The concept of some kind of universal judgment is common to every major religion. The Bible teaches God will judge every person according to how they lived. Jesus Christ warned his followers that the majority of mankind will choose the easy road of sin. He described this path as the broad way that leads to destruction. Only a small number will make the right choice of following the narrow way that leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:13-14).
Most people do not like to think about what may await them beyond the grave. As a result, it becomes fashionable either to deny the reality of hell or redefine it in less upsetting terms. Years ago a well known British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Am Not A Christian.” One of the reasons he cited was that Jesus taught eternal punishment for the wicked.
Americans are also rejecting the Biblical concept of hell. Nine years ago the cover of U.S. News & World Report carried a drawing depicting hell as a place of flames. However, the title proclaimed “Hell: A New Vision Of The Netherworld.” For the Bible believer, there is something terribly wrong with the picture. Instead of being the domain of the damned writhing in torment, it shows the “lost” as though they were at a beach party. Smiles abound. The “wicked” are relaxing on lounge chairs while a demon serves drinks to the scantily clad.
Our enlightened age sees no need for archaic notions like a lake that burns with fire and brimstone designed to torment day and night forever (Rev. 14:11; 21:8). Many American churches of the twentieth century largely ignored the Biblical teaching of hell as a real place where unforgiven sinners will receive the penalty for their deeds. Though the majority of Americans polled claim to believe in hell, almost no one thinks he will go there. Some people I have known admitted their lives were far from righteous but the idea of going to hell did not bother them. Some jokingly said they did not want to go to heaven because all their friends were going to hell! This attitude reveals a tragic ignorance about punishment in hell. Perhaps we should not be too surprised by this carefree spirit in a society where blatant criminal offenses are excused or barely punished.
People who believe the Bible must accept the reality of hell. Jesus spoke plainly and often about hell but scoffers tell us his words do not mean what they say. Instead, they say Jesus was only speaking figuratively. Others would have us accept the view that hell is merely being separated from God. It is just a state of mind, not a real place, they say. Still others try to convince us that, yes, hell is real and, yes, there are flames there, but the suffering is only temporary. They argue that sinners could not possibly suffer eternally since they are in flames. After only a brief period of punishment, they are consumed by the fire. This is the false doctrine of annihilation. Some reason that since God is love, he could never punish anyone eternally. One “theologian” even went so far as to say that inflicting everlasting torment sounds more like Satan’s nature than God’s! Ignorance or rejection of the Scriptures is never a good thing (Hosea 4:6; 2 Thess. 2:10).
So, what does the Bible say about this vital subject? Here are some basic facts gleaned from various passages. First, hell is real. It exists and is not some mythical place created by man to scare others into submission. The Bible speaks of it in a literal sense. It is just as real as heaven is real (Mark 9:47). In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus spoke about some who would go away into everlasting punishment while others would be rewarded by entering into eternal life. Clearly, we are to understand that if heaven is real and eternal, then hell also is real and eternal (everlasting).
Sometimes, people get confused because hell will not be a physical place. They wrongly conclude that if it is not physical, it cannot be real. However, let’s apply the same thinking to heaven. Will heaven be a physical place? Of course not! If in doubt, read 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Does that make heaven any less real? No. At the end of this age, physical things (including the earth and the present heavens) will be done away (2 Peter 3:10-12). From that time forward, we shall exist in our eternal and spiritual forms in a spiritual place called heaven.
Second, hell is a place of continual torment and agony. The book of Revelation describes it as a “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15). Jesus warned his followers to fear God since He is able to “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Once again, people sometimes get confused on this point. Some wonder how the torment can go on for ever and ever if they have been destroyed. Remember that the body which shall be destroyed will not have a physical form. Like the saints who ascended to heaven, those souls that are cast into the lake of fire will have had their bodies changed in the twinkling of an eye (John 5:28-29; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52).
The destruction will not be done in a physical sense. In 2 Peter 3:7 the Bible speaks of the perdition of ungodly men on the day of judgment. Perdition literally means complete and irreparable loss or ruin. Souls in hell will indeed suffer eternal loss since they will be cut off from every good thing (2 Thess. 1:9). “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt. 16:26)? This loss of the soul includes punishment for the evil done in this life. Paul said every soul shall be repaid for the things done in the body [i.e., the earthly life] (2 Cor. 5:10). When Jesus comes again with his mighty angels, He will begin this repayment (2 Thess. 1:6-9).
