“Emmanuel’s Warning Part 2” – Matthew 18:7-9

January 31st, 2016

Matthew 18:7-9

“Emmanuel’s Warning Pt 2”

Auxiliary Text: Luke 16:19-31

Call to Worship from: Psalm 94:1-15

 

Service Orientation: Jesus is trying to show us values that none of us comprehensively believe or by which we truly live.  If we did, our lives would be drastically different.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: . . . if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. — Matthew 18:9

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 7) “The world” is used in Matthew to designate unbelieving humanity and relates especially to the Jewish leaders here. Jesus’ followers face constant temptations to do evil from the world in general.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 215)
  • (v. 9) There is a tradition that in Roman times the garbage dump for Jerusalem was in the Valley of Hinnom, just outside the city. Not only garbage but the corpses of criminals and the bodies of animals were deposited there.  Why did the worm not die?  Worms are parasites that attach themselves to a body of a person or an animal.  As soon as they have devoured the flesh of that body, the worms die.  But in this garbage dump, there was a constant influx of new corpses, so the worms did not die.  Likewise, fires were kept burning constantly in the dump to consume the influx of refuse.  This is the awful picture of hell that Jesus painted.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 537)
  • (v. 9) “ The word translated “hell” is “Gehenna”; it is derived from the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where children had been sacrificed by fire to the pagan god Molech (see 2 Kgs 23:10; 2 Chr 28:3; Jer 7:31; 32:35). Later, during the reign of good King Josiah, the valley was used as the city’s garbage dump (2 Kgs 23:10) where fire burned constantly to destroy the garbage and the worms infesting it.  Thus, “Gehenna” accurately described the place of “eternal fire” (Mt 5:22; 10:28; Lk 12:5; Jam 3:6; Rv 19:20) that has been prepared for the devil, his angels, and all those who do not know Christ (Mt 25:46; Rv 20:9-10).  This will be the final and eternal state of the wicked after the resurrection and the Last Judgment.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 356)
  • (v. 9) People are often curious as to whether Jesus was using symbolism when He spoke of hell as a place of fire. I usually tell them that it is possible the fire is symbolic.  They usually sigh with relief, so I go on to say that Jesus used the most terrifying images and symbols at His disposal for a reason.  My guess is that the reality is far worse than any symbol could communicate.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 538)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why all this talk about hell?  Jesus speaks like He believes it really exists.

 

Answer:  Jesus has already tried to show us the value of entering heaven.  Now He is attempting to show us the value of staying out of hell.

 

The Lord made no apology for preaching about the terrible reality of Hell.  He spoke about it frequently, and always as a place of eternal torment.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 365)

 

In this teaching, Jesus touched on a subject that comes up again and again in His words that are recorded in Matthew’s Gospel–the doctrine of hell.  Scarcely one Christian in a hundred really takes Jesus’ warnings about hell seriously.  We do everything we can to avoid the discussion.  We water down His words and reduce hell to symbolism or metaphor.  But Jesus taught more about hell than He did about heaven.  Most of the NT teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus.  It has been said that if anyone other than Jesus were to tell us the terrible things He taught about hell, no one would believe it at all.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 537)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Hell!

 

We may define hell as follows: Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1148)

 

Edwards also shows his explanation or maybe even justification for using fear and the prospect of hell as a justifiable motivation to usher one into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Edward explains,  “Some talk of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven; but I think it is a reasonable thing to endeavor to fright persons away from hell.   They stand upon its brink, and are just ready to fall into it, and are senseless of their danger.  Is it not a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house on fire?  The word fright is commonly used for sudden, causeless fear, or groundless surprise; but surely a just fear, for which there is a good reason, is not to be spoken against under any such name.”  (Jonathan Edwards; The Marks . . ., 108)

 

Some (The Bible’s) answers concerning common questions about hell: (please do not make hell, Sheol and Hades the same.  They are different.   Hell is the place of eternal punishment for the wicked whereas Sheol and Hades are merely the place of the dead—righteous or unrighteous):

 

“The knowledge of hell comes almost exclusively from the teachings of Christ, who spoke emphatically on the subject on a number of occasions.”  (Merril C. Tenney, Gen. Ed.; The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol III, 114)

 

 

A-  How can a loving God send anyone to hell?  (1 Tm 2:4; Heb 2:1-4)

 

If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a god of love; then what did it cost for your god of love to really love you?   When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin.  — Tim Keller

 

A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness.  Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Psa. 7:11).

…Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.  How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?  How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom 9:22) toward it?  …The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is.  Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 83)

 

Here you may say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God.  I want a God of love.”

The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God.  Please think about it.  Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it.  In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get.  Have you noticed that?  When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad.  If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love.  Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other.  If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care.  You’re too absorbed in yourself, too cynical, too hard.  The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 176-77)

But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness.  The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made.  That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves.  His capacity for love is so much greater than ours–and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast–that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world.  So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.”  If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 177)

 

God desires that none perish and that all would come to repentance and a knowledge of salvation in Jesus. (Jn 3:16; 2 Pt 3:9).   But God also holds the power and authority to send people to heaven or hell (Mt 10:28).  The very fact that Jesus describes hell in such gruesome terms (weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 22:13; 25:30, 41), eternal fire (Isa 66:24; Mt 13:49-50; 18:8-9; 25:46; Mk 9:48), outer darkness (Mt 22:13; 25:30), cast from the presence of Jesus (Mt 7:23) indicates that Jesus sees sin as much more devastating than does one who believes that hell is an unloving punishment for sinners.  In fact, Jesus several times indicates that it would be better for one to lose an arm, eye or any other body part than to allow those body parts to lead you into hell (Mt 5:29-30; 18:7-8; Mk 9:42-43).  The modern Western mind has diminished the harsh realities of hell that Jesus is so urgently trying to get us to realize.   Hell is all of your worse fears, pains, sufferings, discouragements, and feelings of hopelessness, depression, and loss, exponentially multiplied forever.                   I believe if we were able to get beyond our depraved   and sin clouded hearts and minds, we would see immediately the horrible consequences of our seemingly most trivial sins.  R. C. Sproul states in several places that our most seemingly insignificant sin, a mere peccadillo, is nothing short of cosmic treason against the God of the Universe.  — Pastor Keith

 

It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed.  It is a very unscriptural notion of the mercy of God.  The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary, so that God cannot bear justice should take place.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

Recently a well-known news figure was interviewed about his religious affiliation.  His father, he said, was a very religious man, and he had learned at home to have a deep but private religion, whatever that means.  But, he added, “My father did not believe that a good God would send people to hell, and I do not believe there is a hell, either.” …This is a gospel of cheap grace, a Christianity needing no Savior, no standard, no cross, no repentance, and no righteousness.  (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 92)

 

B-  How can a finite sin deserve an infinite punishment?

 

The argument that eternal punishment is unfair (because there is a disproportion between temporary sin and eternal punishment) wrongly assumes that we know the extent of the evil done when sinners rebel against God.  David Kingdon observes that “sin against the Creator is heinous to a degree utterly beyond our sin-warped imaginations’ [ability] to conceive of. . .  Who would have the temerity to suggest to God what the punishment . . . should be?  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1151)

 

It is suitable that God should infinitely hate sin, and be an infinite enemy to it.  Sin, as I have before shown, is an infinite evil, and therefore is infinitely odious and detestable.  It is proper that God should hate every evil, and hate it according to its odious and detestable nature.  And sin being infinitely evil and odious, it is proper that God should hate it infinitely.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

Whence it follows that if it be suitable that there should be infinite hatred of sin in God, as I have shown it is, it is suitable that he should execute an infinite punishment on it.  And so the perfections of God require that he should punish sin with an infinite, or which is the same thing with an eternal, punishment.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

Jesus had a much more harsh view of sin than most 21st century Westerns share.   Such verses as Mt 5:22, 29-30; 18:8-9 demonstrate this.  To ask this question demonstrates that the one asking it does not share the same world-view of Jesus regarding the devastating consequences of sin.   And no one would argue that the more damage done to an individual or society, the more unretrievable the loss from the crime, and the more blatantly hostile, hateful and violent the heart and mind of the criminal at the time of committing the crime; then the more severe the punishment should be inflicted to match the nature of the crime.

Do you believe a person should only get 5 seconds of jail time for committing murder because the crime itself only took 5 seconds to commit?  The very idea is ludicrous.  The life of the one murdered has been forever taken from this world.  The lives of the family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and society in general has been forever changed.  That is why the sentence for premeditated murder is almost always life in prison for one who commits murder, such a heinous crime.

