October 6, 2013   Revelation 20:11 – 15   Lake of Fire 

   I think every few years pastors should preach on heaven and hell.  Hell may not be very popular topic but we need to be reminded of how important our calling from God is.  We need to love lost folks and be reaching them for Jesus.   It is important for us to fulfill the calling that God has for you.   It is important for you to know your spiritual gift and to use it.   We are not beings that evolved from some form of liquid and over millions of years evolved into monkeys and then became man.   There is a creator God who happens to be the God who moved men to write the bible.  Our lives your life has more meaning than just living on this world because there is life after death and we have a creator.    To the Christian that changes everything.  There is a heaven and there is a place called hell.  Jesus spoke of it and it is not a nice place. 

     Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the message one man left on his tombstone.    It said, “Consider, young man, as you walk by, as you are now, so once was I.    As I am now, you soon shall be, so prepare, young man to follow me.”  That sounded pretty profound, but one fellow took a knife and scratched a response on the tombstone that read, “To follow you is not my intent; until I know which way you went!”  There are only two directions you can go after death and one place is where God wants every person to be and that is heaven.   God is not willing that any should perish.  God loves you and He doesn’t want you to go to hell.     Jesus wept over Jerusalem.   C.S. Lewis put it this way: Sin is man saying to God throughout his life, “Go away and leave me alone.” Hell is simply God saying to man, “You may have your wish…”  It breaks God’s heart when we sin against him and go against him because He loves us and wants the best for us.       We can see the heart of God toward man when we look at the Garden of Eden and the first man Adam.   Adam had it made and there was no sin, no death and no pain before Adam sinned.     

    Hell was never intended for human habitation. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”   Hell was designed for Satan and his demons, not people. But because of our sinfulness, we are all born with a reservation for hell.   When we repent of our sins and come to Jesus, He forgives us and cancels our reservation in hell, and makes a new reservation for us in heaven. God loves you so much that Jesus died so you wouldn’t spend eternity in hell.   God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved.  God wants a harvest of lost souls.   God and Jesus suffered greatly when Jesus was on the earth and on the cross.   God wants a harvest of souls.   God has earned them and only God.      

     The thought of hell should motivate and move the Christian.   It certainly motivated God.    It should remind us that people are precious and decisions we make have a profound impact not only on earth but in life after.   There once was a little church looking for a new pastor. One Sunday they had a candidate fill the pulpit and he preached on hell.   The next Sunday, another preacher came and he preached on hell as well.   The congregation called the second man to serve as their pastor.  When he learned the preacher before him also preached on hell, he asked a wise old man in the church why they hadn’t call the first man.   He replied, “When the first man preached on people going to hell, he seemed to be almost glad about it.  When you preached on people going to hell, we could tell it broke your heart.” God does not delight in the death of the wicked or the saints.  

      Hell is one of the doctrines of the bible that requires further study to understand it and indeed there are many different views among Christians.   A quote from Zondervan Bible Dictionary states Sheol the Hebrew word most frequently used for the place where the dead were believed to dwell.  The KJV translates Sheol as the grave 31 times and as hell 31 times and as the pit 3 times.  It was considered as a place in the OT as darkness and whose inhabitants cannot praise God.   Sheol, Hades, death, Gehenna and hell have been lumped together.   The OT place of the dead was not a place of torment.   When people tell others to go to hell that is really the place where the dead are.   That is where the saved and the unsaved are - sleeping.   I think the unsaved may be sleeping also.  Bakers Dictionary of Theology ties hell or Hades as a place of opposition to the church.  Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.  

      In Revelation chapter 20 verse 14 death and Hades which also means hell are cast into the Lake of Fire.   I believe that the Lake of Fire is where the torment takes place and that will happen after the Lord returns and everyone is judged.   McArthur says that death and Hades (the grave and the temporary place of punishment for everyone whose name was not found in the book of life) were thrown into the lake of fire.   The lake of fire McArthur calls the final hell.  It my mind it is the real hell.  Of course MacArthur believes that the saved immediately go to heaven but we believe that they sleep.   Gehenna is another word used which Baker says see the word Hell.   Zondervan Bible Dictionary says Gehenna literally is the Valley of Hinnon south of the Jerusalem which was a dump which burned.    But it represents the final place of punishment for the ungodly.    The valley of Hinnon was where children were sacrificed to the god of Molech and later where garbage and the wicked were burned with fire.     Some bible versions translate it as Hell.  The Lake of Fire is the final place of punishment of the ungodly and what people mean when they talk about hell.    It is a place of torment and punishment. 