Third, hell will be inhabited by wicked and horrible inhabitants of all the ages. Who will be there? Jesus said hell was prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). However, when man chooses sin and refuses to repent, he has consigned himself to the devil’s abode. Some have the mistaken notion that Satan will have charge of hell and that he will be the one to inflict torment on the lost. According to the book of Revelation, this is false (Rev. 20:10). God will cast the devil into the lake of fire and will torment him. All who deserve to be punished will be there including sinners of all time (Rom. 2:8-9). Sadly, this will also include unfaithful members of the Lord’s church (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Fourth, hell is a place of absolute justice minus any mercy (Matt. 18:34-35; cf. Heb. 10:28-29). There will be no second chances to escape the wrath of God once a soul is in this awful place (Luke 16:26). Everyone needs to be warned of the horrors of this terrible place in hopes that they will choose to avoid that destiny. Unfortunately, the majority of mankind is on the broad path that leads straight to hell (Matt. 7:13-14).
God has good reasons for having a place called hell. If hell were not real, sinners would go unpunished. Who would want to go to heaven that was populated with the wicked? Though most will go to hell, they want to believe otherwise. Some exclaim, “My life is hell.” This is not true since life will be over one day, then comes judgment (Heb. 9:27). Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...” (2 Cor. 5:10-11a).
Assigning names and attaching labels is a common occurrence in the political realm as well as in the religious world. We have heard terms like conservative, moderate, liberal and other such titles. This writer has been subjected to a variety of terms and labels as most preachers of the Gospel. Having never sought a particular label makes me wonder why the characterization needs to be made.
Jesus once healed a man that was possessed with a devil being “blind and dumb” (Matt. 12:22). The people giving their accolades to the Nazarene for such a miracle called Him the “Son of David” (Matt. 12:23). While the Pharisees, on the other hand, accused Jesus of doing this miracle by the power of “Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:24).
Bearing labels and/or other such designations is nothing new and we should not be surprised to receive an artificial label in either a flattering or unflattering way. If a “conservative” is a person who strives to walk the “strait and narrow” and gives strict adherence to a “thus saith the Lord” without deviation or alternation, I am your man. A liberal is one who takes liberty with the Scripture minimizing the importance of the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11), and brings about innovations to effect change.
The silent liberal is the person refusing to speak up when God's word is being violated. All too often we think of preachers and those in the leadership that fall into the “liberal” camp, however it needs to be stressed that every member of the body of Christ must ask themselves, “am I a silent liberal?”
1. When we are in the company of a person who diminishes the importance of the church, we are a “silent liberal” when we say nothing. How many times have we heard those cry about the importance of Jesus and in the same breath desecrate the significance of the divine institution (the church) for which Jesus shed his blood (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:12-16; Acts 20:28)? For over a generation now we have heard those articulate in their own way, “Jesus yes, the church no,” or “preach the man, but not the plan.” Dear friend, if you hear such rhetoric and remain quiet, you are a “silent liberal.” Silence is not always golden as occasions require that we stand up and “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Using an old expression, let us “put our faith where our mouth is” as we discharge our duties as soldiers of the king and meet the adversary on every corner (Eph. 6:11-18).
2. When someone inquires “what denomination do you belong to,” are we a silent liberal?” Frequently, Christians are placed in an awkward position of having to answer the query “what denomination are you a member of,” to which all too often they respond “the church of Christ!” The clear implication is drawn that we are members of the Church of Christ denomination. What other meaning will the queerest draw from such a reply? This question should give us a rare opportunity of informing those that the church of Christ is not a denomination and these are the reasons why. We are a silent liberal when such an opportunity presents itself to us and we ostracize ourselves from giving a proper reply (1 Peter 3:15). Fear should not hinder us in “standing fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13; 15:1; Gal. 5:1).
3. Elders are often “silent liberals” when they refuse to take a stand and make decisions mandated by God. Elders are often weak by appeasing a certain group, as weighty decisions must be made in the best interest of the church. Matters regarding the role of women in the church, marriage-divorce-remarriage, innovations in the worship, etc. This writer is aware of a congregation that allowed their guest evangelist to speak in their six-day Gospel meeting to promulgate the doctrine of “grace only.” These elders became tragically “silent liberals” by allowing such false doctrine to go unchecked. Paul writes “...mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). Elders are all too often ready with a “wink and a nod” at doctrinal problems and in some cases refuse to act as godly elders for fear that such decisions would cause them to lose substantial financial contributions.
Elders become “silent liberals” when they abandon the mandated decree of God and therefore the church blends in with the world (Rom. 12:2). Peter clearly underscores the chief responsibility of elders to “feed the flock of God...taking the oversight” (1 Peter 5:2). There's no better time than now that we desperately need those godly, mature, men of wisdom to lead and guard God's flock in these troubled times (Heb. 13:7,17).
