Theme: Eternity in hell is no joking matter 
This week’s lessons describe the horrid nature of hell and the importance of knowing our destiny.
Matthew 25:41-46
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Let’s notice one other thing. Notice that the wicked are condemned in this story not because of some great positive evil they have done, but for their simple neglect of doing good. Or to put it in other terms, the people spoken of here are not the great sinners of the world, like Adolf Hitler or some serial killer. They are the good people who occupy the pews of churches and serve on philanthropic boards. Therefore, when the judgment comes they are astonished. They are like the foolish virgins who cannot understand why the groom will not open the door for them or the servant who cannot perceive why the Lord is not satisfied by his zero-growth performance.
R. V. G. Tasker says, “As in the previous parables of the ten virgins and of entrusted wealth, so in this picture of the great assize, it is not so much positive wrong-doing that evokes the severest censure, as the utter failure to do good.”1 The desire to do good comes from receiving the life of the Lord Jesus Christ within, which is regeneration.
Now we must talk about hell. We sometimes hear people say that they cannot believe in an Old Testament God who is full of wrath and judgment and that they prefer the God of the gentle Jesus. But they forget that it is Jesus more than any other person in the Bible who speaks most clearly about hell. Matthew 25 is an example. In the parable of the talents, the master cries, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30). In the separation of the sheep from the goats, the King tells the goats, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41). The chapter ends by Jesus’ frightening summation: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (v. 46).
We may not like these statements. Indeed, how can anyone like them? But they were spoken by Jesus, the very Son of God, and I think he knew what he was talking about. We would do well to take his warnings seriously.
Should we take them seriously? Is hell to be feared? Or can we throw it off with a shrug or a joke, like the one that tells us not to worry about hell because if we die and go to hell, “we’ll be so busy shaking hands with old friends that we won’t have time to worry.”
Really? Jesus described hell as a total separation. And not just from those who will be with Christ in heaven. It is separation from God. Jesus expressed it when he quoted the King as saying, “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (v. 41).
It is interesting how most of us divide people up. We separate men from women, the haves from the have-nots, the privileged and the disadvantaged, the wise and the foolish, rulers and those who are ruled, people who are of our own class or like us and all others. Someone said on one occasion, “The whole world can be divided into two classes, those who divide the world into two classes and those who do not.” The ways in which we divide people up seem almost endless. Yet the division in Matthew 25 is the only one that really matters. It is the division between those who will “go away to eternal punishment” and those who will enter into “eternal life” (v. 46). It is between the saved and the lost.
That division is absolute. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Not one goat will be left among the sheep, nor one sheep with the goats… There will be no middle company in that day.”2

1 R. W. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1961), p. 239.
2 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular Exposition of the Gospel According to St Matthew (Pasadena, Tex: Pilgrim Publications, 1974), p. 228


Why are the wicked condemned in this parable?
Why must we be clear about the division between those going to hell and those going to heaven?

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