“The bad news is hell is real. The good news is you don’t have to go there.”
Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the pioneers of rock and roll. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going on” and “Goodness gracious, Great Balls of Fire!”… Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986… Lifetime achievement award in 2005… I saw him in concert in Gatlinburg, TN, in 1980…
One of the Million Dollar Quartet with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, who recorded at Sun Records in Memphis… now 80 years old.
Interview with the Guardian last year… Asked about what will happen to him when he dies: “I have always been worried about whether I am going to heaven or hell. I worry about it before I go to bed; it’s a very serious situation. I mean… when you breathe your last breath, where are you going to go?”
It is a serious situation. A sobering subject.
- May be so emotionally troubling that we ignore it.
- Or reject because we feel it is morally offensive.
- But this issue is not how I feel about hell, but whether or not it is real.
Of course, if there is no hell, we have nothing to worry about. But if there is… wouldn’t you want to know about it?
The bad news is that the Bible makes it clear that there is a hell. The good news is that you don’t have to go there.
No one in the Bible spoke more about the reality of hell than Jesus. This is not what many of us would have guessed.
One of these passages is Mt. 22:1-14. Jesus has already entered Jerusalem for the final time. It is Tuesday of Passion Week. He will be crucified on Friday. Tensions are high between him and the Jewish religious leaders, including a group called the Pharisees. Ch. 22 begins with a third parable that Jesus tells for his opponents to hear.
I will read this passage and then highlight 4 teaching points. As last week, this is introductory concerning the subject. The most exhaustive, yet accessible study is Robert Peterson’s book, Hell on Trial.
Matthew 22:1-14, 1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. [A KING’s banquet – wedding – and free for the guests!] 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. [Jews] 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. [Ignored the invitation – busy with more important matters] 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. [They killed the messengers] 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good [moral standing and reputation had nothing to do with the invitation], and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. [he assumed his were good enough] 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
4 Teaching Points:
1.The Bible uses a variety to images to describe hell.
- Weeping and gnashing of teeth
- used by Jesus 6x
- Hit thumb with a hammer, pain/anger
- Unquenchable fire
- Outer darkness — This reminds me of the movie, Gravity? George Clooney and Sandra Bullock… space station hit by debris… he begins to drift
- What we know with these images is that hell is a place of unspeakable misery
2. Hell is a necessity of divine justice.
- We get this. Consider a human judge in our court system – a murder case – just let’s ’em go… injustice creates outrage – we want justice!
- God is a perfect judge. Fair. We appreciate and even demand that in our judges. Why not God?
- Sentencing: the sentence demanded and executed will be fair.
- Romans 3:19-20, “19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”
- The Greek word for judgement is krisis, we get crisis from it.
3. The reality of hell should be a source of personal humility and evangelistic urgency.
- Imagine you are out shopping… dark clouds build… funnel cloud… what would you do?
- The church’s job is not to pronounce condemnation upon sinners, but to proclaim liberation/salvation to sinners.
- Humility because we have been re. But why me?
4. There is a way out of the fire.
- Zechariah 3:2-5, 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”
- Part of our problem is that we just don’t think our sin is that bad. I’m mean, I’m not perfect, but… hell?
- But the cross shows us that our sin is far more serious than we thought.
- The Pharisees assumed good enough…
- But God requires perfection.
- We need a garment of righteousness to cover us. Fine garment. Wedding clothes that we must receive and wear.
Just two weeks ago, Erika Poremski stepped outside her Baltimore home for just a few minutes before realizing that her house was on fire. Upstairs was her 7 month old daughter, Viviana. The flames were covering the front door… burned skin off of her hands trying to get back in. When firefighters arrived, they found Viviana in her room on the floor… alive. But she was alive only because the family dog, Polo, instead of running to safety, had covered her with his own body, sacrificing himself to protect Viviana. Polo died in the fire so that Viviana could live. She was burned on one arm, a scar that will remind her every day of her life, that she was saved by Polo’s sacrificial act of selfless love.
Who knew that a pet could love a child to that degree?
Who knew that God could love a sinner to that degree?
But that is what the cross reveals to us. As an act of radical, selfless love, Jesus came to rescue us by enduring the flames of judgement for us. The God who created hell allowed himself to suffer the depths of hells anguish. Darkness. Weeping and gnashing of teeth on the cross. He was stripped and judged so that we could be clothed and accepted — welcomed to the banquet!
If you were to die tonight, or tomorrow or next year, or whenever, do you know for certain what happens next?
There is no more important question.
There are only two ways to answer that question:
- I look to what I have done. My record.
- I look to what Jesus has done – sin bearer/righteousness provider.
If I look at mine… but if I look to his…
Challenge: repent of your rags and receive the wedding clothes that make you fit for the feast!