     The term “hell” is used in a variety of ways these days; most of them negative.   Often this word is thrown around casually like it was no big deal.   Many people even joke about Hell.    Some have been heard saying that they didn’t mind going to Hell, because all of their friends were going to be and boy were they going to party.   However, anyone making such a statement has little knowledge of what Hell is really like.    Heaven and Hell are real because God says so and it will be as God says not as people believe.  Hell is not a joke.   The fact is, after less than a second in Hell; the former jokers will not be laughing and those that believe that there is no hell will become a believer.   Some rather ill-informed people have even tried to foster the idea that Hell is merely a state of mind.   Still others say that Hell is here on earth.    As has been said we might feel like we are in the fire at times here on earth but at best it might be compared to the frying pan and not the fire with hell being the real pain.     God’s Word always speaks of Hell as a very literal place, filled with very literal people or people’s spirits.

     Jesus was very plain about hell.  In Matthew 13:40 on he says as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire so it will be at the end of the age.   The son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.   They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.   He who has ears to hear let him hear.   Same chapter verse 50 says and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.       Hell is a literal place of pain and torment.    The bible says It is a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).  A devouring fire (Isaiah 33:14)   A bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1)     A furnace of fire (Matthew 13:41, 42)   A place of torment (Luke 16:23)    A place where there can be no second chance (Matthew 12:32).  

     These verses give us an idea of what the lake of fire or hell will be like.      Some have perhaps gone overboard on the fire part of it.  J. Edwards preached sinners in the hands of an angry God.   We read scripture and then have in our mind that we know exactly how things work.   Billy Graham said in an interview.   “The only thing I would say for sure is that hell means separation from God.   That is going to be hell.  When it comes to a literal fire I don’t preach it because I am not sure about it.  When scripture uses fire concerning hell that is possibly an illustration of how terrible it will be – not fire but something worse a thirst for God that cannot be quenched.   Can you picture being separated from this awesome wonderful God forever?   We will be so blessed in heaven and who in their right mind would want to miss out on that?  

      Why is there a place of torment?     Well the lake of fire was made for the devil and his angels and not for man.    But man has sinned and done terrible things and God is just.   Romans chapter 2 Paul and the Holy Spirit make the case for God being totally just.   Romans 1:18 tells us that the wrath of God is poured out and being revealed from heaven against wickedness.   God hates sin and wrong.   When any human being is wrongfully hurt God is also hurt.    God is a just God and some day everybody will stand before Him and be judged.   He does not grade on the curve.    His standards are perfection.   As we considered last week we can repent.    Pay back can be tough.

      Scripture says God is not mocked whatever we sow we will reap.   If we sow to our sinful nature we reap destruction.  Those that sow to the wind reap the whirlwind.   God does not want us to reap the whirlwind.    God however honors man’s choices.   If you want life and want Jesus God will honor your request.   No one will walk away from God’s justice seat and say that God was not fair.   God is perfectly balanced between his love, mercy and grace and his holiness and justice.  God poured out his wrath and cursed Jesus his son Jesus so that you and I can be blessed and forgiven.  If you do not accept the price that Jesus paid for sins then you must pay for your own.   But He is a wonderful God.     God paid the price for your sin and my sin.  God took the beatings and stripes.   The song writer wrote Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left its crimson stain he washed me white as snow.   

     God speaks to man through creation.  The heavens speak of God.   Proverbs tells us that wisdom cries from the streets.  Most men continue to make themselves the center of their universe.  At times when we have been hurt and we want to get even we do or think things that are wrong.  Romans 2 tell us that when we judge others and are critical of others that often we do the same things.  I believe our own judgments will judge us.    Our own critical spirit will condemn us.  The words of Jesus and God will judge us.  

     I do not believe that the torment of hell will last forever.   There are a couple of verses that I base that on.   Matthew 10:28 Jesus said do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.    Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.   I think Jesus is saying here that the soul will be destroyed in hell and to me that means that they are not being tormented forever and forever.   Jude 7 says in a similar way Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.   They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.   The fire fell and the judgment of God fell on Sodom and Gomorrah and the people and the towns were destroyed but Sodom and Gomorrah are still not burning today.   If you do not believe like I do that is OK.  We had a person leave the church because he could not agree with that.   One place of disagreement and away they go.  I do believe that these verses speak to this issue.  

     I know you have heard this illustration before but it is a good one.  One day, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go “straight to hell.     The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Calvin looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. “I’ve been looking through the rule book,” he said. “You don’t have to go.”   Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 16.   What is the compassion side of hell?    You do not have to go there.   I believe people will not be tormented forever and ever.  The judgment and destruction is forever and final.    The compassion side of hell is that God poured out his wrath on his son so that man does not have to go to hell.   The compassion side of hell is that Jesus paid the price.  Jesus paid it all.   He took my sin and I took his righteousness.   Christians are blessed.