4. Preachers are “silent liberals” when they ignore certain subjects and souls are lost due to their silence. The root meaning of a Gospel preacher is one who “heralds good news.” Preachers must never forget the power is in the “Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16) and not in the human eloquence of man (1 Cor. 1:21-23). Our pulpits are becoming weaned from the inspired message of Christ and as a result, those on the pew are ill-prepared and ignorant to meet the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8). Some preachers have stated in my hearing, “I cannot preach on marriage-divorce-remarriage or I would lose my job.” The “silent liberals” who refuse to speak-out on a biblical subject that is needed is nothing short of professional preachers who are more concerned about their position, financial package or their homes. Imagine visiting your doctor with a serious illness and he ignores your condition. You would give him a serious reprimand and dismissal; therefore preachers that refuse to address serious spiritual issues are straddling the fence and are nothing short of “silent liberals.”
Let us be cognizant of this grave problem or else the existence of the church will be on the brink of extinction. Paul writes, “with all boldness as always Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Phil. 1:20). Paul says he was a “debtor” and was “ready” to preach the Gospel (Rom. 1:14-15). All preachers should have this disposition of heart as life and death weighs in the balance.
If it does not stir you as a member of the church to an earnest contention for the faith, your love for the truth has waxed cold.
One can almost hear the muffled roll of drums, the grimly measured tread of marching boots, the “thump” of distant cannon belching fire, and what General Douglas MacArthur called the “mournful mutter of the battlefield,” when Paul says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
“Here is the imagery of battle. The associations of war and the issues of battle vibrate in every word of this exhortation. It is an appeal to the heart as stirring as the call of a commander to comrades in a critical period of battle.” (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., “The Faith Once Delivered Demands Conflict,” In Word And Doctrine, Vol. 3, No. 4, May-July, 1996, Joseph D. Meador, Ed.).
Christ calls men to battle and that task requires courage. When Paul said, “Quit you like men,” he meant for us to perform our front line duties with courage worthy of the title, “Soldier of the Cross.” It isn’t enough to know the truth and preach it. One must have the courage to stand for truth (Jude 3). One who won’t earnestly contend for the faith certainly does not love the truth.
The young prophet who came out of Judah and cried against Jereboam’s altar at Bethel manifested courage. Contrasted with his boldness was the evident lack of it in the old prophet who invited him to his house. Saying an angel had commanded him to summon the young prophet to his house, the old prophet lied to him. Believing that lie led to the young man’s death (1 Kings 13). That narrative has been used, and rightly so, to teach the danger of believing a lie. But it also reveals a trait in the old prophet that afflicts men today -- cowardice. He greatly admired the young man for his courage to speak out against Jereboam’s sin, but there’s no record that the old prophet ever raised his voice against the king’s iniquitous acts. Holy Writ calls him a prophet. He knew what God had commanded regarding worship, but he refused to speak out. He was a coward.
Many years ago, I sat on a murder trial jury in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. Seeking the death penalty, the prosecution asked each prospective juror if he believed in capital punishment. Each of those chosen for the jury answered in the affirmative. Yet, when it came time to assess the punishment for the murder, of which the defendant was found guilty, about one-third of the jury refused to vote for the death penalty. There’s a vast difference in believing something is right and doing what is right.The devils also believe and tremble. Those jurors didn’t have the courage of their convictions and that is the curse of the church today. Multitudes of Gospel preachers believe the truth, preach it at every opportunity, and would not preach error. But when they are tried in conflict’s crucible, they seek comfort and safety in silence while jack-booted enemies of Christ decimate the church. They may know and preach the truth, but they love neither it nor the Lord who revealed it.
About six years ago, Joe Beam was engaged by the apostate Weatherford, Oklahoma, church to preach a meeting. Marking Beam as a false teacher, another preacher and I wrote and mailed a letter to area churches, including the entire membership of the Weatherford church. Prior to mailing the letter, we presented it to western Oklahoma preachers at an area-wide study and offered them the opportunity to sign their names to it and help with postage costs. Only one located preacher was willing to affix his name to the letter. Another signed it, but called the next morning and asked that his name be removed because members where he preached “had children in the Weatherford church.” Another gave money for postage, but didn’t want his name on the letter, saying, “You’ll need someone to defend you when this comes out.” He was willing to “defend” me -- which I didn’t need -- but refused to defend the faith. Like the old prophet at Bethel, they admired what we were doing, but feared to jeopardize their pay checks in defense of the truth. That kind of hireling cowardice is high treason to Christ’s cause (Matt. 12:30).
