28- The Alternative to the Kingdom of God
By Colleen Donahue
WHAT GOD WANTS FOR ALL OF US
God wants to restore us to the way he originally created man. Man was given a spirit so that God could dwell in us by His Holy Spirit and show forth His life and love from the platform of our life. Man was made the vessel to receive, hold, and overflow with the blessedness of God. We were made so that God could live his life on earth as He was living it in Heaven.
Sin has robbed us of God's being able to dwell within us. Our heart was meant for God alone but we have put our SELF in His place and have been content to live a life independent from God even while believing in Him. We allow many things to fill our hearts where God alone is meant to dwell.
God opened the way to our restoration by sending Jesus to earth. He was the first man back on earth -- since Adam and Eve-- that was full of God's Spirit and allowing God to live fully through Him. Jesus shows us the possibility and blessedness of being a man or woman full of God.
The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead meant that He came back alive as Spirit to dwell IN us and fill us with His life once more. When the human heart is ready to lose all and be cleansed by Christ's blood then it will be ready to gain all -- the full life of God's Spirit within us. Having Christ's life within us means having the full Kingdom of God indwelling. For wherever the King is, there is His kingdom.
God wants real and abundant life for each of us. Jesus' shed blood has covered our sins. He has forgiven everything we have done against God and man which means our past has been settled. Then, in a cosmic death with Jesus, our old nature that keeps us sinning in the present has been destroyed so that we no longer need to keep sinning. In this way Jesus covers our present. But you and I need to choose our future. Jesus has done the work needed to regain our right-standing with God, but we must recognize that work by repenting of our sins, turning from them, and then asking the King to take up residence in our life so that we can live in partnership with Him.
This is finally the decision that faces each and everyone of us. Will we acknowledge what Jesus has done for us and will we invite Him to occupy the throne of our heart? It's a decision only we can make. God will not force us to be part of His kingdom -- ruling and reigning with Him. So if we don't choose to submit our lives to the King where will that leave us in eternity when this present world ends? This is what we must look at now - the alternative to the Kingdom of God.
WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT HELL - GEHENNA
Hell is the alternative to the Kingdom of God. It's not what God wants for us to be sure, but it's the only option to the Kingdom of God. It's a most unpopular subject. But how can we talk about new life in Christ without talking about judgment apart from Him? So let's start with what Jesus himself says about Hell.
1. What was the crime that Jews considered a violation of the 6th commandment?
But Jesus goes on to say that the commandment is much broader than that. It is not just the physical act of murder. What does it include?
The Jews had three degrees of condemnation: the "judgment", the "council" and the "Valley of Hinnom". In this verse Jesus specifies three forms of the violation. First, unjust anger. Second is anger with expression of contempt and third is anger accompanied by contempt and wickedness. So likewise, Jesus says there will be grades of condemnation for the different ways that a man violates the 6th commandment. The word Jesus uses for the fires of hell in verse 22 is Gehenna.
Gehenna in Hebrew was the Valley of Hinnom that was near Jerusalem. It was a smoldering garbage dump. It's name was used as a place of everlasting punishment - i.e. hell.
This once beautiful valley became the place where idolatrous Israelites sacrificed their children to Moloch. When the Israelites returned from captivity they abhorred the place so much that by the example of Josiah it became the place to throw all the dead carcasses and garbage of the city as well as a place of execution. The sight of the place was terrible and the stench was so overwhelming that fires were kept burning continually to keep pestilence at bay. It became one of the most appalling places that a Jew could be acquainted with. It thus became the image that Jesus used to denote the future punishment of the wicked.
2. The Jews were accustomed to think that there was only one way to break the 7th commandment.
But Jesus says that this commandment is much broader than that.
The secrets of the heart and movements of the eyes are included along with the external act. In the sight of God, adultery has already been committed in the heart even without the physical act.
3. Jesus wanted his audience to grasp the seriousness of the situation and so he used hyperbole to make his point.
The right eye and hand are of the most use to us. It's like Jesus is saying, "However strong your passion may be or difficult to part with, you should do it." The dearest objects that cause us to sin must be abandoned at all costs. It's better to lose one part of us then our entire body to hell. When Jesus repeats this again it's so that we don't miss his point. We (our entire body) will go to hell. And once again the word he uses two times is Gehenna.
4. Matthew records Jesus saying the same thing to his disciples at another time in his teaching.
The same word Gehenna is used for hell. Mark records this as well.
5. Other people can harm our body but they can't touch our soul or spirit. Who does Jesus say can destroy both our soul and body?
Matthew 10:28 (also Luke 12:5)
In saying this to his disciples he didn't want them to be alarmed at the prospect of temporal death because man's soul will live forever. These verses prove that the bodies of the wicked will be raised up to be punished forever. Gehenna is the word Jesus used for hell.
