Category Archives: Hell

Filling In For His Own

At The CrossHe approached me just minutes before church stated (and therefore a scant 20 minutes before Sunday School) to inform me that he didn’t feel like teaching that day. He and I, along with another lady, rotated teaching the Junior High Sunday School class, each of us teaching every third Sunday. As lead teacher, I also served as the substitute when either of the others couldn’t (or in this instance, wouldn’t) teach.

Dictionary.com defines the word “substitute” this way:

 
noun
1.

a person or thing acting or serving in place of another.
2.

(formerly) a person who, for payment, served in an army or navy in the place of a conscript.
3.

Grammar. a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words or constructions, as do in He doesn’t know but I do.
 
verb (used with object), substituted, substituting.
4.

to put (a person or thing) in the place of another.
5.

to take the place of; replace.
6.

Chemistry. to replace (one or more elements or groups in a compound) by other elements or groups.
 
verb (used without object), substituted, substituting.
7.

to act as a substitute.
adjective
8.

of or pertaining to a substitute or substitutes.

9.

composed of substitutes.
 

The Bible teaches that, in dying for the sin that would rightly condemn you and me, Jesus willingly died in our place! Scholars refer to His act as the “substitutionary atonement” to emphasize that He accepted the punishment for crimes that we (being born sinners) commit against God. This article on the GotQuestions.org website begins with the following summary of the doctrine:

The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Scripture supports the premise that Jesus died as our Substitute, as you’ll discover if you read the GotQuestions.org article for yourselves. I’d like to highlight just one of the Scriptures involved in this doctrine. I particularly like this two-verse passage because the second verse offers the practical implication of Christ dying the death that you and I deserve.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~~1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

Of course, we balk at the truth that, as born sinners, we actually deserve God’s wrath. For that reason  it’s difficult for us to grasp the fact that Jesus bore the horrible judgment that rightfully belongs to you and me. If you resist the truth that you’re completely incapable of earning God’s acceptance through your own efforts, I beg you to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Bible.  Once He convinces you of your spiritual bankruptcy, you can rejoice that He went to the cross as your substitute!

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The Gospel: Pure And Simple

3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times.  As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and tree days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and  myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

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The Grace Of Condemnation

At The CrossDeuteronomy narrates Moses’ final instructions to Israel before Joshua led them across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. The generation that had followed him out of Egypt all died in the wilderness (except for Joshua and Caleb) because of their unbelief and rebellion, making it necessary for Moses to administer God’s Law a second time. Moses would die on Mount Horeb, but not before equipping Israel to live lives of holiness in the land God gave them.

I say all that to give you context for a passage I read the other day.

24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death! 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.” ~~Deuteronomy 31:24-29 (ESV)

As we said yesterday, God’s Word often brings us discomfort, if not outright pain, by testifying to our innate sinfulness. Verse 26 especially makes this point. The Lord had just shown Moses that Israel would ultimately rebel so badly that heathen nations would take them into captivity (see Deuteronomy 29:22-28), giving Moses a desire to warn then that God’s Law would convict them when they rebelled.

Perhaps I’m strange, but I see God’s grace in verse 26. Yes, God’s Law bears witness to our sinfulness,  but in so doing it also enables us to understand our need for Christ. As the apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Galatians, the Law functioned as a tutor, or manager, guarding until the grace of God would appear.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ~~Galatians 4:1-7 (ESV)

The harsh conviction of the Law causes us to welcome the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although it indeed stands as a condemning witness against us, it allows us to rejoice that He generously redeemed us from its curse.

Reading Deuteronomy 31:26 earlier this week reminded me that, despite how greatly God’s Law witnesses to my sinfulness, the Lord declares me righteous because Jesus died as my substitute, bearing the penalty for my sin. For that reason  I love the very Law that would, left by itself, damn me to hell, knowing that God used it to bring me to Himself.

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Back To Where We Were

liberal-religionMainstream churches, back in the early 70s, generally preached a watered-down imitation of Christianity. Okay, I’ll rephrase that statement. The mainstream churches my friends and I attended made serious theological compromises, elevating the more palatable ideas of Scripture and ignoring (if not blatantly denying) the uncomfortable ones. Jesus, having a unique connection to God which could perhaps verify His deity (though only as far as dutifully assenting to Chapter 2 of the Westminister Confession), came off as a little more than a social martyr, slightly higher in rank than Ghandi. His resurrection, I was taught, was more figurative than literal, unless I wanted it to be literal, and served mainly as a reminder to love others.

Going to church made me feel holy…whatever that word meant. It allowed for my flirtations with astrology, yoga and even Buddhist philosophy. Jesus, after all, was loving and tolerant.