“Error is couched in countless forms concealed. Christ calls for vigilance -- ‘watch ye.’But when error has been flushed out of the hiding and forms into advanced columns against the church, Christ calls for courage -- ‘stand fast in the faith.’ Then, when the lines are drawn tight, surging issues of truth and error are locked in the grim struggle for mastery -- Christ calls for valor -- ‘quit you like men.’ Perform like a soldier of Christ worthy of the name... The imagery thrills me. If it does not stir you as a member of the church to an earnest contention for the faith, your love for the truth has waxed cold” (Wallace).
Many years ago, an old preacher whose name has long been forgotten said, “The walls of hell will be papered with the hides of Baptists.” If he were alive today, he might amend that to say, “The walls of hell will be papered with the hides of Baptists, glued there with paste from the jellied backbones of hirelings in churches of Christ.”
What Can We Do About This Mess?
written by Tim Jennings
You can feel the earth quake with political unrest. Malicious words and outlandish lies are the dialect of our day. Societies are boiling over with anger and violence. Immorality is accepted and even celebrated. There is a constant fear of the latest virus or natural disaster that threatens to change the landscape. The constant news cycle, like a drug dealer, injects the latest form of distress into the ears of a society of anxiety addicts.
What can a disciple of Jesus do about this mess? Should we be consumed with despair? Should we retreat to islands of isolation? Should we fume and fight? No. We should not be surprised. The Bible constantly compares the nations to a raging sea, foaming and cresting with turbulence. The turmoil of our day is not unique, but our response should be. The Bible does not call us to take up arms and raise our fists, but our Commander orders us to drop to our knees and raise up holy hands in prayer. Please don't be disheartened by the simplicity of this response. Prayer is no cop-out. It is not the passive reply of the timid. Prayer is the courageous act of heaven's soldiers (Eph. 6:18). It is "of first importance" (1 Tim. 2:1). It raises our heads out of the mire to see that God is still actively on the throne (Isa. 6; Rev. 5). Nothing is hopeless. The shouts of angry and wicked people will not have the last word. So yes, the world is a mess, but you can pray 1 Timothy 2:1-8 provides us with a model of how to pray in a messed up world.
Prayer Reminds Us God Is In Control
First, our prayers must push beyond our national boarders or political ideas and reach out for the spiritual good of all people. Paul writes, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people;" because God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1,4). Our prayers should be as big as God's desire to save. This includes even praying for "kings and all those in authority" (1 Tim. 2:2). No matter how distant they are or how sinful they live, we can touch their lives through prayer. The reason prayer is effective over such vast lands and powerful people is because God is in control! Paul begins his letter to Timothy praying to a God who is "the eternal King," and he ends his letter praying to "the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 1:17, 6:15-16). Prayer is our declaration that God reigns. "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will" (Prov. 21:1). Daniel was distressed over the condition and survival of God's people, so he turned to prayer. I'm sure the prayer of an old man seemed like nothing compared to the horse and chariot, spear and arrow. Except the God of heaven heard it, and that very day dispatched angels to turn the hearts of world leaders to save His people (Dan. 9-11; esp. 10:12-20). Daniel knew that God "changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings" (Dan. 2:21). A fearful and complaining spirit characterizes those whose eyes are turned downward, but a hopeful courage is the possession of those who pray.
Pray To Live A Godly Life
The purpose our prayers is that we might live in peace, as Paul put it, "pray...that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim. 2:2). God created government for the peace and security of society. When it functions correctly disciples can fulfill their responsibilities without interference. That is why we pray for peace, not for our personal comfort or national pride, but that the cause of Christ might flourish (Acts 9:31). This is accomplished by living "peaceful and quiet lives." This relates to our submissive and supportive attitude toward governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-2; 1 Pet.2:13-14). Praying for leaders drains away thought s of hat red and rebellion, and allows us to see them as objects of God's concern. In addition, peaceful conditions allow us to more effectively model "godliness and holiness" (see 1 Thess. 4:11-12). Each day we live in peace is a perfect day to model the gospel of peace in a world of sin and conflict (1 Pet. 2:11-12). There are places all over this world where Christians cannot live out their faith openly and the gospel is not welcomed, but prayer can change that.
Pray So People Will Be Saved
Ultimately, prayer has an evangelistic goal —"God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3). We pray for leaders, that we might live in peace, so we can be free to live and share the gospel with the world. The greatest problems in this world will not be solved by an election, a referendum, a war, more education, or a financial handout. The needs of our world are fundamentally spiritual. People need to know the truth so they can see through the deception of sin. People need peace with God which comes through Jesus, the "one Mediator between God and men," "who gave himself as a ransom for all people" (1 Tim. 2:6). It is time for our prayers to grow beyond our personal desires and physical comforts. Our world is in a mess. It is time to pray.