Jesus sees every sin in these terms.  Because every sin reflects cosmic treason against God Almighty and rebellion against His great love and care for us as a loving Father who created us and knows what is best for us.  The only reason eternal punishment for our sins is so obnoxious to us is because we fail to see the implications or consequences of our sin.  —Pastor Keith

 

If the evil of sin be infinite, as the punishment is, then it is manifest that the punishment is no more than proportionable to the sin punished, and is no more than sin deserves.  And if the obligation to love, honor, and obey God be infinite, then sin which is the violation of this obligation, is a violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil.  Again, if God be infinitely worthy of love, honor, and obedience, then our obligation to love, and honor, and obey him is infinitely great.  – So that God being infinitely glorious, or infinitely worthy of our love, honor, and obedience, our obligation to love, honor, and obey him (and so to avoid all sin) is infinitely great.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

All sin is an offense against God, the raising of a finite will against the will of an infinite being.  It is failure to carry out one’s obligation to him to whom everything is due.  Consequently, one cannot consider sin to be merely a finite act deserving finite punishment.  (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition, 1247)

 

Humans were designed to live eternally with God; if they pervert this their destiny, they will experience eternally the consequences of that act.  (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition, 1247)

 

The Bible looks at the Wrath of God as a product of His moral integrity. – Chuck Swindoll

 

C-  Why does God not recognize any repentance or remediation in hell?  Why is one damned forever because of his position during his short life on earth?  (Lk 16:19-31; Heb 2:1-4; 9:27; 10:26-31)

 

As long as we are in this life, and as long as we see and think about others who need to hear the gospel and trust in Christ for salvation, it should cause us great distress and agony of spirit to think about eternal punishment.  Yet we must also realize that whatever God in his wisdom has ordained and taught in Scripture is right.  Therefore we must be careful that we do not hate this doctrine or rebel against it, but rather we should seek, insofar as we are able, to come to the point where we acknowledge that eternal punishment is good and right, because in God there is no unrighteousness at all.  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1152)

I really don’t know.  But, this I do know from reading Scripture, from reason, from reading the writings of other Christians and from personal experience:  There are some people who will never change no matter what evidence you show them.  Their hearts are hard and their necks are stiff and they will never repent (Ex 32:9; 33:3-5; Dt 9:6-13; 31:27; 2 Kgs 17:14; 2 Chr 30:8; 36:13; Neh 9:16-29; Prv 29:1; Jer 7:26; 17:23; 19:15; Acts 7:51).   I have learned to trust God for this and know that He will do what is right and just (Gn 18:25; Dt 32:4; 2 Chr 19:7; Job 8:3; 34:10; 36:23; Ps 92:15; Rom 9:14)  —Pastor Keith

 

D-  Why did God even bother to create us if He was going to send some of us to hell?

 

God created us to be like Him and in His image so we could enjoy an unbroken relationship with us based on mutual love and care.  But, our first Father and mother forfeited that relationship when they chose to listen to Satan and his lies rather than God and the Truth.  Today, we constantly duplicate that original sin and thus constantly forfeit that relationship with God Almighty.   You cannot blame God for the perversion, abuse and punishment that has followed on the heels of our first parents and our own disobedience and rebellion any more than you can blame Henry Ford for traffic deaths or unwanted pregnancies that come from the back seat of a car.

Before the creation God knew of our disobedience and rebellion that would cause Him great grief and sorrow.  And yet He went ahead and created mankind in His image anyway knowing that He would demonstrate His great love for us by sending Jesus to redeem us and restore us back to His original relationship that He had intended for us to enjoy.  —Pastor Keith

 

E-  What can account for the huge contrast between 21st Century Western culture’s allergy towards hell and Jesus’ position?

 

Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.

The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority.  The apologist must see clearly that the nonChristian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ.  If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority.  The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.;   Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)

 

The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin.  As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge.  Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral.  Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God.  Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief.  Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ.  As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.”  To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God.  Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone.   (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.;   Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 74)

 

As a culture, we trust in God and His Word less than did our forefather and the early church.  Today, we interpret God’s Word on the basis of personal preference rather than submitting to clear teaching (2 Pt 1:16-21).   We have no problem imposing our wishes on the text rather than submitting to God’s harsh realities (Prv 14:12; 16:25).   And so, because our modern sensitivities and preferences do not like the idea of hell, judgment and eternal punishment we simply dismiss them as out of bounds and thus find it no longer necessary to take these doctrines seriously.

