Tag Archives: hell

(Ezekiel 24-28) It Isn’t Me

The thing about Scripture, I believe, is the amazing way there is always a spiritual interpretation relevant to 2021, even as there is a material interpretation relevant for the people living at the time it was written.

Is God, in chapter 28, referring to a human king of Tyre, or to Satan, or to prideful disobedient people in the 21st century? The answer is yes to all three!

I believe that is the awesome beauty of Scripture. These verses tell us that God didn’t spare a prideful angel from the irrevocable consequences of sin, nor did He spare a prideful king from the same. And God won’t spare me, either, if pride doesn’t stay in check, if I allow pride to come between me and God.

Satan wanted to be God. But He wasn’t even close – and God condemned him to hell. The king of Tyre considered himself a god. But he wasn’t even close, either. And God condemned him to hell.

What does that tell me about pride in my life? Yes, the word of the day is that I am powerful, deserving, smart, capable, that I can determine my own truth that supersedes your truth. I am my own god, so I’m told to believe.

But I’m not even close. And if I allow myself to think I am, God will condemn me to hell.

There is one God. It isn’t Satan. It wasn’t the King of Tyre. And it certainly isn’t me.

(Jeremiah 4) You’d Be Foolish

God’s judgment is real – and without mercy. He doesn’t want to sentence anyone for crimes committed against Him. In fact, we know He Himself paid our penalty, took on Himself the sentence our sins deserve. But He will judge those who reject Him, and they will be found guilty.

As devastating as impending judgment will be, God is anxious and willing to forgive anyone at any time – if they surrender to Him. Obedience, a repentant heart, putting on the righteousness of Jesus renders my guilty sentence paid in full. Someone paid my debt!

Chapter 4 likens surrendering to God by five actions. It’s like plowing the ground to receive the seeds, like performing heart surgery, joining the army, taking a bath, like growing up. In each instance, the person is changed. And God demands we change. (from Warren Wiersbe’s With The Word, Chapter by Chapter Bible Handbook; Thomas Nelson Press; 1991; p 499)

God wants to be very clear – judgment is inevitable. It’s coming for you. The question is – are you going to take it on your own, or are you going to surrender to the Judge and allow His Son to take your death sentence for you? That is a decision you need to make BEFORE you meet the judge. Standing before Him after you are dead will be too late.

Don’t be foolish. You don’t want to take your own punishment. You don’t want to serve your own death sentence. That is one sentence from which there is no parole. And there is no need to serve it, if you only surrender to God and accept Jesus’ death on the cross as your own.

He’s willing to make that happen. Choose Jesus! You’d be foolish not to.

(Numbers 11-15) It Will Kill You

God wants us to take a good look at sin from His vantage point. Whether it’s the coveting of what non-believers seem to enjoy as in the case of the Jews wishing they were back in Egypt where they were well fed; not trusting God like the Jews who campaigned against going into the Promised Land; or open defiance of God’s Law like the Jewish man who gathered firewood on the Sabbath, God wants us to know He will not tolerate sin in any shape or form.

You want meat like the Egyptians? You’ll get meat. And it will kill you.

You can’t trust God to give you what He’s promised? Don’t go into Canaan. And it will kill you.

You think an act of disobedience is no big deal because you think collecting wood is more important? Go get your wood. And it will kill you.

How much more clear can God be? You can defy Him, reject Him, rationalize your sin…

and it will kill you.

That is a death, my friend, worse than anything you can imagine. That death, eternal agony, void of any hope, endless pain and suffering is the death God wants you to understand.

Your only hope is to confess and repent of your sin, accept the fact that Jesus paid your death sentence, and allow Him to cleanse you and give you the power to be obedient.

You can live in your sin… but God wants you to know it will kill you.

Tears (Revelation 18-22)

My heart is heavy on this last day of 2020. Why not, right? This has been a very difficult year, unlike any I have seen in my lifetime. But I’m sitting here broken-hearted, not because of COVID, or isolation, or the loss of freedom. My tears are not for myself, but for a former student, the daughter of a co-worker and friend, who is facing life this morning without her nine-year-old daughter.

What started out as a fun road trip to California with extended family ended in a horrific accident which took the life of this precious child. Her mom and dad took the first flight out of Texas where they live, to rush to their daughter’s side in a California hospital, only to be met with the news their child had died. I can’t even think about what that was like for them.

Many of us have faced similar circumstances, and although we can’t know exactly how this young couple is feeling, we can remember how we felt when we received devastating news. Hearing what happened this morning brings back the feelings of the day we lost my nephew Geoff. It’s a pain I wish no one ever had to experience.

Yet Payton’s family is in that same heart stopping, suffocating, crushing pain this morning, and will continue to be for a very, very long time.

The last verse Mom underlined in her Bible is Revelation 21:4. Listen to what John had to say about what God has in store:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Personally, I’m ready to see that day come.

