. We understand that a murderer commits his crimes with the full knowledge that doing so will result in severe punishment, even death. In other words, the murderer sentences himself when he commits his crime.
So it is with hell. Sinners sentence themselves to eternal punishment due to their rebellion against God. God is the judge who executes the sentence. God doesn’t send people to hell, people send themselves to hell.
It is a gracious God who provides the means for sinners to come to repentance and be snatched from the grips of hell through the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a gracious God that answers both questions with one act. At the cross, He guarantees our salvation through His own blood and at the cross He demonstrates His love for us in this, “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Aren’t you thankful for a loving God who gives us the means to escape the judgment that we so rightly deserve?
Thankful for the Cross!