The Bible Doctrine of . . .
By Evangelist Robert L. Sumner
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.”
– Matthew 25:46
The late Len Broughton told of a family in Jersey City enjoying food and fellowship around the breakfast table when their tranquility and contentment was punctured by the sharp, pungent smell of smoke followed by a piercing scream of “Fire! Fire!”
In a matter of moments the house had been evacuated and the family reassembled in the comparative safety of the front yard. Watching the fast-leaping flames eating away at the second floor, the wife lamented, “How I hate to lose my lovely dining room cabinet. I don’t mind losing the entire house and everything in it as much as I hate losing that cabinet.”
“Well,” responded her spouse, “I think we might have time to save it.”
So he and the biggest boy rushed back into the house through the front door and into the dining room where the beloved sideboard was. The father got on the front end with the son at the back, pushing and pulling until they had it halfway through the front door. There, alas, it became wedged in such a manner they not only were helpless to get it out, neither could they get it back in.
With the door blocked, the son was trapped in the burning building without any chance for escape. The father rushed around to the side of the house where, through a barred window, he could see his son standing with the flames all around him, screaming in fear.
Do you know what that dad did? He seized those bars of iron in his hands and, with the supernatural strength borne of desperation and love, jerked them off. He then reached into the burning building for his son, helped him out to safety, and delivered him unharmed to his mother.
Broughton said a preacher friend of his heard that story and felt it would make a fine appeal to the lost with which to close his sermon the following Sunday night. He used it, as planned, but in the telling he omitted one important fact.
He pictured the family at the table, the confusion and panic as they raced outside to the safety of the yard, the mother’s lament about her dining room cabinet, the father’s offer to get it, and the return of the lad with him to the house. He vividly pictured the struggle to get the sideboard out, how it got jammed in the door, trapping the boy inside. With enthusiasm he portrayed the frantic father ripping the iron bars from the window, reaching in for his beloved son, and then delivering him safely to his mother.
The effect was anything but what the preacher expected. Instead of being moved or impressed with biblical truth, everyone appeared perplexed, looking at one another in surprise and amazement.
Later that evening, when he arrived home with his family, the preacher said to his wife, “I thought that was a terrific story. Why didn’t it hit home? I’ve never seen such a poor reaction to such a good story. Not one single soul seemed moved by it. What was wrong?”
“Well,” she replied, “It was a good story all right, only you forgot to say that the house was on fire!”
No wonder people weren’t moved! What point was there in fleeing the house, then racing back in and hurriedly, frantically, trying to remove a treasured piece of furniture, or tearing apart a window to get a son out . . . unless the house were on fire? Remove the fire and you have eradicated the motive!
It is true today in the matter of salvation. If there is not an eternal Hell, why get excited about the salvation of the soul? But on the other hand, if there is an eternal Hell of endless horror awaiting all who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, salvation instantly becomes the most vital and important issue a human being can ever face, one that should be settled immediately. As another expressed it, “If there is no place like Hell, then to alarm people with such an idea is wrong. But if there is actually a place like Hell, then to keep silent and fail to warn people about it is worse than neglect of duty. IT IS CRIMINAL!”
One time a man who considered himself an “enlightened atheist” was with a group touring a seminary. When the visitors had completed the inspection of the grounds, the atheist turned to the minister who had served as guide, rather smugly observing, “Just think now. If, as I maintain, God doesn’t exist, you will have wasted your entire life.”
“Ah,” just as smugly responded the cleric, “but if I am wrong, I will have wasted only 50 years or so. On the other hand, if you are wrong, you will waste an eternity.”
And the house is on fire! There is an eternal Hell of indescribable horror. As our Lord insisted in our text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” Well did Alvah Hovey, writing more than a century and a half ago (1858), begin his “The State of the Impenitent Dead” with the words: “No topic within the range of human thought is approached by the majority of good men with greater reluctance than the topic of this essay.”
