DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN HELL?

Sermon delivered February 24, 1996

by Pastor Don Gettys, McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Today we want to examine one of the hottest topics in the whole Bible. Today we are going to have a sermon on Hellfire and Brimstone. But this will not be the traditional sermon on this topic. You have heard those. I heard an evangelist one time giving a vivid description of the poor sinners down there, wherever down there is, suffering and sizzling and screaming in the flames, and the devil with his red tail and his horns stoking the fires and the angels dipping, the devil's angels, dipping the poor sinners into the hot pitch, or whatever. That's not the way it's going to be. And I, myself, have heard sermons in pulpits or on the radio where a preacher paints a mental picture of what hell is, and the ravages of the fire, and how it burns on and on and on, forever and ever, and even death can't release you from that, and even if you're unconscious, it can't release you from that. That's not true. It's not exactly that way.

One day near Christmas time, I was over here in the Hamilton Mall shopping with my wife. I had an occasion to go into the rest-room, and there I found a little pamphlet on hell. This pamphlet was a gospel pamphlet, and it was describing the ravages of this place and it said the little children of sinful parents are in hell today inside a red hot oven. Just hear how they scream to get out. See how they turn and twist in the flames. They will spend forever in that place. Is that the way we convert people? Is that the gospel?

And another time on television a famous protestant minister that you all know described hell and its torture and he said "Imagine how you would feel if after a million years of suffering and pain you were no more near coming to the end of that than the day that you started. Imagine that you would never be rescued from that torture chamber." I couldn't believe he would say that. And still another time, I attended a funeral over here in Apison, and I heard a protestant minister preach a sermon to a grieving family and he said, and I took notes, he said, "If you don't repent, you're all going to go to a place of torment, called hell, and there we will be burned with the eternal fire with nowhere to turn; we'd receive the vengeance of God, God would meet out an eternal punishment on sinners who did not join the church and did not accept baptism. I've looked at the way sinners behave and you would think hell was air- conditioned. There are no air-conditioners in hell. You had better repent before it come your turn to go to that place." What a funeral sermon that was!

Do we believe in hell? As Seventh-day Adventists, yes we do. Have we changed our belief on hell? No. Has the Bible changed? No, not exactly. Some churches change their doctrines. The World Wide Church of God, remember with Herbert W. Armstrong, they no longer emphasize the Sabbath. And Jehovah's Witnesses have given up the belief that anyone living in nineteen fourteen would live until Jesus came. They did that about a month or two ago. And another major denomination that I called yesterday, I said, "What is hell?" He said, "That is being absent from God. That's about all that is."

Well, do we still believe, do we believe in hell? Do we believe that hell burns forever and ever and ever? No we don't. Friends, I'm here to share some good news with you, and that is that hell has an end. It does not go on and on and on. Hell is actually is a big red stop sign which stand there and stops the seemingly endless journey of sin. It doesn't go on forever and ever, and the truth is that hell does not portray a God who is getting revenge on people that He hates. In fact, hell shows God's love. That's what it does. The truth is that hell is not burning today. The fire eventually goes completely out and that hell is a one-time event at the end of the world.

Let me show you some of this. Look at the favorite text of Christians everywhere, What is that text? John 3, verse what? Verse sixteen. Come over here to John 3:16. This is a beautiful text in the Bible. We read this, we gain strength from this, but it gives you a little insight about hell, too. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him might not, what? perish but have what? everlasting life." So here are two possible scenarios, now get this, your are either going to live forever or you're going to perish. Isn't that what John 3:16 is saying? That's the two choices. You're going to live forever or you are going to perish. That's what it says. He doesn't want us to perish, He wants us to have everlasting life. There's one or the other.

And Paul says in Philippians 3, verses 18 and 19, "The enemies of the cross, their destiny is destruction. That's their destiny. Destruction. And that is the strongest Greek word that Paul could possibly use. Destruction. Destruction will be the ultimate end of every sinner who does not come to Christ, does not repent and does not receive forgiveness in salvation. These sinner will entirely cease to exist. They will be destroyed. The will be gone. And this is diametrically opposed to the idea that you hear on the radio by some religious speakers. They say that you had better accept Jesus as your Savior or you are going to burn forever and ever and ever in the hot fires of hell.

