Friday, June 23, 2017

A Big Lie

Has anyone ever told a lie about you – how did you feel?  It doesn’t feel good.  A few years ago I spent quite a little time on a local internet forum.  I enjoyed being a part of conversations on a variety of topics.  The forum was supposed to be anonymous, and it was against the rules to use people’s real names.  One of the participants posted lies about me and my business on the forum.  I never knew who posted the lies.  I have no idea how many people believed them. Recently I have experienced similar things in my church.

If you have had lies told about you; I’m sure you didn’t like it.  Imagine how God feels when lies are told about him.  From the very beginning, Satan’s plan has been to tell lies about God.  Speaking about Satan in John 8:44, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Let’s look at the story in Genesis 3: 1-4, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

The very first lie that Satan told was, “You won’t die.”  Interestingly, even though God has made it very clear, many people today believe this first lie.  We know that Satan says “You won’t die.”  Let’s see what God has to say.

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Proverbs 11:19 – “As righteousness leads to life, So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.”

Proverbs 19:16 – “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of his ways will die.”

Romans 8:6 – “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

James 1:15 – “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

God says that sin leads to death, but many Christians say something very different.

Southern Baptists recently reaffirmed that hell is an "eternal, conscious punishment" for those who do not accept Jesus.

The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death, the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire.”

The Methodist Church teaches that following the resurrection and the final judgment before God, unbelievers and the followers of Lucifer will be cast forever into the Lake of Fire. There they will exist forever without being consumed.

Pentecostals believe that those who die in their sins without seeking God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ will spend eternity in a literal hell. Pentecostals believe that people's souls consciously exist eternally, whether in the bliss of heaven or the punishment of hell.

But God says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Many Christians say that the wicked will live forever. What did Satan tell Eve?  Even if you disobey God, You will not die.

Paul was concerned that just as Eve believed Satan’s lie, so would Christians.

He wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Don’t be led astray by Satan’s craftiness. Does the Bible really teach that God will keep people alive forever in hell just to suffer torment that never ends? If that is not what the Bible teaches, then it is a slander against God.

The character of God is maligned when we say he tortures and burns people forever. Today that first recorded lie in the Bible is being repeated by well-meaning pastors who use hellfire sermons to try to scare unconverted sinners into repentance.

I recently read an article that stated, “we need a fresh wave of great awakeners—those who will unapologetically preach hell fire in today's dire end times.” The author went on to say, “we need hell fire preachers to emerge and announce to the church and the world the reality of their situation and the measure of God's wrath and judgment that is coming. Contrary to popular belief a very real revelation of hell, of torment, of God's holiness and of our desperation and wickedness is needed to draw people to the Lover of their souls!”

Is this kind of thinking in line with what the Bible teaches? Is it a proper representation of God’s character?

Let’s take a look at God’s character. Psalms 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.”

Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”

In Job 4:17 the question is asked, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?”

Mainstream Christianity asks us to believe that our Heavenly Father hates unrepentant sinners so much that He tortures them in flames through ceaseless ages when sinful humans wouldn’t even submit a dog to that kind of suffering?  What kind of justice is that?

C.H. Pinnock, a Christian theologian, once wrote that if hellfire really tortures sinners forever, for all eternity, "It would make Hitler a third-degree saint, and the concentration camps picnic grounds.  Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for His enemies whom He does not even allow to die."

What kind of a person would burn someone alive and deliberately prolong the process? And enjoy it, savor it?

Many sincere people are saying, "If the Bible teaches that God tortures sinners in hell forever, then I reject the Bible. And I reject that kind of God."

In Romans 2:5,6, the apostle Paul speaks of the “righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds.”

Surely it would be all out of proportion to torture the wicked for eternity for the sins of a brief lifetime. God has never been a vengeful tyrant, and He won’t become a vengeful tyrant when the time arrives to punish the wicked.

The doctrine of eternal conscious torment is in error because it is contrary to the biblical teaching that there is life only in Christ. 1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

A person burning in hell would not have a pleasant life, but he would have life. According to the Bible, the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment.

If the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is true, then there are several Bible writers that owe the world an apology:

1)  David said:  "But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away." (Psalm 37:20)

2)  Jesus said:  "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

3)  Paul wrote: "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction.”

4)  The Lord of hosts said by Malachi: "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, Says the Lord of hosts, That will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)

Another dilemma for those who believe in eternal conscious torment is the measure of what it cost the Son of God to ransom the sinner. Jesus gave His life to redeem us. Sin is a capital offense. The penalty for the unrepentant sinner must match the penalty Christ paid for sin, his life, not eternal life in hellfire.

If the wicked live eternally in the fire, then they have the same thing as the righteous except in a different place. Who could give them eternal life but Jesus? John 3:16 settles this issue so clearly and simply.  I like the way it reads in the new version The Voice.  “For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.”

Those who do not believe in Jesus will perish. They will die. They will face everlasting destruction. They will die the second death; an eternal death from which they will never be raised. That death will never end. It is everlasting destruction, an endless, eternal punishment because it is an endless, eternal death.

And what about those who believe in Jesus and receive everlasting life? John described their future home in these words, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

Can you find any room in those wonderful words for any suffering on the part of anybody in the whole recreated universe? God said crying and pain would be no more. Would someone in eternal torment cry? Would they be in pain? If you knew that your loved ones were being subjected to the most horrible painful torture how would you feel? Would you cry? Do you believe God’s Word or do you choose to believe man's teaching?

I’m thankful that there is no eternally burning hell. Unfortunately, it’s a myth, or should I say fortunately? It’s fortunate that it’s not true. But it’s unfortunate that so many people have been told it is true.

The most wonderful news is that nobody needs to be lost or burned in any hell at all. All of us can have everlasting life through Jesus Christ, through simple faith in Him. I hope you’ll choose to have faith in Jesus. That is Good News I can believe in.

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