For all that (perhaps because I’d made a vague connection between religion and morality), I believed hell existed. I didn’t think many people would actually go there, other than Judas Iscariot, Hitler and Lee Harvey Oswald. Well, sometimes, I feared going there when I said a swear word. But my church never seemed to take hell seriously. Perhaps that’s why they never seemed able to give a satisfactory explanation of why Jesus died on the cross, or what qualified Him to be called Savior. I was actually told that what I believed about God didn’t matter, as long as I subscribed to some sort of religion. If not religion, spirituality of some sort. So questions of hell and salvation had little meaning. In essence, then, I grew up as a “Christian Universalist.”

When I heard the gospel, and committed my life to the Lord, I did so out of deep conviction that 1) hell existed, 2) I deserved to be there and 3) Jesus died on the cross in my place so that I could go to heaven, I was deeply disturbed that few church-going people really believed Jesus claim that no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). As time progressed, however, liberal churches seemed less prevalent, and most people had an understanding that Christians (at least evangelical Christians) took the Bible seriously.

When the “Emerging Church” started, I paid little attention, though sometime around 1997 I came into contact with evangelicals who had liberal views on sexual morality. Then I noticed other compromises, particularly a disdain for doctrine. Doctrine, they said, destroyed Christian unity, and was therefore to be avoided. Love (the “tolerant” love of progressives that is decidedly intolerant of anything conservative) became the authoritative grid through which we interpret Scripture, and truth is subjective.

Which leaves me wondering if the evangelical church has become the church of my childhood. I pray not.

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Hey Jude –Prophesied Judgment

Bible Mask MedievalToday’s two verses intimidated me so much that I wanted to declare a “Christmas vacation” from our study of Jude’s epistle. Really, not a mark of Christian maturity! Thankfully, the Lord encouraged me through my preparation time this morning, to the point that I now feel excited about showing you what I’ve learned (and encouraging you to dig deeper into this book for yourselves).

We’ll look at verses 14 and 15 in this week’s Bible Study, but of course I’ll quote them within their immediate context (hoping you’ll read the entire letter for overall context):

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. ~~Jude 8-16 (ESV)

As you read verse 14,  the matter of Enoch’s prophecy should jump out at you. Moses’ account of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24 says precious little about Enoch. Yet Genesis 5:24 indicates that his holiness was so great that God took him into heaven without having him go through death. Hebrews 11:5 adds only that God commended Enoch for pleasing Him.

So where did Jude get this prophecy of Enoch? The commentaries I read all had slightly different answers, and none of them felt certain about those answers. But (and this is important) nearly all of them emphasized that, whatever the means, the  Holy Spirit revealed this prophecy to Jude and inspired him to include it in this letter. Therefore, even through Moses didn’t record the prophecy, we can trust its veracity.

The prophecy begins by declaring that the Lord comes. This statement implies that He is bringing judgment, and is strengthened by the phrase, “with ten thousands of His holy ones.” Although the “holy ones” could refer to the saints (Christians who have died) who will return with Christ as seen in 1 Thessalonians 3:13), passages like Matthew 13:49-50 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 clearly teach that angels execute judgment.

In fact, the prophecy continues in verse 15 by stating explicitly that the  Lord comes  with His holy ones “to execute judgment on all.”  Most of the commentaries took the position that this phrase indicated universal judgment. While its true that Christians will have to account for our service for Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15), John MacArthur reminds us that Jesus promised immunity from judgment to those who would believe in Him (look at John 5:24).

Look back at Jude 14 for a second and notice the phrase, “It was also about these that Enoch…prophesied.” Jude asserts that Enoch predicted judgment specifically on the apostate teachers that this epistle denounces. Thus, in verse 15, the judgment will convict, or pass sentence on, these ungodly teachers. To be precise,  these teachers will be convicted, not merely for performing ungodly actions, but for doing so in ungodly ways (as Jude showed us in verses 8-13). Furthermore, God will convict them of their blasphemies.

Praise the Lord for His justice to deal with false teachers! But praise Him even more for His mercy on true  believers! Enoch’s prophecy should drive us to gratitude that the shed blood of Jesus Christ shields us from the consequences of our own ungodliness.

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Hey Jude –Five Pictures From Nature

jude-12-treeGod’s creation teaches us so many wonderful things about Him. Psalm 19:1, for example, says that the heavens declare His handiwork, and Jesus appeals to God’s care of birds and  flowers in Matthew 6:25-30 in order to teach us  not to worry. I love these Scriptures for helping me see His hand in nature.

Jude, in verses 12-13 of his epistle, draws on nature in a different way. He uses five examples from nature to demonstrate the corruption and ultimate emptiness of false teachers. Look at these two verses within the context of their immediate paragraph:

8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.   ~~Jude 8-13 (ESV)

Better yet, open your own Bible, and read Jude’s entire letter (it’s only 25   verses) to get complete context. Remember that context gives us the first, and most reliable, means of interpreting Scripture.

