“And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me’” (Genesis 4:13-14).
All who live in this world will have to deal with sorrow.
It is inevitable. In an environment where sin is a reality, the temporal consequences of sin are unavoidable — and since sorrow is one of those consequences, we shall have to deal with it sooner or later. The only question is how we shall do so. It’s important to keep our sorrow from turning into what is called “the sorrow of the world” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This is the sorrow that wallows selfishly in its own misery. It does not confront sin in a godly way.
Two things are needed to keep our sorrow from turning into
self-pity: reverence and gratitude. When we are passing through
any bitterness of spirit, we must maintain a humble respect for the greatness
of God as our Creator, and we must not cease to thank Him for all that is
right, despite whatever has gone wrong. Even when the sun is shining, we find
it challenging to be as reverent and as grateful as we ought to be. However,
when the darkness closes in, keeping our thinking clear about God can seem so
difficult that we despair. We give in to the “the sorrow of the world.”
Sorrow brings about failure
Failures of reverence and gratitude should be seen as failures of perspective. When pain focuses our attention on some small part of reality, we tend to lose touch with the larger truths. This is no trivial thing, however. If we refuse to acknowledge the whole truth about God, that refusal can cost us our souls (Romans 1:18-21). God is greater than our woes, and whatever the immediate cause for our sorrow, we simply can’t afford to forget the clear tokens of God’s greatness and goodness in the wider world.
Edmund Spenser wrote of the miserable fellow who finds himself
“dying each day with inward wounds of Dolour’s dart.” The sorrow of the world
is deadly because it indulges in self-justification. It fuels resentment and
resistance to God. Like Cain, the self-pitying soul feels no genuine remorse
for evil. He merely whines, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!”
The question is sometime asked, “Does hell exist?” When answered in the positive, there is usually a follow up question the impugns the character of God.
“If God is a kind, loving, and merciful god, how is it possible that He could possibly allow man to suffer eternal condemnation in hell? How could He allow man to be separated from Him for eternity?” The best way to answer the question is by doing a word search on the word “hell” and other related words. Then we can draw conclusions based on the sum of these verses. Of course, each verse must be interpreted consistently in its context. Therefore, the goal of this article will be to collect and study some of the more conclusive and relevant passages regarding hell. Specifically we are going to look at the ones which relate to the question of hell’s existence and duration.
What Is “Hell”?
Most people are familiar with the idea of hell being a place of eternal punishment, reserved for the wicked. However, it is essential that we turn to the Bible to refine this idea, because the Bible truth is the ultimate reality.
Jesus spoke of the danger of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43-48), which condemnation is depicted in the symbolic account of Judgment Day:
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).
One of the many points gleaned from these passages is that hell, vividly illustrated as a “lake of fire”, is an undesirable, tortuous place to spend eternity. A second observation is that the basis for this judgment was how they lived their lives – “his works”. However, this passage does not speak of the duration of this punishment. Is it possible that this judgment is temporary? Is the condemnation eternal?
The Duration of Hell
Once again, we should turn to the pages of God’s message for us to learn the answers to our questions.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 46).
“…in flaming fire,dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Also, the account in Revelation speaks of the “lake of fire and brimstone” as being a place of eternal torment (Revelation 20:10). Although some of these verses speak of the fire being eternal or everlasting, other verses, such as Matthew 25:46, clearly speak of the punishment itself being eternal. Therefore, it seems that if condemned to hell, one’s judgment would be forever. A natural question would be to wonder if a kind and loving God could sentence any man to eternity in hell. Would God actually do this? Would He issue an eternal condemnation to hell and everlasting separation from Him?
The Possibility of Eternity in Hell
Although it seems clear that God has constructed a place of eternal torment and punishment, the question may yet arise, “Is it possible that God would actually condemn someone to hell?” The answer is provided in the verses that we have already observed. Jesus warned of the danger of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43-48). One necessary inference is; there must be a real possibility each of us could be condemned to hell, else there is no real danger. Would God make empty threats? Would a divine and loving Father warn of things that pose no danger? Clearly, No! The danger is real, unless we are willing to second-guess everything that Jesus said, including the promise of heaven (John 14:2-3).
Sadly, not only does the Bible outline the possibility of condemnation in hell, but it further states that the majority of people will end up there!
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Once we reach the unseen realm of the dead, there is no way to “cross sides”. In fact, the Bible symbolically speaks of a “great gulf” that separates the two realms of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). After we die, the next fate-determining event is judgment day (Hebrews 9:27). And as we have previously seen, that judgment is final and the majority of people will find themselves condemned.
Yet someone may ask, “But, how can God let this happen? How can He be a kind and loving god and let any member of His creation spend eternity in hell?”