Yet reluctance must not stop us from facing truth, no matter how harsh or bitter. Consider first,
I. THE ENEMIES OF
Perhaps no other Bible truth has been fought so fiercely, denied so consistently, ridiculed more effectively, or defamed more falsely than the doctrine of eternal damnation. Who are some of its major foes?
First and foremost we are forced to list,
A. The Archenemy of the Bible,
His original argument, back in the Garden of Eden, is stated in Genesis 3:4, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” His philosophy then, as now, was one of no punishment, no retribution, no separation from God, no settling for wrongdoing.
He has not changed his approach one iota in 6,000 years. He is still seeking to convince man that he can sin and get away with it, that he can do wrong and get by without retribution. Probably this is the most popular of all Satan’s approaches – the one he uses most frequently. And, need we add, the most effectively!
Yet we would be remiss in our duty if we failed to remind you he is a liar of the first magnitude! As Jesus told the lost religious leaders of His day, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
B. Satan’s Churches:
Think of any or every false cult you have known or about which you have heard, and without even bothering to check you can be almost certain that they deny the doctrine of eternal damnation. That highlight in their theology – “No Hell!” – is standard with these historic deniers of the faith, a staple of their teaching. It is one of their identifying marks – a badge of boasting to be featured in their official literature.
In The Universalists’ Book of Reference by E. E. Guild, released by the Universalist Publishing House of Boston, discussing Hell as a place of eternal torment, we find: “God never informed mankind that He had created such a place … He has nowhere in the Bible informed any man that He had created an endless hell.”
Later in the volume the reader is assured: “The doctrine of endless hell torments is built on poetry, parables, metaphors, figures of speech, fancy and imagination. The heated imagination of ancient poets first conceived the idea of endless torture. And the advocates of the doctrine at the present day, so far as they rely upon the Bible to prove it, appeal to the parables, metaphors and figures, which abound in that book, rather than to any plain positive or direct testimony.”
Is it not amazing, that men, claiming to be authorities on the Bible, can be so completely ignorant about it and about what it teaches? The Universalist finds himself in the embarrassing position of frantically rushing from a house that is not on fire!
2. Seventh-Day Adventists
This cult, which has striven so desperately in recent years to convince the Christian public that it is evangelical and orthodox, one not to be classified with the cult-world of isms, nonetheless vociferously and repeatedly has sought to bank Hell’s fires, assuring one and all who will listen that there is no eternal damnation in fiery flames to fear.
The high priestess of the movement, Ellen G. White, admitted by some of the S-DA leaders to be a mass plagiarizer, spoke with a claim of absolute authority for the teaching of Seventh-day Adventism. While some of today’s Adventists deny they accept her writings on the same level with the writers of the Word of God, it is nonetheless incontrovertible that, in practice, her interpretations of the Word of God are accepted as infallible. Nowhere will one read in an official Adventist publication, “Mrs. White said …, but she was mistaken, clearly wrong in this matter.” Instead, on the same par with “The Word of God says,” one will repeatedly find, “Mrs. White says.”
In her book, The Great Controversy, which Adventist leaders tell us “has been sold by the hundreds of thousands in English, and has been translated into French, German, and Spanish,” she scornfully declared, “How repugnant to every emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of justice, is the doctrine that the wicked dead are tormented with fire and brimstone in an eternally burning hell …”
But it is not a question of whether or not such teaching is repugnant. The issue is limited simply to one single consideration: is it true? War is repugnant. Disease is repugnant. Death is repugnant. Poverty and a thousand-and-one other matters are repugnant, but they are nonetheless factual realities.
No one denies that the teaching of a soul being damned in Hell for ever and ever is repugnant. It is! And that is why the Son of God left Heaven’s glories to provide a deliverance from that place of punishment. Yet the Seventh-day Adventists, in effect, would have us think the house is not on fire.
3. Jehovah’s Witnesses
Like the cults already listed, the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” advertise widely – often featuring the fact in their newspaper and radio releases – their absolute denial of the doctrine of eternal damnation. They are proud of it.
In Make Sure of All Things: Hold Fast to What is Fine, for example, we are told, “The false conception of eternal torment after death was introduced into apostate Christianity, and by the fourth century after Christ was firmly entrenched in false religion.”
