In the previous post, I posted on a sermon from my church. As I’m blogging through my church’s sermons, I should make a note that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that the speaker says. In this week’s sermon, there were a few things that I took issue with. I have no doubt that preacher was sincere and loving in his intentions and I am in no way questioning his study or integrity. He said nothing heretical by any means, and of course, you can only say so much in a 35-minute sermon. I hope to be gracious to him, but I do want to share my thoughts on some things I disagreed with.
- In the sermon, the pastor made the point that “hell is ultimately the separation of people from the presence of God (Point 1.3). The passage he quoted was 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10. This is true, but not all the way true. I think that more explanation is needed because the word “presence” communicates an awful lot. I disagree with the flat statement that hell is the “separation of people from God’s presence” for this simple reason: God is omnipresent, he cannot not be somewhere. That includes hell. Instead of just saying that hell is “separation of people from the presence of the Lord,” we should widen our view. More than that, hell is the “separation of people from the majestic, glorious presence of the Lord.” Hell is, in fact, “an eternity of suffering the destructive, wrathful, fiery presence of the Lord, experiencing the presence of the darkness of his judgment.” Satan is not the one tormenting people in hell since he himself is being tormented (Rev. 20:10). So hell is not ultimately about being separated from God, but more about experiencing God’s wrath because of unrepentance. When Christ died on the cross he took on the concentrated wrath of God, which we were deserving of, so that we might not have to experience that wrath in hell. (Check out Luke 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 2:5, 8; 5:9; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9; Rev. 19:15.) For more on this, see R.C. Sproul’s comments on the subject.
- The pastor also quotes C.S. Lewis saying, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” I don’t think that Lewis is a reliable source when it comes to hell. He’s not so orthodox there. Piper has said it a lot better than I can, but in short, I don’t think anyone chooses hell. Just because you don’t choose God doesn’t mean you, by default, choose hell. When I think of someone “choosing” something, I think of something they want. Certainly no person would ever want the hell that Jesus describes. They might chose their own hell or something that is preferable to the “borningness of heaven” (though heaven won’t be boring), but they aren’t choosing the literal hell of the Bible that unregenerate people go to after death. Piper put it this way: “What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want — certainly not what they ‘most want.’ Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.”
- Finally, as he closed, the pastor said that John 3:16 (i.e. the “so loved” part of the verse) communicates how much God loves the world. This is not the correct translation of “so loved.” God does love the world more than you or I ever could, but that is not what Jesus is telling Nicodemus in John 3. What Jesus is telling Nicodemus is this: “God loved the world this way.” What way? “Namely, that God sent his Son Jesus Christ that whoever believes in him will not experience the death of hell.” Jesus coming to earth is a tangible, real illustration of what kind of love God has for the world he created.
So there are some thoughts. Please feel free to interact with them and offer your thoughts as well.