THEME: A Warning
Jesus’ parable tells us that the final separation of the saved from the unsaved is awning.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. “When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
As we pointed out yesterday, there are three important facts about Jesus’ picture of the final judgement: First, it is absolute. The second point of Jesus’ parable is the terrible fate of the unrighteous. I am glad Jesus taught that, and that it is not left for his ministers to imagine what the unbelievers’ fate might be. How could we say that their end will be so bad that it can only be adequately compared to an eternal burning? How could we say that it will produce an eternal “weeping and gnashing of teeth”? No mere human being would dare predict that fate for another human being. Yet that is what Jesus does. He has more to say about hell than does any other person in the Bible.
What is it that makes hell so terrible, according to Jesus Christ? There are a number of elements, the first being suffering. That point is made in the parable of the dragnet, for having described how the wicked are thrown into the fiery furnace, Jesus then pictures them as “weeping and gnashing” their teeth. Often someone will ask me whether hell has literal fire. That is the imagery the Bible uses for hell, but I know the Bible well enough to know that it often uses physical imagery to describe things that are beyond our earthbound imaginings. The fires of hell could be like that. But there is nothing here that one should take comfort from. For although the Bible uses imagery to portray the unimaginable, it does so precisely because the reality is unimaginable. That is, the suffering of the wicked in hell is so intense and so terrible that, if it is not an actual physical suffering by fire, only such intense physical suffering can be used to describe it.
Do not banter words with Jesus Christ. The point is that hell involves intense suffering. A person is a fool who does not try to avoid that suffering at whatever cost.
The second thing that makes hell terrible is memory, particularly memory of the blessings of one’s previous life. Though it is not said in Christ’s parable about the dragnet, it emerges quite clearly in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There Jesus sets up a comparison between a rich man, who “dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day” (Luke 16:19), and a beggar named Lazarus, who sat at his gate and longed “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table” (v. 21). In time both died. The beggar, being a believer in spite of his unimposing earthly condition, went to heaven. The rich man, in spite of his favored condition on earth, went to hell. Being in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side, and cried out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony” (Luke 16:24, 25).
I believe that is one of the most chilling statements in the Bible. The rich man is told to remember, and what he has to remember is how he enjoyed a lifetime of good things without any reference to God. Now those things are gone, forever. He built his heaven on earth and is never to enter it again, while Lazarus had his taste of hell here and is now to enjoy God’s heaven. If you are without Christ, learn that however disappointing you may consider your life to be now, there will, nevertheless, come a day when it will seem “good” compared to your suffering. And the memory of your good things will haunt you and increase your suffering, unless you repent now and come to Jesus.
Why is Jesus so explicit in his teaching about hell? Why is hell terrible?
For what reason would Abraham not allow the rich man to be comforted?
Read Luke: 16: 19-31. What memories in hell will be particularly painful?