In the work pushed by Witnesses more than any other perhaps, circulating in literally millions of copies, Let God be True, summing up a discussion on Gehenna, a Greek word for Hell, all blinded followers are assured: “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true …” Once again, the house is really not on fire!
4. New Thought
While this cult does not enjoy the popularity of some others, we list it here merely to show how universal is the anti-Hell teaching of Satan’s churches. In that organization’s magazine, Revealer, followers were told: “New Thought is a philosophy teaching how to bring heaven down upon earth, and banish barbarian conceptions of hell.”
Chalk up another cult seeking to convince mankind it should flee a house not on fire.
5. Christian Science
Some years ago, after we had written a brief article exposing this cult, one of its leaders came by our office to personally give us a copy of the work, The Cross and the Crown, the History of Christian Science by Norman Beasley. The latter wrote therein: “As any examination of its literature will show, God and the devil were the supporting pillars of the Christian church. Heaven and hell were places, heaven somewhere above, and hell somewhere down below. A personal God was the ruler of one; a personal devil was the ruler of the other. Eternally these two – God and the devil – struggle for the souls of men. Mary Baker Eddy would have none of such theology.”
He wrote again, “In refusing to admit any reality to hell and the devil, Christian Science denies the claim that God cooperates with and makes use of evil.”
So the Christian Scientists join the other enemies of eternal damnation, denying the house is on fire.
This false cult is getting a lot of press lately thanks to a prominent member, Fox News icon Glenn Beck. What does Mormonism say about Hell? Gordon B. Hinckley, in What of the Mormons? writes, “There is nothing of … a hell of hot flame in Latter-day Saint philosophy.”
In The Articles of Faith, by James E. Talmage, this teaching is enlarged: “The false doctrine that the punishment to be visited upon the erring souls is endless, that every sentence for sin is of interminable duration, must be regarded as one of the most pernicious results of misapprehension of Scripture. It is but a dogma of unauthorized and erring sectaries, at once unscriptural, unreasonable, and revolting to one who loves mercy and honors justice.”
Another leader of the cult, Elder John Morgan, in The Plan of Salvation, explained still further: “We hear the question asked, ‘Do not the scriptures say that it is “eternal punishment”?’ We answer, ‘Yes.’ But let us not put any private interpretation on these terms, but correctly understand their meaning. Eternal punishment is God’s punishment; or in other words, it is the name of the punishment God inflicts, he being eternal in his nature. Whosoever therefore receives God’s punishment receives eternal punishment, whether it is endured one hour, one day, one week, one year, or an age.”
How inane can a religious leader become in his effort to eradicate Bible teaching? Away with such silly talk of “eternal one-hour punishment!”
But Mormonism is another of Satan’s churches talking about fleeing a house not on fire.
The infamous father-and-son duo of Herbert W. and Garner Ted Armstrong eventually split, both saying the other was wrong (and both deceased now), the father accusing the son of immorality and gambling; the son accusing his ex-coworker and father of alcoholism and skimming church funds for personal use. But one thing both Herbert and his followers in the Worldwide Church of God – and the followers in the scores of splits forming new cult factions after his death – and Garner Ted and his followers in the Church of God International he formed – had in common was the same identical teaching about Hell, joining Satan’s other churches in denying any doctrine of eternal damnation.
A writer for the Worldwide Church of God, in one of its official releases bluntly stated, “The concept of ‘hell’ is part and parcel of the folklore and mythology of the whole world.” Later in the same article, speaking of everlasting fire, he made the amazing statement, “the translation ‘everlasting’ is misleading, since the fire itself will not burn forever.” But if the fire does burn forever it is not in the least misleading, right?
Garner Ted Armstrong, the founder and head of the Church of God International taught the same. In discussing the Greek word Hades, translated “Hell” in the Authorized Version of the Bible, he wrote: “No, Jesus did not lie – neither did He go into a burning HELL – but into ‘hades’ which NEVER, by the wildest stretch of the imagination has anything whatsoever to do with eternal fires, but means, simply, ‘the GRAVE’” (emphasis his).