We need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts rather than lean on our own understanding (Prv 3:5-6).  For God’s thoughts are much higher than our thoughts and God’s ways are much higher than our ways (Isa 55:8-10).  We have instead listened to Satan and his lies and as a result we have discounted the seriousness of sin, the devastating consequences of those sins and we have diminished our recognizing our desperate need for Jesus.  —Pastor Keith

 

How utterly different He is!  That difference is again and again affirmed.  “Ye are from beneath; I am from above” (Jn 8:23).  That is a difference, and that difference becomes a clash all the way along; a clash of judgments, a clash of mentalities, a clash of minds, a clash of ideas, a clash of values; a clash in everything between Him and others, even with His disciples who are with Him in the School.  His nature is different.  He has a heavenly nature, a Divine nature.  No one else has that.  He has a heavenly mind, a heavenly mentality.  They have an earthly mentality, and the two cannot meet, at any point.  When the last word has been said, there is a big, big gap between the two.  He is so utterly other.  (T. Austin-Sparks; The School of Christ, 83)

 

All wicked Men’s Pains and Contrivance they use to escape Hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked Men, don’t secure ’em from Hell one Moment. Almost every natural Man that hears of Hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own Security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do; every one lays out Matters in his own Mind how he shall avoid Damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his Schemes won’t fail.  They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the bigger Part of Men that have died heretofore are gone to Hell; but each one imagines that he lays out Matters better for his own escape than others have done:  He don’t intend to come to that Place of Torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take Care that shall be effectual, and to order Matters so for himself as not to fail.   (Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”)

 

What does Jesus have to teach us about heaven and hell?

I-  Jesus has already taught us the value of entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is worth sacrificing everything to obtain.  (Mt 13:44-46; see also: Mt 10:37-39; 18:16-30; Mk 10:17-30; Lk 14:33; 18:18-30; Phil 3:7-8)

 

Just cutting off a limb that committed sin or gouging out an eye that looked lustfully would still not get rid of sin, for that must begin in the heart and mind.  Jesus was saying that people need to take drastic action to keep from stumbling.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 355-6)

 

II-  Jesus here teaches us the value of staying out of hell.  It is worth sacrificing everything to avoid it.  (Mt 18:8-9; see also: Prv 23:13-14; Isa 33:14; 66:24; Mt 5:29-30; 7:13; 8:11-12; 10:28; 13:1-42, 49-50; 18:34-35; 22:13; 25:28-30, 40-41; Mk 9:42-50; 16:23-28; 19:10; Jn 6:40; 11:25-26; Gal 5:24; 6:7-8; Eph 4:25; 2 Thes 1:9; Heb 9:27-30; 10:26-31; Jude 1:6-7; Rv 6:16-17; 14:9-11; 17:1-6; 20:10-15; 21:8)

 

Today, most scholars agree this is an example of the use of hyperbole, which is intentional exaggeration to make a point.  Jesus was stating a comparative value, saying that if something in your life is destroying your soul, you should get rid of it, no matter how much it costs.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 537)

 

If you are struggling with Internet pornography, here is my advice:  get rid of your Internet access or the computer itself.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 537)

 

The whole warning is expressed in the second-person singular:  it is for individual disciples to work out for themselves where their particular danger of “stumbling” lies and to take appropriate action.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 683)

 

Do you grasp for worldly power?  Do you rush to judgment?  Do you easily lose your temper?  Do you overstuff your stomach?  Do you gossip?  Do you hoard money?  Do you overlook the unimportant?  Do you think yourself so very important?  Cut it off and cut it out.  Cut off pride.  Cut off lust.  Cut off sloth.  Cut off anger.  Cut off greed.  Cut off envy.  Cut off gluttony.  Cut off those seven deadly sins and seventy more because they will kill you–“It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (v. 9b)–and because they endanger the lives of the “little ones,” some of your dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is serious stuff.  So take it seriously.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 504)

 

There seems to be no end of books, magazines, movies, TV programs, and commonly accepted practices and attitudes to mislead and corrupt those who belong to God.  The world is constantly setting sin traps, and its favorite victims are God’s children.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 109)