6. The day Jesus rebuked the Jewish teachers of the law must have been quite a day. Matthew recorded in a full chapter all the rebukes that tumbled out of Christ's mouth. He called them by names such as hypocrite and blind guides. In this verse what did Jesus call these leaders?
To be a "child of hell" (Gehenna) was a Hebrew phrase meaning that the person deserved to be in hell. So Jesus is saying that when these "children of hell" (i.e. Jewish leaders) made a convert they turned them into twice the child of hell that they already were. The Pharisees swelled their ranks with converts, then left them to fully indulge their vices.
Near the end of Christ's severe rebuke, he calls them by two other names.
They were like snakes because although they looked pious on the outside, they were secretly evil as was the serpent that deceived Eve. (Genesis 3:1-5)
Jesus then called them a "brood of vipers" because they were like a family of poisonous reptiles with corrupt and evil natures.
Jesus follows these two names with a direct question to them.
This question to them implies two things.
A. It refers to punishment in the future.
B. It implies that this place of punishment will be impossible to escape for all who are as wicked as these leaders.
This was the strongest language that Jesus ever used with such wicked people. But as God, He knew their hearts and had the authority to speak to them in this way. We can't know the hearts of others and therefore don't have the same authority.
7. In these verses Jesus speak of judgment for unbelievers. Read first the entire section to get the whole content.
In verse 23, depending on the version you are reading, you'll see the word hell or Hades or "the place of the dead". This is a different word from Gehenna that means a state of utmost woe, ruin, and desolation.
Almost 2,000 years before Jesus was born, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.
Jesus is saying that it will be far better for the wicked in Sodom who knew nothing of Jesus than it will be for those who have heard and seen Jesus and still don't repent of their sins and believe.
As Jude says, "Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgment."
Jude 1:7b NLT
8. Jesus taught in parables and stories that were usually hypothetical and without names. But in this story he used the name Lazarus, suggesting that it happened to a real person. Read the entire passage first.
While Lazarus was carried to Heaven by angels to be with Father Abraham, where did the rich man go?
Luke 16:22b - 23
The word used for Hell here is Hades or the "place of the dead". Jesus again talks of Hell as being a conscious place of unending torment. He also makes clear that hell is a place that is separate from God and his people by a great chasm that can't be crossed.
Now the rich man turns to see how he can help his five brothers and asks if Lazarus can be sent to warn them. Jesus quotes a conversation he has with Abraham.
The Jewish people were privileged to have God's word spoken through the prophets. It was written out for all to see and read. They knew what God was asking of them and they had no excuse for their indifference and disobedience.
9. In the gospel of Mark Jesus emphasizes the unending nature of hell's affliction several times. Reread:
Verse 48 is actually a quote from Isaiah 66:24. It's one of two passages in the Old Testament that clearly teach about eternal punishment. The other passage is:
In both Isaiah 66:22-24 and Daniel 12:2 we see the separation of those who are God's people and those who have rejected Him.
10. In the Gospel of John, Jesus doesn't use the word "hell" directly. But Jesus often juxtaposes "eternal life" with negative expressions. In these verses pick out negative expressions that give us a picture of eternal life on the other side.
John 3:16, 18 / 5: 24, 28-30 / 6:50 / 10:28
In these words perish, condemned, judgment, death and die we get a picture. The blessed state of eternal life is logically opposite of the condemned state of eternal destruction. And if Heaven is everlasting then Hell must be the same.
11. To summarize what Jesus says about hell it would be this:
A. There will be a bodily resurrection of all persons -- both good and wicked.
B. Those who are good with Christ's righteousness will go into eternal life (Matthew 25:34). But those who continue in evil will be judged, condemned, and proceed to eternal punishment.
(Matthew 25:41, 46)
C. Hell will be opposite to eternal life. It's eternal punishment.
D. Hell is not a place where God sends us but one that we finally choose ourselves when we do life OUR way without God. For that is what all sin is -- living our life independent from God. Our own choosing keeps us separated from our Creator.
E. There is a second death more fearful than our death on earth.
Our world today tries to negate hell or say that it will not be eternal. Hell would be too harsh and would undermine a God who is supposed to be good. But we have a Father God who has given us everything in His Son so that we can be put right and remade in Jesus. If we thumb our noses at such an outpouring of love what can a just God do but give us what we want?
WHAT OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS SAY ABOUT HELL:
THE APOSTLE PAUL
12. Paul never uses the word "hell" in his letters but does talk about the future punishment of unbelievers. He stresses that preaching the gospel is important because Jews and Gentiles alike are under God's wrath and will be judged. Here are some of the important truths that Paul writes concerning future punishment. In these verses what is the wickedness of men connected with?
Romans 1:18-32 (especially verse 18)
Man's stubborn refusal to repent of sin and turn to God will have consequences.
13. Paul emphasizes that no one is righteous -- not the Jews or the Gentiles-- and then proceeds to string many passages of the Old Testament together to make his point that all of us are sinners.