So the Armstrongs, with their Worldwide Church of God and Church of God International, joined Universalists, Seventh-day Adventism, New Thought, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism and all other of Satan’s churches in eliminating the necessity of fleeing for safety. The house, according to them, is not on fire.
8. The Way International
One more cult we will mention is the movement launched by Victor Paul Wierwille, a strong anti-Trinity, anti-Deity of Christ organization. Joining such cults as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Armstrongs, and the Seventh-day Adventists, The Way sees ‘hades’ as simply the grave. This ignores the fact that in the New Testament hades is described as a place of torment, fire, memory, prayer, vision, speech and a spirit of hopelessness. As for Luke 16:19-31, the story of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable, merely a “figure of speech” TWI followers are told.
The Way has a different twist from some of the other cults, however, simply turning the lost into nonexistence at death. According to Wierwille, the dead sleep until after the Tribulation, then the unsaved are raised to “die a second and final death.” That’s it. There is no Hell as historic Christianity has always taught.
There are other enemies of the doctrine of eternal damnation, for example,
C. The Ungodly: ATHEISTS,
“Colonel” Robert G. Ingersoll, the agnostic who got rich touring the country giving lectures on what he did not know, said in his book Skulls, “If there is a hell, God is a fiend …”
On another occasion, Boasting Bob, as he was known, gloated, “Ladies and gentlemen: The idea of hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and cowardice on the other … I have no respect for any human being who believes in it. I have no respect for any man who preaches it … I dislike this doctrine, I hate it, I despise it, I defy this doctrine … This doctrine of hell is infamous beyond all power to express.”
Perhaps it was an occasion when he was giving this lecture that the drunk cried out, “Make it strong, Bob! A lot of us fellows are depending upon you!”
However, it is not necessary to look to the past for depraved voices crying out in defiance to the Word of God about Hell. The noted spokesman for atheism in our day, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, before her murder by a fellow atheist stealing her ill-gotten gains, went on record as saying: “We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate, replete with the ravages of mad men. We find God to be sadistic, brutal, and a representative of hatred and vengeance. We find the Lord’s Prayer to be muttered by worms groveling for meager existence in a traumatic, paranoid world.”
In light of which we can only echo the poet Brooks’ sentiment:
“On earth are atheists many,
In Hell there is not any.”
II. THE EXALTERS OF THIS DOCTRINE!
Who upholds it? Who defends it? Who insists it to be the clear teaching of God Himself?
A. The New Testament Church
That the original position of the New Testament Church – and continuing to be such down through the centuries – included the eternal conscious suffering of the impenitent dead seems indisputable to any who examine the evidence. Dr. Charles Hodge, the scholarly Presbyterian theologian at Princeton during its strongest fundamental era, said: “It is an almost invincible presumption that the Bible does teach the unending punishment of the finally impenitent, that all Christian churches have so understood it. Any man, therefore, assumes a fearful responsibility who sets himself in opposition to the faith of the Church universal.”
Another theologian, Dr. John Hunt, writing well over a century ago in the prestigious Contemporary Review of that time, pointed out: “If there be any doctrine ever taught in the name of Christianity which can claim to be really catholic [that is, universally believed and taught] it is the doctrine of never-ending punishment. This has been believed by the majority of Christians in all ages, in all Churches, and with very insignificant exceptions, in all sects. Fathers, School men and Reformers, zealous Roman Catholics and ardent Protestants, have agreed that this is an undeniable portion of the Catholic faith.”
This is true.
B. Great Men of God Have Defended it
All down through the ages the very noblest of God’s servants have not only preached it, they have defended it from the attacks of its enemies. That gracious stalwart of the Church of England, Bishop J. C. Ryle, known chiefly to 20th and 21st century readers for his timeless devotional writings, notably his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, declared: “Let others hold their peace about Hell if they will – I dare not do so. I see it plainly in Scripture, and I must speak of it. I fear that thousands are on that broad way that leads to it, and I would fain arouse them to a sense of the peril before them … if I never spoke of Hell, I should think I had kept back something that was profitable, and should look on myself as an accomplice of the devil.” The devil has a lot of accomplices in our day, preachers with zippers in the closed position on their lips, doesn’t he?