So actually the way that they teach it, every body had eternal life. Now think about that. Isn't that what they're saying? Everybody has eternal life. You're either going to spend it in heaven or you're going to spend it in hell. That's not what the Bible teaches. Listen to God. Let's come over here to Romans six. Let's go to Romans the sixth chapter; a very very familiar text. Listen to what God is saying here. The last verse of Romans six. Sixth chapter and verse 23. It says, "for the wages of sin is.. " What? Okay, Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death. but..." Now listen to this second part of this verse; beautiful verse. I love Romans six, and this verse is very very special. The last verse, verse 23, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." So in other words, the wage of sin is death. What kind of death? Eternal death,. not eternal life. But the gift of God is life. What kind of life? Eternal life. So the wages if sin is eternal death and the gift of God is eternal life. And that's good news. The wage of sin is not torture. That's not what the Bible says. It doesn't say the wages of sin is torture. It says the wages if sin is death. Eternal death. Sinners who have died are actually in their grave waiting for their reward. And when will the rewards be passed out? Well, we come to the last page of the Bible. Revelation 22. Way here at the end, Revelation 22. Now these are the words of God, the words of our Savior. Jesus here is saying when He is coming. Revelation 22, and notice verse 12. Verse twelve. He says, "Behold, I am coming soon, my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." When are the rewards passed out? When He comes, right? That's when the rewards are passed out. When you graduate, when do you receive your diploma? At the end, when you graduate, when it's all over. When do you receive your rewards? Not when you die. ?This is what He says, "Behold, I am coming soon, my reward is with me and will give to everybody according to what he has done." The rewards are going to be passed out when He comes, not when we die. So, nobody... When a person dies, they don't go straight to hell if they were evil. The rewards are passed out when He comes. That's what the Bible says. At the end of the world. And those who ave accepted Jesus will be given eternal life, and those who have rejected Jesus will be given eternal death. They will be thrown into the lake of fire; they will be consumed, destroyed. And they will be destroyed, with what kind of fire? With eternal fire. That's what the Bible says. You can read that in various places in the Bible: Matthew 25:41 talks about eternal fire. What kind of fire is eternal fire? It's not like the fire we have on this earth today. Eternal fire is fire that comes from God. It burns something up, and only when that item is burned up will that flame go out. Your Bible is open to Revelation, go back one book in the Bible to Jude. Jude is an extremely short book of the Bible. Right before Revelation. Jude only has one chapter. So we're going to look at verse seven. Jude 7. It says, and he is talking about the great day of judgment, it says in verse six, so in verse seven, "In a similar way Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion, actually homosexuality is what a lot of it was. They serve as an example of what kind of fire? Eternal fire. So Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by what kind of fire? Eternal fire. So you can go to Sodom and Gomorrah today and they're still burning, right? No, that is not correct. They're not burning, in fact where are Sodom and Gomorrah today? They are in the southern end of the Dead Sea. Under swampy water. They're not burning today, in fact, I've been there and the guide said, "That's where Sodom and Gomorrah were." And I looked out there and it looked like they were pretty well covered with water when we were there. Not burning today. So how could they be destroyed with eternal fire if they are not burning today? Eternal fire, folks, is just fire that comes from God, it's sent from God, it does it's work and then it goes out. We can't put it out. But it consumes what it was intended to consume and then it goes out.

