It’s hard to fathom the existence of hell, so much so that today’s leading denominations want to explain it away. This week, despite its difficulty, Pastor Lutzer discusses the doctrine of hell.
“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.’”
- Revelation 19:1–2a
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Transcript: Welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. So glad that you have joined us today; we are going to be talking about the difficult doctrine of hell. We’re discussing the attributes of God, and today as we think about the justice of God, we cannot avoid this difficult topic.
In the nineteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, the Bible says that there is a great multitude that is shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and honor and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.” Now that’s in Revelation chapter 19. If you read the entire book of Revelation, you’ll discover that there are descriptions of people in hell, the smoke of their torment going up forever and ever. Does the punishment fit the crime?
The doctrine of hell is so difficult that there are some people who want to argue for universalism—that in the end, everyone will be saved. There are others who say that the wicked are going to be annihilated. All those are wonderful theories, but if you look at the Bible objectively and historically you discover that indeed, there is a hell, and it is forever.
If you were with us in a previous session, I discussed the fact that God is going to judge people on the basis of what they did with what they knew and the opportunities that they had. For example, in the book of Luke 12:48, Jesus said he who knew his Lord’s will and did it not, he’s gonna receive one level of punishment. The person who didn’t know God’s will is going to be receiving a different level of punishment—lesser punishment. Because responsibility is based on knowledge and opportunity. I believe that the justice of God is going to be so individual, and so finally tuned, that we will marvel at the justice of God.
But why hell, and why forever?
One of the things that we forget is that the sins that we commit are really crimes against God. What if Jonathan Edwards is right when he said that the greatness of our sin should be measured against the greatness of the being against whom our sins are committed? You know, if you throw a snowball at a mailman, that’s one form of punishment. Perhaps the President of the United States is a much more serious penalty connected with that. Imagine our sins before God. They are huge. They infringe on His glory—His marvelous glory.
So first of all, we have to understand that sin is much more serious than you and I would ever suspected it is. Secondly; eternal? Well, when you were born, you were born with an indestructible, eternal soul which will be eventually joined to a body—that’s true both of the righteous and the wicked—and live forever somewhere: either in heaven or in hell.
Now you and I might struggle with this doctrine. As a matter of fact, there is a man that came to our house many years ago to do some repair work. He was an atheist, and he said to us, he said to Rebecca and me, he said, “If I go to hell, I will curse God forever.” Well, yeah, I guess you can do that. It’s not gonna affect anything, it’ll only increase your misery, but if you want to do that, I’m sure that you can. Other people probably will be doing it too. But what a foolish decision to make.
Let me outline something much better, and that is to flee to Jesus Christ. To recognize that Jesus Christ bore the hell of all who will believe on Him.
You know, the Bible says in the book of Hebrews that our God is a consuming fire, and to fall into the hands of the living God is terrifying. God is terrifying. And we need to understand that in our day, when it is difficult to preach such doctrines. And when we come to Christ, we are exempt from hell, because He bore our hell.
As a matter of fact, you know years ago when you would have a homestead out on the prairies, some of the farmers were concerned that if a prairie fire came, it would burn up all their buildings. So what they would do, on a beautiful day when the wind was flowing and blowing directly and correctly, they would actually burn a patch of ground around their buildings, maybe even by several hundred yards. Because they knew that if the fire came it would not hurt them. Because they were living where the fire had already been.
When we accept Christ as Savior, we’re standing where the fire of God’s wrath has already come. And by the way, I have absolutely no doubt that those who are in hell will agree with God that His judgement was absolutely just.
I find it interesting, but in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, where there was a man who was in Hades in torment, he did not complain about injustice. You remember what he said to his friend Lazarus, who is on the other side? “Go tell my brothers to not come here!” Suddenly he was interested in missions. He was very interested in encouraging other people, his brothers, to not come where he was. But he knew that His judgement was just.
That’s why throughout all of eternity, we are going to sing, “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints.” We will be satisfied that the God in whom we have believed acted properly, righteously, and justly. In that we can have confidence. I’ll see you next time, and today, go with God.