Ryle’s coworker, Bishop Handley C. G. Moule, explaining the meaning of the phrase “forever and ever,” said: “The idea conveyed by the phrase here is of circles of duration consisting of embracing other circles ad infinitum.” And the Cambridge Bible has a note about the phrase: “Lit. to the ages of the ages, as strong an expression for absolute endlessness as Bible language affords.”
W. L. Watkinson, waxing with the eloquence of an orator, declared: “Although the New Testament is renounced, sin, devils, judgments, hell remain potential in the human conscience. To take away hell is to reject the physician and leave the plague, to overthrow the lighthouse and leave the hidden rock, to wipe out the rainbow and leave the storm, to take away the fire light and leave the fire to rage, to take away the vaccine and leave the smallpox. To take away hell is to meet the tragic blackness of sin with a candle gospel, to make a mild twilight out of eternal retribution, to take away the trumpet and open the gate to the enemies, to take away the roses and leave the thorns, to take away gold and press bankruptcy upon human life.”
The scholarly contemporary of Dwight Lyman Moody, Dr. R. A. Torrey, wrote: “The future state of those who reject the redemption offered to them in Christ is plainly declared to be a state of conscious, unutterable, endless torment and anguish. This conception is an awful and appalling one. It is, however, the Scriptural conception and also a reasonable one when we come to see the appalling nature of sin, and especially the appalling nature of the sin of trampling under foot God’s mercy toward sinners, and rejecting God’s glorious Son, whom His love has provided as a Savior. Shallow views of sin and of God’s holiness, and of the glory of Jesus Christ and His claims upon us lie at the bottom of weak theories of the doom of the impenitent. When we see sin in all its hideousness and enormity, the holiness of God in all its perfection, and the glory of Jesus Christ in all its infinity, nothing but a doctrine that those who persist in the choice of sin, who love darkness rather than light, and who persist in the rejection of the Son of God, shall endure everlasting anguish, will satisfy the demands of our own moral intuitions.”
And Moody himself insisted: “The same Christ that tells us of Heaven with all its glories tells us of Hell with all its horrors; and no one will accuse Christ of drawing this picture to terrify people, or to alarm them if it were not true. The same Bible that tells us of Heaven, tells us of Hell. The same Savior that came down from Heaven to tell us about Heaven, tells us about Hell. He speaks of Hell, and there is no one that has lived since that could tell us as much about it as Himself.”
Surely all intelligent mortals should accept the word of Jesus Christ!
Norman F. Douty, in his book refuting the errors of Seventh-day Adventism, points out: “In [Matthew 25:46], the awful sequel is recorded: ‘and these shall go away into eternal punishment.’ The verb form of the Greek for ‘punishment’ occurs in II Peter 2:9 and Acts 4:21 … Now what is punishment? It is suffering inflicted for wrong. Whatever is not painful, one way or other, to the wrongdoer, is not punishment. When the suffering ceases, the punishment is at an end. How long is this particular punishment to last? Christ answers that it is ‘eternal punishment.’ The sentence and the execution agree. The sentence is: ‘Depart … into eternal fire.’ The execution reads: ‘These shall go away into eternal punishment.’ Eternal punishment in eternal fire is the doom of the wicked as they lie under the curse of God.”
In his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards thundered: “It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite, horrible misery … your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it gives but a very feeble faint representation of it, it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For who knows the power of God’s anger?”
The venerable Methodist of yesteryear, William E. Munsey, penned: “The Hell of the Bible is horrible beyond description, and the hypotheses of this hour cannot exceed it. Its miseries are as far beyond description as the joys of Heaven are. Be it better or worse, oh let us not go there!”