I used to be a volunteer fireman. Some of you, perhaps have done that. And heat is something that you wan to avoid. Have you ever gone outside on a hot summer day, blistering hot, and somebody says, "This heat is suffocating." And here it is only a hundred degrees, or a hundred and ten in the shade. Have you ever gotten into the inside of a burning house? I have. It's quite a sight in there. You're surrounded with flame. They sent us into a place to train us and then eventually I was in there several times on my own and it's not a fun place to be. But we were always told, "Whatever happens, never take a breath of that hot air, super-hot air. If you do it will sear, it will singe your lungs, and there is a very distinct possibility that you will never ever be the same, in fact you may die if you take a couple or three breaths of it. You can't live. How hot is hell? Well, I want you to go back a few more pages to Second Peter. This is just a very short distance from Jude. Second Peter. And I want us to look at how hot hell really is. Second Peter, chapter three, and verse ten. Now this is speaking about the day of judgment, about the day of God, about the day of the Lord. Verse ten says, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar. And the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." How hot is that fire? It says that the earth and the heavens will pass away, the elements shall melt with what kind of heat? Fervent heat. What's going to melt? The elements. Now that's pretty hot. I don't know what the elements are. I know one of them is iron. Isn't that an element? and how hot does iron have to get before it melts? several hundred degrees. But there are elements that melt at even higher temperatures. And this says that the elements, all of them shall, dozens of elements are going to melt in fervent heat. There's enough heat to burn up the entire world. That includes the very rocks. Can you burn up a rock? My match won't do it. A blowtorch won't burn up a rock. Hot enough to melt the very elements. Now if you've got enough heat to melt all those elements, Hell would have to be hot enough to be over ten thousand degrees fahrenheit. Now could you live.. How long could you live in two hundred degrees fahrenheit? How about 212, the temperature of boiling water? Could you live in a temperature like that? And how about ten thousand degrees? How long could you live? Now honestly, not long. I want you to go to the Old Testament now, the last book of the Old Testament, right before the book of Matthew. You can find the division between the Old and New Testaments. We're going to look at the last page of the Old Testament. Malachi chapter four, one of the last verses of the Old Testament, sort of like a conclusion here. Speaking about the Day of the Lord. Malachi chapter four, and notice verse one. Malachi 4:1. "Surely the day is coming, it will burn like a furnace. all the arrogant, every evil doer will be stubble, dry like straw, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord, Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left of them." Nothing will be left to them, not a root, not a branch, nothing. They will be like dry straw, they will be burned up, they will burn as a furnace. How long can you live in a furnace? In that flame. Not very long. Not very long at all. And there won't be anything left. Look at verse three, "Then you will trample down the wicked, they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things says the Lord Almighty." The wicked will be reduced to ashes won't they. They will no longer exist. They will be destroyed, consumed. And I want to say that that is a blessing.

Here's another tract that I received. We were at a place of business and this was laying there, and it says, "There is no fire escape in hell." I don't know why we think we can convert people by scaring them with hell. The way to convert somebody is to show them Jesus Christ. Not to try to scare them with fire. I feel like myself that hell is a demonstration of God's love. And let me tell you why. I met somebody not too long ago. I was visiting with a family and they told me of the loss of their father. He had been tragically killed and yet they didn't know where he was. Nobody could find him and they went out searching for this man. And they thought in their mind "if my daddy had died, I hope he did not suffer. Wouldn't you think that.. Wouldn't that be the first thought, you know, well if he has to die, I hope that he will not have to suffer. If you see an animal suffering, and you know that animal can't live, maybe a squirrel flopping on the road. What's the first thing you want to try to do, is relieve his suffering. Every human feels that way, that's normal. And that's how God feels. God does not want to prolong the agony. God does not want us to suffer any more than we want our loved ones to suffer because God is love. God is fair.

There's a new book out called, Gehenna. It's by Paul Figpen. It's a fictional thriller book and it tells about this horrible journey that some man goes down through the various layers of hell, and there it pictures the judge like a giant demon that sits at a judicial bench which reminds you of an electric chair. When sinners come before him he grabs them and tosses them into hell and they ignite in the air and they go in there and they are tortured for ever and ever.

Why is it? The Bible never pictures that picture. God is just. God is love. And God is fair. Let me ask you parents. You parents know that when your little boy or your little girl does something wrong that punishment should not exceed the crime. If your little boy is warned, "Don't spill anything in this table cloth," and he spills the juice on the table cloth. You probably shouldn't even spank him. Some parents would want to spank him, but if you were to spank him five hours for spilling juice on the table cloth, that's all out of proportion to what that little boy did. The spanking should be in proportion to what the child did. And a spanking that lasts longer that necessary, what does it do? What does it build into that child? It builds a spirit of rebellion in that child. It builds a hardness, a hatred in that child. And if God were to extend hell to last forever and ever and ever and ever, imagine the hatred that would be built up in one corner of the universe. I can't imagine that. God is love.

Let's read our scripture reading that was read by Elder Don Crook, let's read this over here in Revelation 21. I want to emphasize this. This is so beautiful. This is the outcome God wants everyone of us to have. He wants us not to worry about whether there is a fire escape in hell. He doesn't want is to worry about whether hell is air-conditioned. He wants us to turn to Jesus Christ our Savior, and give our heart to Him and experience a brand new world.

Now look what happens here in Revelation, chapter 21. "I saw a new heaven and a new earth." Isn't that great? What happened to the old heaven and the old earth? The old earth was burned up in the fire. "The first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea." No more big oceans. Verse 2, "I saw the Holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." Isn't that nice that God does that? He makes that city look so good. In verse 3, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and they will live with Him and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.'" And I love verse 4. And verse 4 could not be true if there was a hell that was burning for ever and ever and ever and ever. It says, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Nobody any where will be crying. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying, or pain. There will be no more pain, anywhere. No more pain. Not even in hell. And if you believe that hell lasts for ever and ever and ever then this verse could not be true. Not if countless people are writhing in agony all through the endless ages.

And how would you feel, by the way, if your son doesn't make it to heaven? And you believe that he's in hell and he's suffering and God is stoking the fires and he's being tormented and tortured fore ever and ever and ever. Could you enjoy heaven? I couldn't. Praise God hell lasts a very short time. The fire goes out. The wicked are destroyed. What is the purpose of hell? To cleanse the world of sin. To get rid of the devil. To get rid of all evidence of sin.

And by the way, the devil is not in charge of hell. Joe Crewz had a little pamphlet about that. And who could think that would keep such a crooked, low-down, demon on the payroll throughout all of eternity just to make him the general superintendent of the hot place? God would not do that. The purpose of hell-fire is to rid the universe of sin. And the devil will be burned up in that fire, and all of his evil angels and all of his followers. Not a trace of sin will exist anywhere. The cleansing inferno gets rid of sin once and for all. And then, God's people, let me tell you, they live happily for ever after, because there is no more devil, there is no more sin. In Revelation, the whole twentieth chapter describes how this happens during the millennium. At the end of the millennium the wicked who number as the sands of the sea come and they surround the New Jerusalem and they try to attack the New Jerusalem and at that point fire falls from God, eternal fire, and devours the wicked. It burns them up. And that is hell. That is the lake of fire. And in several places in the Bible it says it happens in one day. It's a short time. It's over. The ashes cool off. The world is re-created. And the New Earth comes. And sin and sinners are forever and totally destroyed. God re-creates this world brand new. This is Paradise, the Garden of Eden restored. All of our loved ones that were faithful to Jesus, gave their hearts to Jesus are restored to us and you can be there in that new world. You can be there. Nobody has to be lost. If you repent of your sins, if you look to Jesus, if you accept Jesus as your Savior, if you love Jesus, you will be in His kingdom.

And I think we don't so much have a hell to shun, but we have a heaven to gain. And the way to heaven is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." And if you come to Jesus you're going to be saved.

Now I want to conclude by reading John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that," what did He do? "He gave His only begotten Son that whoever," does what? Whoever believes in Him, "might not PERISH but might have everlasting life."

Our goal today is to look to Jesus, and we don't have to worry about the hot place. We want to be concerned about the happy place. About heaven. That is our future, that is our goal, and we reach that goal through Jesus Christ.

Let us bow our heads in prayer. "Dear Father in heaven, I thank you for Jesus. I thank you that He is the Way of escape. That He has prepared a home for us. And I pray that each of us would give our heart to Jesus just now. If there is somebody here today that had not accepted Christ as their Savior, I pray that right now through the drawing power of the Holy Spirit that this individual would give their heart to you. Help us to look forward to that day when we will see Jesus coming in the clouds of glory to take us home, and may we be faithful to Him I pray in His wonderful and precious name, Amen."



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