WHAT DO 21ST-CENTURY CHRISTIAN YOUTH NEED?
Roger D. Campbell
We thank the God of heaven that there are youth in His church who love Him and make their best effort to live a godly life. It is both refreshing and encouraging to see their youthful zeal. If young folks are in the Christ, then I do not look at them as the church of the future —they are just as much God’s child as I am, and they are the church of the present. True, they may be future leaders in the church, and they may outlive older members and keep the church going strong, but I dare not count them as low-level or inferior members of the body.
What are the spiritual needs of our youth? What do they need in their lives that can help them to bear spiritual fruit and be ready to go to heaven after their earthly journey ends? I do not have a magic wand that can guarantee 100% spiritual success, but here are five fundamental needs of today’s young saints.
1) They need to see good examples from adult Christians.Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do...”(Phil. 4:9).We who are older owe it to our younger brothers and sisters to set the same kind of example that Paul did.As the same apostle instructed Titus, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works...”(Titus 2:7), so our lives ought to be an exemplary model for our youth. As we teach them God’s truth, we must also live it in our own lives (Rom. 2:21-23).
2) They need to be loved.That is a basic human need at each stage and age of life. Our youth may never directly say to us, “Please love me,” but, in fact, they have a tremendous need to be on the receiving end of agapelove —the kind of love that wants what is best for them. They need to know that we really care for them; yes, that we will very gladly spend and be spentfor them (2 Cor. 12:15). They deserve to be encouraged and complimented for good efforts.Because our heart truly longs for them to have the most fruitful life in Jesus (Col. 1:10), we must be committed to telling them what they need to hear for their personal and spiritual development. That includes discipline in two phases: first, education about proper conduct in God’s sight, and second, when needed, a word or action that warns or rebukes. Jesus rebukes and chastens those whom He loves (Rev. 3:19). There are times when our youth need “tough love,” but let us always approach them with respect and compassion.
3) They need to be given opportunities to use and develop their talents.Servants of the Lord, at every age level, have abilities. As the Parable of the Talents shows (Matt. 25:14-30), our Lord wants us to use (for His glory) the abilities and blessings which He has placed in our hands. Yes, He wants us to be faithful stewards (1 Cor. 4:1). Like those of us whose youthful days are a distant memory, young saints need to use and develop their talents. That takes time. It also takes experience, but one cannot gain experience unless he/she is granted opportunities. Let us make our greatest effort to get our youth involved in the work of the local church—involved in visiting widows, performing tasks around the church building, reaching out to members who have left their first love, distributing literature, leading in worship (if brothers), helping teach kids, and many other aspects of the Kingdom. Let us take time to work with them and train them. It will pay great dividends both now and in the future.
4) They need to develop close friendships with other faithful members of the Lord’s church.Studies indicate that when young disciples of Jesus have a close friendship with not just one, but several other young saints, they have a much higher probability of remaining faithful to the Lord through the trials of life that inevitably will come their way. While “evil company corrupts good habits” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33), it is equally true that close camaraderie with those of “like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1) can be a wonderful leavening factor, provide encouragement, and even supply “positive peer pressure” to keep a person from making foolish choices. Parents, you are making an invaluable investment in your children’s future when you provide them and their close Christian friends with opportunities to spend time together.
5) They need to develop their own personal faith.This is the key, brethren. It is not simply of major importance, it is the key! The Bible says our faithis what overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). The just/righteous live and please God by faith (Heb. 10:38,39). Since faith is produced by hearing God’s word (John 17:20;Rom. 10:17), then this must be the focus of our efforts! We must get our youth into God’s Book —teach them, indoctrinate them, ground them in the truth. The matters that have been mentioned above will be of no value unless a young sister or brother develops her/his own faith; not an inherited faith, but a personalfaith that is a blend of conviction and trust that leads to obedience.
Do you know what? As I look over the above list of the five things that I’ve scribbled down, I realize that I am far beyond the years of my youth, yet I have a lot in common with my youthful sisters and brothers —my spiritual needs are basically the same as theirs. That is correct. While I may have to face somewhat different challenges at this stage of my life, in reality, if I am going to serve my Lord faithfully, then my spiritual needs must be met —the very same needs that our youth have.
Hmm, I must be special too! Let us pray for our youth and support their efforts to live for the living God.