And Evangelist L. W. Munhall, writing in the renowned The Fundamentals on the subject, “Doctrines That Must be Emphasized in Successful Evangelism,” wrote: “Sin separates and estranges the sinner from God; and he becomes an enemy of God by wicked works (Rom. 8:7), has no peace (Isa. 57:21), is polluted (Eph. 4:17-19), condemned (John 3:18), and without hope (Eph. 2:12). Oh, the curse and ruin of sin! If unrepenting and unbelieving, the future has for him, first, inexorable and awful judgment … Second, the wrath of God … and third, eternal torments … The preacher who ignores these three awful and inexorable truths preaches an emasculated gospel, be he ever so faithful in proclaiming other truth. He who preaches the love of God to the exclusion of God’s justice and wrath proclaims but idle sentiment.”
For our final testimony in this grouping we offer the statement of Dr. Robert G. Lee: “We dare not look upon His words [referring to Christ’s comments in Matthew 10:28] concerning Hell as something allegorical, metaphorical, poetic, or as a flagrant contradiction to the goodness of God. If Hell is not fire, it is as severe as fire; and if it is as severe as fire, it had just as well be fire.”
But we are most certainly not limited to the church of the centuries or the giants of the faith over the years. We also have
C. Inspired Defenders Who Taught It
This is a truth revealed through men moved by the Holy Spirit of God, penning the very pages of sacred Scripture itself. Note a mere sampling.
Daniel declared, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Shame and contempt which will last forever are included in the portion of the unbeliever and every Christ-rejecter, Daniel insisted.
Isaiah lamented, “The sinners of Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14).
Malachi quoted the supreme authority when he wrote, “… thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever” (Malachi 1:4). His wrath, His indignation will not be a temporary thing; it will last forever.
Peter spoke of the Lord’s action in “turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemning them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (II Peter 2:6). The smoke rising from those wicked twin cities wafts down as a warning to sinners today.
Jude added his voice in the same light, noting: “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 6, 7).
Paul, just to give a sampling of his many declarations on the subject, wrote in II Thessalonians 1:8, 9, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
And the illustrious apostle of love, John the beloved, writing from exile on Patmos, witnessed: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lamb; And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night …” (Revelation 14:10, 11). That same expression, “for ever and ever,” is used in the Bible to describe the everlasting existence, glory, praise and dominion of Almighty God. The possibility of God ceasing to exist is every bit as valid as a claim that the tortures of Hell will someday be terminated.
But contrary to a debater who starts his attack with his strongest arguments, we have saved our most telling witness until last.
D. History’s No. 1 Advocate of the Teaching of Hell: JESUS
Our gentle, kind, loving Lord said more about the doctrine of eternal damnation than came from any other single voice in the Word of God. Here are just a few samples:
Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Mark 3:29, “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
Luke 16:19-31 is an awesome passage about Hell from His lips but we note verse 26 as an emphasis upon its endless duration: “Beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.”
John 3:36 sums up His teaching: “… he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Dear friend, if you die without Christ and end up in Hell, it will be for ever and ever! What a startling, awesome thought to entertain.
Unitarians, since they do not accept the deity of Christ, reject His teaching and the teaching of the rest of the Bible about Hell. Probably the best Greek scholar they ever numbered among their group was Theodore Parker. On one occasion Columbus Green asked Parker, “Not as a theologian, but simply as a student of the Greek, tell me what the Bible teaches about the final condition of the impenitent.”
And Parker responded immediately. “There is no doubt that Jesus Christ taught the endless suffering of the wicked, but I do not accept the doctrine of His authority.”
That sums it up succinctly, in a nutshell! Those who accept the authority of Jesus Christ are compelled to accept the doctrine of eternal damnation.
As Keble put it,
“The fount of love
His servants send to tell
Love’s deed, HIMSELF
Reveals the Sinner’s Hell.”