But let me say something to you in love. That day is reserved only for God’s children. There is another existence for people who reject God, who don’t accept the grace God gives to those who surrender to Him. It is a place where there will only be weeping and gnashing of teeth, no reprieve, no comfort. Forever.

Oh dear one, none of us is guaranteed another second in this life. Not if you are 90 – or 9. Please don’t wait another moment to give your life to Jesus. If you never have asked Him to forgive your sins and be your Savior, do it now while you still have time. You might not see 2021. Payton didn’t.

Would you pray with me for the Osmond/Veigel families? They are hurting right now in an unspeakable grief. May God be their strength and comfort.

And may you know the assurance of an eternity where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. A place where God Himself will wipe away your tears.

Prophesy Fulfilled? (Acts 20-23

Paul was warned that if he went to Jerusalem he would be arrested, bound, and imprisoned. He responded with this:

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (21:13)

Paul’s friends recognized the signs and warned Paul there was danger ahead. But Paul wasn’t interested in the signs. He was committed to the mission, focused on sharing the truth about Jesus – no matter what, signs or no signs.

Almost every day I hear or read something like : “Bible prophesy is being fulfilled! The end is near! We are living in the last days!” It seems to me many people have become so obsessed with connecting the dots. But what good is simply connecting the dots?

Paul didn’t deny the signs. But he didn’t waste time investigating the details, either. His focus was on sharing the Gospel for as long and as loudly as he was able.

I’m reminded the Church has been reading the signs since the day Jesus went back to live in heaven. Many people believed Hitler was the antichrist back in the 1940’s, and were sure Jesus’ return was on the immediate horizon. The truth is, there have been Bible prophesies fulfilled, probably every year since John’s vision we know as the book of Revelation. People – even Jesus’ own disciples – believed Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. The signs were there.

But here’s my question: if you are reading the signs of the times and are convinced that we are living in the last days on earth – how has that belief effected your life? How urgently are you telling people about Jesus? How focused are you in sharing the Gospel with people who are facing hell, while you still have time to tell them?

Because if you aren’t frantically warning sinners, I’m really not interested in your opinion about prophesy.

Does Hell Exist? (Luke 12-13)

I don’t believe Jesus ever wasted a word. I think everything he said was carefully chosen because He knew His time on earth was short, and He had a lot to say. So, when Jesus spoke about hell, I am pretty sure he was serious.

But I will show you whom you should fear; Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)

What does “throw you into hell” mean except “throw you into hell.” Yes, I know Jesus often spoke in parables. This was not one of them.

People who want to believe no such place exists would be wrong to believe that. No, it’s not some underground cave with a hot furnace burning, people chained to a wall and suffering from scorched skin. Hell is much worse than that.

Jesus in verse 13:28 tells us:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Hell is not only the absence of God, it is the presence of agony, regret, hopelessness, aloneness, a burning desire that will never be met, despair, darkness more complete than you have ever known.

Think of the worst day of your life. What were you feeling? How badly did your heart hurt? How consuming was your grief? How heavy was your burden? How long did you weep uncontrollably before you were able to dry your eyes?

If you had to live that day over again every day for eternity, that would be bad enough. Add the absence of God to that. Add the realization that things will never get better, you will never get through this, that there is no light at the end of any tunnel, that you will never be able to stop weeping from the depths of your soul. Add to that the realization that God had revealed Himself to you over and over in this lifetime, that He died for you, that He created you to be with Him instead of in hell, but you rejected Him. You rejected Him, not the other way around. Add to your agony the fact that you did this to yourself, you chose this, and now it’s too late. There is no way out. Ever.

Hell is real. You might not like that idea. But Jesus said there is a place where people who reject God are thrown. If I were you I’d take His advice: fear the One who has the power to condemn you to an eternity in that very real, very awful place Jesus called hell. Fear Him, and accept this grace and mercy while you have the ability to choose. As real as hell is, Jesus went to the cross so no one has to go there. But you must choose the narrow door (13:22-28).

For those of you who understand this truth and have accepted God’s forgiveness, you are assured that your eternity will be the feast Jesus talks about in this passage. As awful as hell is, heaven will be the total opposite. But don’t be satisfied with the fact that you are home free because you are a Christian. Look around. There are people headed straight to hell. What are you doing about that?

Because hell is real.

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

Do You Hear It? (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah continues to talk about God’s judgment on sin. But he also reminds us God will protect His children from the outcome His enemies will face. I love this picture:

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (2b-3a)

I am part of that vineyard, God’s Church, through the blood of Jesus. God says He protects it, waters it, guards it against harm. I know that a healthy vineyard goes through pruning, and harvest, and that’s not always comfortable. But God assures us He’s got our backs even when we face the trails of life. It gives me such peace to know the One who cares for me.

Then God says something that I need to remember. Listen to verse 4:

“I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire.”

