Hell: A Subject not to be Avoided

We come today to study the subject that is most avoided by pastors and teachers, and one that we would all rather avoid if possible, that is the topic of Hell. The story has been told of C. S. Lewis’ listening to a young preacher’s sermon on the subject of God’s judgment on sin. At the end of his message, the young man said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” After the service, Lewis asked him the question, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to Hell?” “Precisely,” was his response. “Then say so,” Lewis replied.”[1] Even though we may be uncomfortable in studying it, the topic is important for all of us.

Some would say, “Can’t we just bypass the topic of Hell?” Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, “Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who delivers you from them.” It is possible that some people avoid the issue of Hell because they want to view death as the end, when it is just the beginning. When we truly understand what is at stake, i.e. what was our destiny without Christ, we will much more appreciate what Christ has done for us at the cross.

There is a great deal of interest today in the topic of life after death and near-death experiences. It is not hard to find a book on the subject. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, in his book, To Hell and Back, researching near-death experiences, reports that some people experienced Hell, but had the memory of it repressed in a few days’ time. He said that, as a general rule, people remember that which is good and forget that which is bad, and so, if the interview is delayed just a little bit, days, weeks or months later, only the positive experiences will be found.

Dr. Rawlings tells the story of a young man who recounted his experience to him after an operation to insert a pacemaker into his heart. He told Dr. Rawlings what he saw and experienced, which he considered to be hell. He states that he saw a tunnel which led to light, then the tunnel caught fire. He had the sensation of moving fast toward a lake of fire, which looked to him like an oil spill on fire. He saw elongated shadows of people that were moving back and forth, like animals do that are caged in a zoo. The man called out “Jesus is Lord” and then suddenly, he was aware that he was back in his body.

Dr. Rawlings also gives an account of giving CPR to a patient who had also had a pacemaker installed, and who was in the throes of death. The patient kept coming back, slipping in and out of consciousness, and pleaded with Dr. Rawlings to pray for him, as he cried out that he was in hell. Dr. Rawlings did not want to pray for the man because he was not yet a believer himself, but finally because of the man’s distress, he did give the man a prayer to pray. He asked Jesus Christ to keep him out of hell. The man immediately calmed. He was no longer a screaming lunatic. Dr. Rawlings states that this incident impacted him so much that he gave his life to Christ. Dr. Rawlings is not a theologian or a minister; rather, he is an unbiased doctor who has written the findings of the patients he has resuscitated.

There are many people who claim to have had near-death experiences, but there is no way that we can really know for sure which ones are valid. It is reasonable to assume that, if God allowed Paul to be caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), and if Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father before he died (Acts 7:55), then there may be those today who have been permitted to have a glimpse of what lies beyond this life.

Our faith, however, must rest on God’s Word and not an experience. After all, there are those who would have us believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs or regardless of the life they lived, will be welcomed by brilliant light and ushered into a peaceful eternity. However, this does not agree with what we are told in Scripture. Jesus personified both love and truth. He did not hold anything back from His disciples, and we should not avoid this topic, for none of us wants to go there. Over the next few days we will talk about what the Holy Scriptures say about this topic.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Taken from: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/Hell.html

We Shall Be Changed

We are continuing to meditate on 1 Corinthians 15, the topic of the Resurrection Body (scroll down for other meditations), exploring as to what it will be like. When that Day comes, that which God has been shaping us to be on the inside by His Spirit, will be revealed. It won’t be the same as our old nature; Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (Verse 50). It will no longer be perishable but imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:53). We won’t all sleep; (not all Christians will die and be separated from their bodies). Those who are still alive at the coming of Christ will be transformed instantly without going through the experience of death. When Christ comes, in a flash, in the wink of an eye’s time, we will be changed from having a perishable body to being clothed with an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul the apostle writes in a different place about this transformation of our bodies:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

This word that is translated transform is the Greek word Metaschēmatizō. It is a construction of two Greek words. Meta means a change of place or condition, and schēma means shape, or outward form. To transform, change the outward form or appearance of something, refashion, reshape.[1]

An imperishable body means that it won’t age or get sick. Our new bodies will be glorious all of the time. You will always have youthful strength and be radiantly beautiful with God’s glory radiating from you. I believe that just as Jesus walked through walls into the upper room where the door was locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), we will also be able to pass through walls and travel instantaneously, not bound by the physical realm. Our new bodies will not be limited to only one sphere of existence. We cannot comprehend this now, as we are limited to this dimension on earth,  but just as a huge, sprawling oak tree could not be compared to the seed from which it grows, our spiritual bodies will transcend what we can imagine. We do not have anything to compare it to.

Paul says that our new body will be like Christ’s glorious body (Philippians 3:20). This radiance that accompanies us will be both authoritative and beautiful. Jesus said that, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father (Matthew 13:43. Emphasis mine). Those that are Christ’s will command respect, a respect that is born of wisdom that is from above. There will be a kindness and joy that will be ours. It will also be a powerful body (1 Corinthians 15:43). I don’t think that this speaks only of strength, although that certainly will be part of it. I think that there will be a power and authority to work the miraculous just as Jesus did and still does. We will participate with Him to not only worship Him, but to do His will. Our bodies will be raised and we will see His face and be transformed into His image. Daniel the prophet also speaks of that time in this way:

1“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:1-3).

Daniel says that this will happen at a time when there will be a time of distress such as never before. But at that time everyone whose name is written in God’s book–will be delivered. I believe that what Daniel is talking about is the rapture of the saints at some time during the tribulation or time of distress. Daniel says that those who invest their lives to touch others for Christ, will be like the stars for ever and ever. I cannot comprehend what it would mean to shine like a star, but it sure sounds like a reward that would be wonderful, worth my effort and devotion to Christ in this life! That which God has been doing on the inside of you and through you will be made known and it will be glorious, the chrysalis of this old decaying body will put on an immortal body, just like our Lord’s. It will be time to go home! Graduation day at last! Far from being the end that we see when we look at the death of an earthly body, there will be a glorious new beginning which one day will manifest physically in a body like His own glorious resurrection body, for He is the First Fruit, and we shall be like Him. May you be found in Him in that day, and worship with us.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1651.