Let’s discuss these five illustrations of Jude’s, and how they apply to apostate teachers. To begin with, Jude reiterates that these people mingle with true believers. Look back at verse 4, which states that they’ve “crept in unnoticed.” Their unnoticed presence in the assembly causes Jude to liken them, in verse 12, to “hidden reefs.” This image conjures up the idea of offshore rocks that, because sailors can’t detect them,  cause shipwreck. The presence of false teachers in a church, if left unchecked, can cause an entire church to run aground.

Momentarily, Jude steps away from his nature illustrations to charge that the false teachers “feast with you without fear.” By saying this, he means that they lack reverence for the Lord’s Supper. Notice how he doubles down on his indictment of them by calling them “shepherds feeding themselves.” He deliberately targets false teachers who “minister” for personal gain.

Apparently angered by the thought of how apostate teachers exploit undiscerning Christians, Jude returns to his illustrations from nature, naming the last four in rapid succession, as if to emphasize the appropriateness of their condemnation.

Jude calls the apostates “waterless clouds, swept along by winds” to indicate that they can’t produce anything real because they have no stability themselves. (See Ephesians 4:14 and Proverbs 25:14.) In our own day, certainly, we see a variety of evangelical celebrities caught up in popular doctrinal error, teaching all sorts of bogus theologies that have no Biblical substance.

Accordingly, Jude then compares false teachers to “fruitless trees in late autumn,” producing absolutely nothing.For all their clever words and pretended application of spiritual principles, the neither exhibit the fruit of the Spirit nor lead others to fruitful Christian lives.

As a matter of fact, he insists, they are “twice dead, uprooted.” Unlike most autumn trees, they have no hope of  being restored to productivity.  These apostates seal their damnation. They’re thoroughly dead!

Jude continues his scathing diatribe in verse 13, perhaps borrowing the image of “wild  waves” from Isaiah 57:20. Their seemingly powerful billowing breaks into nothing but  foam. They are, as Believers Bible Commentary puts it, “ungovernable, boisterous, and furious. For all their noise and motion, there is nothing to show but the foam of their shame. They glory in what they should be ashamed of and leave nothing of substance and value behind.”

Finally, Jude calls apostates “wandering stars.” In other words, he depicts them as meteors, or comets. He contrasts them with the fixed constellations that assist in navigation.  Stars, of course, are necessary for proper navigation. But false teachers, like shooting stars, are unreliable navigational tools. They don’t move in the regulated orbits of Scriptural truth.

Their end is eternal darkness, going back to verses 5-7. As we will see next week, the Lord executes judgment on false teachers justly, condemning them for their persistent rebellion against Him.

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Saturday Sampler: October 16 — October 22

balloon-turtle-samplerI largely avoid the topic of politics in this blog because I want to keep the emphasis on the Lord Jesus Christ. However, submission to Him certainly affects how I’ll mark my ballot this year. So Stephen Altroggie’s excellent essay in The Blazing Center, Why I’m Willing To “Waste” My Vote, reassured me that I’m doing the right thing for the  right reasons.

Ryan Higginbottom makes an excellent point about personal Bible Study on the Knowable Word blog with his article, Not Every Interesting Detail is Important. As I’ve been writing my study on Jude, I’ve realized the impotence of focusing on the main message.

In a blog post for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis reminds us of The Grotesque Reality of Apostasy, based on Hebrews 10:26-31. This isn’t a pretty article to read, but it helps us take our commitment to Christ seriously. Please don’t skip over this one.

Doctrine can always lead us to deeper worship. For that reason, I appreciate Erin Benziger’s blog entry on Do Not Be Surprised, Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation.

Writing for Satisfaction Through Christ, Lisa Morris asks the rhetorical question, Why Do We Study Everything But the Bible for Bible Study? Not only does Lisa answer this question, but she  encourages women to open their Bibles and study them directly before picking up Bible Study books (or blogs). After you do some study on your own, however, you might augment your  study by visiting her personal blog, Conforming to the Truth.

If you’re married or engaged, you’ll find Michelle Lesley’s article, 9 Ways NOT to Fight with Your Husband helpful. And possibly encouraging. I logged on to it with fear and trembling, fully expecting to be convicted, but (much to my surprise) found only one area where I consistently sin. Perhaps the Lord will pleasantly surprise you also.

John and I love our church history class in Adult Sunday School. It has definitely clarified a lot of matters that have puzzled me. So I appreciate Jon Payne’s post for Ligonier, Why Study Church History? Payne makes a compelling case for knowing the successes and, yes, the mistakes of our predecessors.

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