This verse should terrify some. God will pass judgment on anything and anyone who tries to harm His Church. And it will not be a gentle tap on the wrist. The idea of God going to battle against anyone, or condemning someone to that fire should throw fear into hearts. But God is not motivated by anger. He is motivated by love, and here’s how I know that:

“Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” (verse 5)

Do you hear God’s heart? I do. God’s will is that no one die without Him. He WANTS everyone to come to Him, to accept what He died to give. He WANTS to protect and defend and nurture and ultimately to spend eternity with each and every one of us.

Some people will go to hell. But that’s not what God’s heart wants.

Do you hear the tenderness in verse 5? He says He will destroy His enemies, but He’d would rather not. “Let them make peace with me.”

Have you ever heard the words, “I love you,” from that special person in your life? Those three words can bring such joy when you know the sentiment is true. What happens then, when that special someone repeats those precious words a second time? Maybe slower, softer, emphasizing each word?

“I love you. I. Love. You.”

That’s what I hear in God’s voice as He said these words in verse 5, as He talks about people who position themselves as His enemies. As He readies to go to war against them, to mete out that final judgment, His heart still cries out:

“Make peace with me. Oh, make peace with me!”

Is there someone I know who needs to make peace with God? May I hear the anguish in the heart of my Savior as He pleads with them to come to Him. May I be faithful to tell them how they can do exactly that, to introduce them to the Savior who loves them so much.

But sharing Jesus isn’t just about helping someone avoid hell. It’s about hearing God’s heart. Do you hear it?

 

 

August 21; The Reality

Psalms 102, 120, 137; Lamentation 1-2

Jeremiah looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple in ruins, his neighbors and friends either dragged away into captivity, or starving in the streets. And he was sad.

Yes, he’d warned them that God was going to punish them if they didn’t repent. And when they refused to stop sinning, I’m sure it came at no surprise to the prophet that God did exactly what He’d said He’d do. But I don’t think even Jeremiah knew how bad God’s judgment would be.

I don’t think we do, either.

Most of us know there is a heaven and a hell. John, in his vision, tries to describe a reality more wonderful than we can imagine, an unspeakably amazing eternity with God. But Scripture also tells us there is another reality for those who reject God.

As unspeakably wonderful as heaven is, hell is unspeakably horrible. That reality without God is worse than anything we can imagine.  I just don’t believe any of us know how bad God’s judgment will be for those who die in their sin.

Read these chapters in Lamentations. Feel the despair, the loneliness, the utter hopelessness. See the filth and the horror. And know hell is an eternity much worse.

I think if we really allowed ourselves to get a glimpse of the reality of hell, we wouldn’t go to bed tonight until we shared Jesus with our loved ones, with passion and urgency. Jeremiah’s heart was broken by the suffering he saw in the people who had refused to obey God.

Dear God, break my heart over the same reality.

March 21; Do You Want The Good News First, Or The Bad?

Deuteronomy 27-28

So the first thing the Israelites were to do after they’d crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land had to do with the Law. Moses instructed them to erect the equivalent of a modern-day billboard, and carve God’s Commandments clearly enough for everyone to see. Their occupation of that land came with conditions. Their future depended on them obeying God’s Law.

God gave them the good news first. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commandments… all these blessings will come upon you…” (28:1-2) Then He proceeds to describe what life would be life for God’s obedient children:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. (vv 3-6)

It doesn’t even stop there. Victory over enemies, full barns, nations recognizing the fact they are God’s holy people, abundant prosperity…

I’d pick door number one!

Because beginning in verse 15, God describes in gruesome detail what life would be like if they chose disobedience over obedience.

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. (vv16-19)

Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. From devastating losses in battle, to awful diseases, to broken relationships, barren land and famine, such suffering that cannibalism would be the only means of survival.

There’s more. It’s just too awful.

God spent fourteen verses talking about the blessings for obedience. He took 53 verses to warn them about the consequences for disobedience.

I’m reminded God does not want ANYONE going to hell. He takes no delight in the death of an unrepentant sinner. He is desperate for us to know the truth about what is ahead.

The blessings speak for themselves. You know what I mean, if you’ve given your heart to the Lord, and are careful to follow His rules. The blessings are there! It’s the bad news God wants to make clear.

If you think what we read in chapter 28 is bad, you’ve seen only a glimpse of eternity without God. Only the first day of eternity in hell.

The good news is that God is so desperate, so driven to have us with Him, He came to earth Himself and paid the price for all our sin. When we accept His gift of grace, when we follow Him and choose to obey, He opens the floodgates of blessing. Our enemy is defeated, our sins are forgiven, we experience love and joy and peace like never before. And we know for certain that no matter what happens in this life, what comes next will knock our socks off.

And because God is so desperate that no one die without Him, He wants you to know what it is you are choosing when you choose to deny Him, As you read what God said to Israel here in chapter 28, put yourselves in their shoes. Feel the pain, the humiliation, the fear. Feel what it would be like if God removed Himself, no longer tried to get your attention. Realize the desperation, the anguish, the abandonment that comes from disobedience.

Then understand that without following God, there is no hope for mercy. No possibility of relief. Ever.

The bad news… the really bad news is…

Eternity is a very long time to be without God, my friend.