Part 2. The Seed of the Body (Scroll further down for Part 1)

We are continuing in our meditation of what the resurrection body will be like. Paul the apostle wrote using the analogy of a seed and a plant in his first Corinthian letter (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). He wrote about Adam, the first man, being a living seed to bear all of us in his image. He then went on to say that the Last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit (Verse 45). Paul had already written earlier that what happened to Adam happened to us all. He was representative of all of us because he was the federal head of the human race. It may not seem fair for all of his progeny to inherit his sin nature, because the life of that seed, Adam’s sin nature, was passed to all of us. But Christ has come Himself to be the federal head for all who receive His full pardon. In this way, God brings new life through another seed, one that is perfect and free from sin. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Just as Adam gave us our physical body, and with it, our sin nature, Christ also gives us this seed of new life planted in our hearts. He came to give us life!

The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

The body that is sown in the ground is completely different from the one raised. Our resurrection body will be raised imperishable, which means that it cannot perish. It will not wear out, grow old or ever get sick or diseased. Just as we received life in the physical realm from Adam, our forefather, so Christians receive spiritual life from the last Adam. Christ is called the Last Adam, to say that we should not expect another. As we have put on Adam’s likeness, thanks be to God, we will also put on the likeness of the glory of Christ.

50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

Oh, how I long for that Day to arrive. Death has been conquered by our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to His glorious name!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

The Seed of the Body (Part 1)

We are continuing our thoughts on what the Resurrection body is like that we are given at the coming of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). The apostles John and Paul wrote about this transformation in this way:

  1. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
  2. Just as our physical life was inherited from Adam in that we became like him, in the same way we will also be like the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the Resurrection: 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  3. But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that there will be varying degrees of glory between believers that occurs at this change (vv. 38-42). He likens it to differing degrees of brightness between planetary stars and planets. Our physical bodies have been created by God to live in the physical realm, however, this body is to be redeemed and changed into the spiritual and physical body that God has planned for us to put on. Those who are Christ’s will shine with God’s glory according to how much of the character of Christ is in us.

The life that we received from Adam, is not enough for us to enter this heavenly kingdom without this addition of the life we receive from Christ—the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). I believe that God’s plan for redeemed humanity, the Church of the Living God, is for the saints to be able to live in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm, just as Christ did in the 40 days after His resurrection. Christ Jesus has not left His body on Earth somewhere; He abides in heaven with a physical yet spiritual resurrected body. Isn’t that true of Enoch, the man of God? God enjoyed his company so much that he took him up to heaven in his physical being: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).

We are told the same thing of Elijah. He, too, was taken up to heaven still clothed with his physical body (2 Kings 2:11). Some say that Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses that are mentioned as testifying to the world’s sin as mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:3). These two individuals have yet to die once (Hebrews 9:27), so it is possible that they come from heaven to testify of God’s grace and then are killed. Of course, three and a half days later God raises them from the dead much to the anger of Antichrist’s followers (Revelation 11:11). Spiritual life only comes at the death of the physical seed planted; the Lord Jesus Christ was that heavenly spiritual seed that gave His life for us as a seed:

23Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:23-25).

We’ll carry on this thought of the seed of the body tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

Going Home

1“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3).

There is something special about coming home. All of us have experienced what it is like after being away, whether for vacation, work, or some other reason, to come home to what is familiar. There are sounds, smells, and visual reminders when we walk back into our familiar surroundings. It is a very comforting feeling, the feeling of being at home. We even say, about some relationships, that we feel “at home” with a person. What we really mean is, that person makes us feel like we can kick back and be ourselves, like we are when we are at home. I am reminded as I write this, that today, there are many people all over the world who have been forced to leave their homes, forced to leave family in some cases, and all that they hold dear. Everyone should have a place of rest, a place to call their home. Jesus promised us, before He left this earth, that He went to prepare such a place for us. A place where we will dwell with Him, a home like no other. The home we have known in this life, no matter how humble, or how grand, will pale in comparison to what He has prepared for those who are His.

There is the story of an old missionary couple, the Morrison’s, who were finally returning to America after serving Christ as missionaries in Africa. On the same ship was Teddy Roosevelt, the American president at the time, who was returning from an African Safari. Bands and parades were going on in New York as everybody turned up at the dock to welcome Teddy as his transatlantic liner came alongside the quay. The crowds and press were waiting just to catch a glimpse of Teddy finally returning home. The Morrison’s were despondent as they left the port that day as they had little money, only enough for a very simple apartment. Henry was quite sad as he saw the welcome that Teddy Roosevelt received. He told his wife that something had to be wrong, as they had given 40 years of their lives for Christian missionary work, and no one cared enough even to come to the dock to welcome them home. His wise wife told him to go to the Lord in prayer about it. A little while later he returned, with a beaming smile on his face, having been reminded by the Lord, “You are not home yet, Henry.”

If you ever grow weary of this life, remind yourself, “You’re not home yet.” Likewise, if you grow complacent because of an easy lifestyle and put all of your resources and effort into enjoying the comforts of this life, think about this: This is not all there is. This is not your eternal home. This life is just for a short while.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

If you have placed your trust in Christ, the time will come when the Lord will come for us, and we will pull out our tent pegs and collapse the tent, either at departure from the body (death) or when our Master and Lord will return for us according to His promise in the scriptures above.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas