Robert Jeffress - Answers To Those Who Who Say "Hell? No!" - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Christianity contains all sorts of hateful and intolerant beliefs. At least that's what their critics like to claim. For example, they don't like God's view on homosexuality or the exclusivity of salvation. To them the Bible seems intent on offending people. Well, perhaps the most offensive Christian belief of all is what the Bible teaches about hell. So today we're going to look at four reasons why nonbelievers are so outraged by the idea of eternal judgment. My message is titled, "Answers to Those Who Say, 'Hell? No!'" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Few years ago, I wrote a book entitled, "Hell? Yes! And other outrageous truths you can still believe" and in that book I talked about some of the truths that I shared with you last week about the reality of hell. Well, the reactions to the book have been mixed. Some people were very kind in what they had to say about the book, others were not so kind.
In fact, this week, I went out to amazon.com to just see what some people had said about my book. And one headline caught my attention from a reader in North Carolina. He called it, and the headline was, "The Worst Book Ever Written". And this is what he said about your pastor, wasn't what he said. He said, "Reading this book for some three hours was a total waste of my time. Jeffress is a hard line Christian fundamentalist who has a perverse view of God and salvation altogether. He thinks that it is just for someone to burn in hell for all eternity just because he didn't accept some stupid religious doctrine about Christ paying the penalty for your sins. God would have never been so narrow-minded and cruel as Jeffress portrays him to be. I hope Jeffress will be the one who suffers eternal punishment for writing such a horrible book that blasphemes the true nature of God and Jesus Christ".
How's that for tolerance? You know, although it is politically incorrect to say, it is never the less true, and that is that God still sends people, even good people, to hell. And that's not a popular truth, not just among unbelievers but even among believers. Why is it that people get so enraged, inflamed about this doctrine of hell? Jesus certainly talked about it. And yet in spite of everything that Jesus said about hell, there are people today who reject the doctrine of hell. Today, we're going to look at four of the most common arguments against hell and then we're going to discover what the Bible says to those who say, "Hell? No!"
I want you to have your Bibles ready and your outlines ready as we look at the four most common arguments against the doctrine of hell. First of all, the number one argument against hell is God is too loving to send people to hell. Have you heard that before? God is too loving to send people to hell. Clark Pinnock, the theologian framed objection well when he said, "How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness as to inflict everlasting torture upon his creatures however sinful they may have been"? And then Pinnock concludes that a God who would do such a thing is quote, "More like Satan than like God".
How could a God of love inflict such cruel punishment on people simply because they haven't believed the right things? You know, underneath that objection are two fatally flawed presuppositions. The first flawed presupposition is that God is as tolerant of sin as we are. You know, in our culture, the greatest virtue is to be tolerant of other people's behavior. In fact, our teenagers, if you ask teenagers today, what is the worst character trait of all? They'll say, "To be judgmental of other people". They've been taught through the media and in their schools that you are not to judge other people's behavior no matter how wrong or perverse it is, that the worst thing to do is to judge somebody else.
And so in our culture, we celebrate overlooking people's flaws. But, ladies and gentlemen, the reason we are able to tolerate other people's sinfulness, the reason we're able to tolerate our own sinfulness, is not because of our righteousness, it's because of our unrighteousness. The reason we excuse sin in the life of other people and in our own life is not because of our holiness, it's because of our unholiness. And we make a great mistake when we assume that God is just like we are. In fact, Psalm 50, verse 21, God himself says, "You thought that I was just like you". God is not like we are. God is vastly different than we are. And of all the ways that God is different than we are at the top of the list is his inability to tolerate sin, any sin. Back at one, verse 13, describes God as one whose eyes are too pure to approve evil and who cannot, quote, "Look on wickedness with favor".
I want you to think about God's relationship to his own son, Jesus, for just a moment. There is no one God loved more than his own son, Jesus Christ. And yet when Jesus came to earth and he willingly took on the sins of the world, that is your sins and my sins, how did God react? The Bible says God had to turn away from his son in disgust. In fact, that's why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? The reason is God's eyes were too pure to look on evil, even the evil that his son willingly took upon himself. But you know what? It doesn't stop there. God not only overlooked, he not only turned away from his son, he actually condemned his son. He poured out his harshest wrath and anger upon his own son, Jesus Christ, whom he loved with everything that he had. Because Jesus took on our sins, God had to judge that sin that Jesus took.
You know, one of the great misconceptions about God's forgiveness is that when God forgives us, it means he just overlooks our sin. He turns his head the other way. That's not true, a holy God can't do that. Nahum one, verse three says, "God will not allow the guilty to go unpunished" God must punish sin. And when Jesus Christ willingly took on our sins, he was making himself the scapegoat for our sins and that means God's holy nature demanded that he condemn, he pour out his anger and wrath on Jesus Christ. On cavalry, Jesus experienced hell so that we could experience heaven one day. But don't miss that first part, he experienced hell. He experienced the full blast of God's wrath and fury upon him.
Ladies and gentlemen, if the cross of Jesus Christ tells us anything, it tells us that God has a zero tolerance level for any kind of sin. Don't think and don't make the mistake of thinking, God is like we are. The second flaw in that God is too loving to send people to hell argument is the erroneous thought that people really aren't that bad. People aren't really that bad. Now, you know, it's interesting, you talk to people about hell, there have been a lot of surveys that have indicated many people believe that there is a hell, but it exists for people like Adolf Hitler, or Charles Manson, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or Saddam Hussein. We all say, "There ought to be a hell for people like that". But thankfully, we're not that bad, we don't deserve that kind of punishment. But what I want to say to you today is there is no difference in human beings as far as God's concerned. The difference between human beings and their behavior is negligible when it comes to a holy God.
Let me illustrate it this way. How many of you would say, there's a great distance between the north pole and the south pole? There's a lot of miles that separate the north pole from the south pole, aren't they? But that distance, that great distance, is relative when you consider the distance between the north pole and the sun, 93 million miles away. When you consider the distance from the earth to the sun, the distance between the north and south pole really is negligible. It's the same way with human beings. We think that there's this great chasm, this separation between Charles Manson and a Mother Teresa. We see this great gulf, God doesn't see that kind of a gulf. He says, we've all sinned. We've all fallen short of the glory of God. The difference between Charles Manson and Mother Teresa is negligible when you compare the distance between us and God's holiness. It's negligible. There isn't that much difference between human beings.
D.A. Carson says it correctly when he writes about the fact that most people will be in hell by their own choice, not by God's. He says, "Hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good people but they just didn't believe the right stuff. They're consigned there first and foremost, because they defy their maker and want to be at the center of the universe. Hell is not filled with people who have already repented, only God isn't gentle enough or good enough to let them out. Hell is filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defined rebellion. What's God to do? If he says it doesn't matter to him, then God is no longer a God to be admired. God's either amoral or positively creepy. For him to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce God himself".
A second argument people give for not believing in hell as they say, "Well, you know, hell is just too severe a punishment for wrong beliefs". It's too severe a punishment for wrong beliefs. Okay, pastor, I will admit God is holy, we're unholy, we've fallen short, but isn't God overreacting just a little bit if he sends people to a place of eternal torment? I mean, isn't that just a little bit over the top? Isn't hell too severe a punishment to people just because they don't believe the right things? To put this argument in sharper focus, are we really willing to say that a good moral muslim father who loves his kids, who tries to live a righteous life, are we really willing to say that that man is going to be condemned to an eternity of torture and suffering in the same way as a man who abuses, tortures, and butchers little children? Are we really willing to say that?
You see, it just seems too much to ask to say that people are going to go to hell just because they haven't believed the right things about Jesus. But you see, when we say that we really don't understand what a person is doing when he rejects or simply neglects the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not nearly as harmless as people would have you believe it is. In fact, I want to show you what a severe thing it is to reject or just neglect the gospel. Turn over to Hebrews chapter 10, verse 29 for just a moment. The writer of Hebrews is going to describe with three verbs what happens, what a person does, who rejects or neglects the gospel. He says in verse 29, "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under the foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has insulted the spirit of grace"?
First of all, underline the word trampled in verse 29. "He has trampled underfoot the Son of God". That Greek word trampled, katapateo, is a word that originally referred to what people would do with salt, once it had lost its saltiness, they would throw it out, they would discard it on the road. And people passing by would trample on that worthless salt. It was trampled. And when you reject Jesus Christ, what the writer is saying is you are treating the death of Jesus Christ as worthless. It is as worthless as salt that is no longer of any use. You are trampling underfoot the Son of God. Can you imagine what that does to God's heart to say, the death of his son was worthless. I think of a comment media mogul, Ted Turner, made years ago. When he said, "If Jesus Christ came to die for my sins, he need not have bothered. If having a few drinks and a few girlfriends is going to send you to hell, so be it". That's to treat the death of Christ as worthless.
Now that's bad enough, but he gets worse. He says, "Not only does a person who rejects or neglect Christ treated as worthless," but it says, "He is regarded as unclean, the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified". That word unclean is the word that was used to describe the non-Jews, the gentiles. They were called unclean. In fact, it was a word that was originally used to refer to dogs. You know, the gentiles were called dogs. As I've said before, it doesn't mean these pet poodles that we, you know, cuddle today. The word dogs referred to those scavenger, mangey, dirty, filthy dogs that would roam the streets of Jerusalem. Now that's the same word used here. And when a person says no to the gospel of Jesus Christ, what he is saying is the blood of God's own son has no more value than the blood of a mangey scavenger dog. It is unclean. It's unholy. It gets worse.
"A person who rejects and neglects the gospel, not only treats it as worthless, not only says it has no more value than the blood of a dog," notice what else happens, it says, "And he has insulted the spirit of grace". That word insult means to treat with spite, to insult. Perhaps this illustration will help you understand what he's getting at here. Imagine you're looking out your window one morning and you notice that your neighbor's yard is flooding with water. You realize there's a broken water pipe. And so you send your eight-year-old son over to tell your neighbor what's going on. So he walks across the street, your son knocks on the door, the neighbor opens the door, your son begins to explain to him the problem. And the neighbor says, "You snotty-nose, little kid, get out of here, I don't want to listen to you".
And so your son comes back and tells you what the neighbor said. You're insulted. But nevertheless, you don't want your neighbor to have to suffer from a flooded yard and an inflated water bill and so next you send your mate, your husband or wife to go over and warn him. Your mate goes over there, knocks on the door. The neighbor opens the door, sees your mate standing there and this time, calls your mate every filthy name in the book and says, "Get off my property or I'll have you arrested for trespassing".
Let me ask you, how are you going to respond to that? Your son has been insulted, your mate has been insulted. Do you feel any compelling need to say anything else to your neighbor? He has insulted you. Now, ladies and gentlemen, when a person, not just outrightly rejects the gospel and says, "I don't believe it". The person who says, "You know, I just really don't have time for that," or "That may be good enough for some people, but I don't need the blood of Christ to save me". That person has treated the blood of Christ as worthless, it said it's like a scavenger dog's blood, and not only that, he is continually insulting the Holy Spirit of God who is moving in his heart to cause him to repent and accept the gospel.
Now, the fact is every person who will occupy hell deserves to be in hell. They have rejected, they have neglected the death of Christ. Argument number three people make against hell is the idea that it's unfair to condemn those who have never heard the name of Jesus. It's just unfair for God to condemn those who have never heard the gospel. Haven't you heard that before? I bet people have asked you before. Well, what about the heathen in Africa, have you ever heard about that before? What about those who have never heard the gospel? It's unfair that God would send them to hell.
So let's put that argument too in sharp focus. Let's imagine there is a 10-year-old girl living in Africa who has never heard the gospel. Are we willing to say that she is going to be confined to an eternity of suffering and torment because she's never believed in a Christ in whom she has never heard? You know, some people would answer, well, just look at Romans 9, verse 14, there is no injustice in God. God's free to do whatever he wants to do and leave it at that. But I want us to probe this argument just a little bit and what's wrong with this argument. What's wrong with this argument that it's unfair for God to send people to hell who've never heard the gospel is, first of all, that argument assumes the innocence of the heathen. It assumes the innocence of the heathen. That is it assumes that that little 10-year-old girl is innocent and it would just be blatantly unfair for God to ever send her to hell. But is that what the Bible teaches? Does the Bible teach a 10-year-old girl is innocent before God?
Now, I want you to fasten your seat belts for just a moment because I'm going to shake some of you up, okay? You know, we Baptist have concocted this term we call the age of accountability. The age of accountability, how many of you have heard of the age of accountability before? And we have twisted that idea to say, now people, before they reach a certain age, they're innocent. They're not accountable before their sins before God. Is that true? Does the Bible teach that there's anybody born into this world who is innocent? No, the Bible says we are born into this world guilty. Every person born into this world is born not innocent, we are born guilty.
Romans 5:12 clearly says, for through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and death spread to all men, why? Because all men sinned, past tense. We're guilty not because we sin, but because we all sinned. In some inexplicable way when Adam sinned, the whole race fell. And that means every one of us has inherited a sin virus. You'll say, "Oh, Robert, you can't tell me that little precious baby who's born into the world, you're saying that baby is sinful"? Listen to what the Word of God says. The evidence that every one of us has been born with that sin virus is the fact that we die. "For through one man, Adam, sinned entered the world and death spread to all men because all sinned".
The fact that people die is evidence that they have received the virus of sin. Let me ask you, do babies die? Yes. Do children die? Yes. Do mentally-handicapped people die? Yes. Everyone has inherited the sin virus, everybody is guilty. Now let me be quick to say, I do believe babies do go to heaven. I believe children who cannot grasp the gospel or adults, mentally-handicap people who can't grasp the gospel, I believe they go to heaven but it's not because they're not guilty. The mercy of Jesus Christ somehow saves those people. But the fact is we are all born into this world guilty.
Romans 3 says, there is not one righteous among us. No, not even one. For all of us have sinned and all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. And ladies and gentlemen, when you understand that truth that we're all guilty before God, the question is no longer, why doesn't God save everybody. The real question is, why does God save anybody? If we're all born into this world, pronounced guilty, read Romans 1-3 if you don't believe we're all pronounced guilty. If we're all pronounced guilty, and we're all on death row awaiting our final execution, why does God save anybody? It is only because of his mercy.