Romans 3:9-18 / Ephesians 2:1-3
Note: The verses Paul quotes are from: Psalm 10:7 / 14:1-3 / 36:1 / 53:1-3 / 140:3 / Ecclesiastes 7:20 / Isaiah 59:7-8
14. It's while we are still sinners that God takes action on man's behalf.
Romans 5:6-8 / Ephesians 2:4-5 / Colossians 2:13-14
15. As a result, we can be saved from the wrath or anger of God ONLY by our faith in Christ.
16. If we refuse God's provision for our sin ( i.e. Jesus Christ) and then go on to judge others for what they do, what is certain for us?
Romans 2:1-4 (especially verse 2)
Notice verse 4. The thought is that God should and could judge us on the spot for all that we have done against Him and other men. But he doesn't. He is kind and patient towards us so that we will repent and come back to Him.
17. Paul stresses that through Adam, sin and condemnation came upon every man. But..... because of God's gracious gift of His Son, what else is true?
18. Clearly God is reluctant that any one of us would face eternal punishment. Paul then shares what this eternal punishment will look like.
A. It will consist of trouble and distress and will show no favoritism.
B. It will consist of death and destruction.
Romans 1:32 / 6:16, 23 / 7:5 / 8:13a / 9:22
C. It will mean separation from Christ.
19. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging believers who are facing persecution. In just a few verses he brings out four points about hell.
A. To those who trouble and persecute those in the family of God, there will be retributive justice.
2 Thessalonians 1:6
B. Hell is punishment for those who do not know God or obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:8 / 2:12
NOTE: If this seems unfair please reread: Romans 1:18-20
C. Hell is eternal destruction.
2 Thessalonians 1:9a / 2:3,8,10
D. Hell will mean exclusion from Christ's presence.
2 Thessalonians 1: 9b
THE WRITER TO THE HEBREWS
20. The writer to the Hebrews encourages them to move on from the elementary teaching about Christ and move into maturity. Notice that one of these accepted elementary teachings was that there would be "eternal judgment".
21. A little further in his letter he clarifies that if a person keeps on sinning after receiving the knowledge of truth, what can they expect?
So in these verses hell is "a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." And we see that hell comes from God as punishment, judgment, and retribution.
22. James shares a few general statements about future punishment that build on each other.
A. First, he points out that sin produces death in the sinner.
B. Then he points out that there is only one lawgiver and judge - i.e. God. What is God as lawgiver and judge able to do?
C. James then gives a warning to the rich who oppress others.
Notice the words "misery", "eat your flesh like fire", "the day of slaughter".
D. Finally, James ends his letter by saying that sinners need to be turned from an impending "death".
PETER AND JUDE
23. Peter and Jude speak of hell as "destruction".
2 Peter 2:1,3,12 / Jude 5,10-11
24. Peter shows that God's condemnation of the fallen angels, the ancient world, and Sodom and Gomorrah are but examples of what is going to happen to the ungodly.
2 Peter 2:4-6
25. He warns that God will hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment while "continuing their punishment".
2 Peter 2:9
They will be "paid back with harm" for the harm they have done. Hell will be a place of retribution.
2 Peter 2:13
And what else will be "reserved" for the wicked?
2 Peter 2:17 / Jude 13
Notice that Jude adds that it will be theirs forever, showing that hell is for eternity.
THE APOSTLE OF JOHN
28. In Revelation, John wrote the visions God was showing him. In these verses list what will happen to any who worship "the beast" and receives his mark upon his forehead.
29. The conclusion of Revelation is that God will judge EVERYONE. As you read these verses, list the progression of what will happen at the judgment?
30. Who will finally be sent to the "lake of fire"?
Revelation 20:15 / 21:8
Jesus confirms this.
It is clear that future punishment for all who reject God's Son (who alone can restore us to God) is a significant theme in the New Testament. The different depictions of hell from the New Testament writers help us to see a fuller picture of hell. It will first and foremost be a place of punishment. It's a punishment that is deserved, will consist of great suffering, have pain that will be conscious, and it will be eternal.
Second, hell will mean destruction. Some use this to show that it means people will be destroyed rather than face eternal, conscious suffering. But the Bible writers often speak of destruction to refer to a situation where a person or object has lost the essence of its nature or function. It doesn't mean that they have ceased to exist. The idea is that an angel or person in hell has wasted his or her life by failing to embrace the purpose that God made them for. Therefore in hell the purpose for their life will be destroyed.
Finally hell is a place of banishment. It will mean separation forever from God and his people. They will completely miss out on the reason for their existence -- to glorify and know their Creator. They will be cut off from Christ and the Kingdom of God. In the end God will sadly give them over to themselves, to go to a place where they will never be known by Him.
God invites all of us to be citizens in His kingdom, but he will never force us to join his family. Where we spend eternity will be our own decision, confirmed by God at the judgment day.