A Kind and Loving God
It is not God’s wish for anyone of his creation to be lost because of their sins: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Elsewhere, we are told that the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering is leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4) . Therefore, God is kind, loving, and does not want anyone to be perish. Consequently, He is diligently seeking the repentance of all of mankind over all time. Sadly, as we have already seen (Matthew 7:13-14), many have and will reject His gracious opportunity to repent and be forgiven.
“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
Despite our desires and the will of society that such a judgment scene not occur, we cannot change it. And we should we ignore that a “separation” will occur upon that day (Matthew 25:31-46). This division of all people will be based upon our actions (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, the Lord will bless many with eternal life in heaven with God. But He will also reward many more with eternity in hell (Matthew 25:31-46).
As a kind and loving God, He has desperately tried to help mankind repent. But as a just God, He cannot allow willfully, disobedient, and unrepentant people to populate His holy abode. Eventually, His mercy reaches a limit, until there is no longer a remedy – by man’s choice.
The idea of hell is a powerful motivating force that encourages us to obey God. It is not the most noble motivation. However, it reaches the most selfish heart and makes it receptive to the high and transcendent motivations of love and gratitude. We should never deceive ourselves into believing the common notion that we are in no danger of “hell fire”. As we have seen, hell is a real danger and an eternal punishment that awaits the disobedient. Sadly, many people will find themselves there. Dear reader, please do not let this fate befall you. Continue your quest for truth and learn God’s will for you, so that you may be saved from hell.
For further study: Please read more passages regarding the danger and duration of hell:
Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”
Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?
When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included). But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?
Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him
with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two
lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than
that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be
the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them?
It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must
be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is
inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot
happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is
seen shortly down the road.
Marriage Vows Combine Two as One
Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).
Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.
Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God
Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).
Brotherly kindness is a topic that must never become stale or outdated. The bonds of kindness that exist between Christian brothers and sisters is one of the clearest testimonies that we are in fellowship with God. “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7). One of the best Biblical texts dealing with the importance of brotherly kindness is 1 John 4:7-21. In this article we’ll examine some of what this text teaches us regarding brotherly kindness.
Brotherly Kindness Shows That We Are God’s Children
First, brotherly kindness shows us that we are true children
of God (1 John 4:7-8). God is the definition of love. He is the source of love.
From God we learn that love is not mere sentiment but involves an act of the
will. Love is a verb. God not only told us of His love, but He showed it in His
divine act of love (cf. vv. 9-11). “We know love by this, that He laid down His
life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16,
cf. John 3:16 & Rom. 5:6-8). For Christians, brotherly kindness should
certainly be spoken, but what is most important is that this kindness is shown
in deeds. Can we say that we are God’s children? We can if we have brotherly
kindness one for another and if it is shown in our deeds.
Fellowship With God
Secondly, brotherly kindness brings us into fellowship with
God (vv. 12-16). Of course, we cannot fellowship God as we do each other for
God is not visible to us (v. 12, cf. John 1:18). However, when brotherly kindness
abides within our hearts, then God abides in us through His Holy Spirit. It is
impossible for one to say he has fellowship with God when he does not have
kindness in his heart for his brothers and sisters in Christ. It is just as
likely for an unloving person to be a child of God as it is for a fig tree to
bear olives (cf. James 3:9-12). Just as Jesus said that the world would know
that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:34-35),
so the world will know that we are not only disciples but also God’s children
through our brotherly kindness.
Boldness and Confidence Before God
Finally, brotherly kindness gives us confidence in our
standing before God. Many are unsure of their standing with God and face the
idea of judgment with trembling uncertainty. Such need not be the case. Why?
The answer is simply this. In brotherly kindness, we are as He is and as such,
we are confident of our sonship. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may
have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world”
(1 John 4:17). This knowledge that we are as He is comes from the love that we
have for one another in our hearts. Those who still live in fear of judgment
show that God’s love is not fully developed in their hearts (v. 18).
Brotherly Kindness Is NOT Optional
Brotherly kindness is NOT optional. Some live with
self-deception. John gives a stern warning. “If someone says, “I love
God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love
his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this
commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his
brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). Hate is a strong word. What is hate? It is no
more, nor any less than the absence of love. For the true Christian, brotherly
kindness is not optional. It is not something about which he can have a “take
it or leave it” attitude.
Let us show brotherly kindness to one another! Love is of
God. He is the source, definition and supreme example such. With brotherly kindness
I leave “church going” behind and live as a true and authentic Christian and
have bold confidence in my standing before God. Without this kindness, my
“church going” and sacramental observances are nothing more than a hypocritical