But consider next,
III. THE EVIDENCES OF THE DOCTRINE!
Without belaboring the point, consider quickly
A. The Evidence of REASON
Dr. Robert G. Lee put it like this: “There is a Hell, though some people – with the blandest of smiles – come to tell us that all alike, saint and sinner, will turn up in Heaven at last. The murderer, the seducer, the hater and the hated, the robber and the robbed, to their surprise, will all find Heaven at last. Nero and Paul, Jesus and Herod, Judas and Peter, Cain and Abel, Elijah and Jezebel, Tom Paine and Murray McCheyne, will all come out of the same side of the judgment throne. A strange Heaven indeed! – with all the hypocrites and whoremongers and drunkards and backbiters and blasphemers standing on the glassy sea. I say in the name of reason, the thought is blasphemous.”
And so it is!
Bishop Joseph Butler, in his work published almost a quarter of a millennium ago, The Analogy of Religion, argued: “Gentile writers, both moralists and poets, speak of the future punishment of the wicked, both as to the duration and degree of it, in a like manner of expression and of description as the Scripture does. Reason did, as it well might, conclude that it should finally, and upon the whole, be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked.”
Yes, that is the only logical conclusion, the only possible finding of reason!
On the other hand, we are not so foolish as to base our conclusions on reason alone, remembering the words of Luke 16:31 on this very subject, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” The Word of God is our main line of evidence.
B. The Evidence of RELIGION
To reason we add religion because God, in His mercy, has placed an innate fear of punishment for wrongdoing in man, a consciousness that all will not be well with him because of his sin. This is why Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese and all other nationalities have had their own equivalent of Hell in their native religions.
Josephus, the oft quoted Jewish historian of the first century, wrote: “… [A Paradise] is like the opinion of the Greeks, that good souls have their habitation beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain, or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allot to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den full of never-ceasing punishments.”
The same line of thought was followed by Junius B. Reimensnyder, writing well over a century ago (1880) in his Doom Eternal. He observed, “A remarkable proof that the tenet of eternal punishment does no violence to reason, but contrariwise finds support in it, arises from the fact that it was commonly believed and taught by the ancient Pagan world. Those who had no revelation yet derived this truth from the light of Nature alone. It is a precept of the Natural Religions.”
Yet there is a greater, more supreme evidence than either reason or religion. In fact, it is unanswerable.
C. The GREATEST Evidence: THE CROSS
No infidel, no cultist, no enemy of the doctrine of eternal damnation has ever been able to adequately answer the argument of Calvary. John 3:16, the verse our late friend Dr. Ed Morrell called “The Golden Text of Sacred Scripture,” puts it like this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If there is no Hell, no eternal damnation to miss, why did our Lord Jesus Christ have to pay such a tremendous price on the cross? Why? Why?
There is no answer!
There is only one way we can sum up a message like this one: Are you sure you are on your way to Heaven, that you cannot end up in Hell with its eternal horrors?
Our text spoke of two classes, two groups of people facing God in judgment. It said, “And these [one class] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [the other class] into life eternal.” In which class are you? Are you among those who have life eternal? Or are you numbered with the crowd awaiting everlasting punishment?
The house is on fire, to use the symbolism of our opening illustration, and you should flee at once to safety. The one who loved you and died for you at Calvary will welcome, receive, forgive and save you the very moment you turn to Him.
John 1:12 expresses it: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
That is it! Receive Him! Believe on His Name! If you will, He will make you a home with Him in Heaven … forever! Why not stop right now and tell the Savior you are willing to receive Him into your heart and life once and for all? Do it on the basis of His promise in John 1:12, thanking Him for it at the same time.
Then, let us know of your decision to receive Christ. If you prefer, write us a letter in your own words, telling us about it. Or, if you are one that has difficulty expressing yourself, use the following form:
Dr. Robert L. Sumner
5717 Pine Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606
Dear Dr. Sumner:
I have read your message about eternal damnation. I do not want to spend eternity in Hell and so I am right now receiving Jesus Christ as my own personal Lord and Savior, claiming His Word about salvation. I am so thankful He loved me enough to die on the cross of Calvary to pay in full the awful price of my sin, was buried and rose again so I could be saved by personally trusting Him.
I want to love Him and live for Him forever. Please send me some information about how to live the Christian life.
State: _________ Zip: _______