 

It is impossible to determine precisely what will constitute the eternal punishment of the wicked, and it behooves us to speak very cautiously on the subject.  Positively, it may be said to consist in (a) a total absence of the favor of God; (b) an endless disturbance of life as a result of the complete domination of sin; (c) positive pains and sufferings in body and soul; and (d) such subjective punishments as pangs of conscience, anguish, despair, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, Mt 8:12; 13:50; Mk 9:43, 44, 47, 48; Lk 16:23, 28; Rv 14:10; 21:8.  Evidently, there will be degrees in the punishment of the wicked.  This follows from such passages as Mt 11:22, 24; Lk 12:47, 48; 20:17.  Their punishment will be commensurate with their sinning against the light which they had received.  But it will, nevertheless, be eternal punishment for all of them.  This is plainly stated in Scripture, Mt 18:8; 2 Thes 1:9; Rv 14:11; 20:10.  (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 736)

 

He means, get rid of whatever is tempting you to sin:  suggestive movies, especially the kind you can rent at video stores and bring home to watch privately; the daily talk shows that wallow in depravity almost endlessly; books that urge you to get ahead by stepping on others; or talk that promotes racial bias.  Get rid of the poison.  Protect your mind from the defilement.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 380)

 

The body of sin must be destroyed; corrupt inclinations and appetites must be checked and crossed; the beloved lust, that has been rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, must be abandoned with abhorrence.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 255)

 

When Abraham quitted his native country, for fear of being ensnared in the idolatry of it, and when Moses quitted Pharaoh’s court, for fear of being entangled in the sinful pleasures of it, there was a right hand cut off.  We must think nothing too dear to part with, for the keeping of a good conscience.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 255)

 

Instead of flirting with sin, we should destroy it.  If something is leading us to sin, we should get rid of it.  See, then, how this point fits with the previous point:  when we are zealous about holiness in our own lives, we will be zealous about protecting one another from sin.  In turn, when we are zealous about protecting one another from sin, we will be all the more careful about sin in our own lives.  If we’re casual about our own sin, on the other hand, we will lead others to be casual about their sin.  This is why we must be intentional about protecting one another.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 239)

Evil in itself is self-defeating; it exists as a parasite, as a moocher, for evil can have appeal only by falsely identifying with something that is good, even while it perverts the good.  God ultimately overcomes evil not by exercising His superior power, but by expressing His superior quality.  When God withdraws everything good—light, love, peace, joy, friendship, kindness, pleasure—there will be nothing left that has any goodness in it…and that is hell!  Satan will be bound by the simple act of God withdrawing everything that is good and leaving evil to itself; there will be nothing left but hell.

Overcoming and withstanding evil is not to meet evil on its own ground and thereby cheapen our approach.  Rather, we overcome evil by bringing God and His goodness into every situation, evidencing the values of the spiritual qualities of life. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 80)

 

As a matter of fact, abolishing hell from our consciousness only makes matters worse.  Hell, we discover upon analysis, is by no means as threatening as the fears generated by nihilism.  The threat of non-being, contend the existentialists, philosophers, and psychologists, is a far greater threat than any that can be posed by the fear of the fiery furnace.

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of modernity is that we have a sophisticated intelligentsia that has done away with a literal hell after death only to create a psychological hell before death with their threat of non-being after death.  There is no comfort in nihilism.  Those who tell us that life is all there is offer us no comfort.  I find that none of those nihilistic existentialists who preached a call to be courageous and to create meaning out of the absurdity of our lives were examples of people who lived lives of joyful celebration.  All of them were morbid people who, for the most part, lived lives that were as tragic as the death they believed brought life to an end.  (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, pp. 132-3)

 

Nothing is worth keeping if, in any way, it leads to sin.  And the implication here is that there is overcoming grace available for victory over temptation and sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 110)

 

The whole passage is about children, and perhaps especially about children in the faith.  This passage may be saying:  “If in your Church there is someone who is an evil influence, if there is someone who is a bad example to those who are young in the faith, if there is someone whose life and conduct is damaging the body of the Church, that person must be rooted out and cast away.  That may well be the meaning.  The Church is the Body of Christ; if that body is to be healthy and health-giving, that which has the seeds of cancerous and poisonous infection in it must be even surgically removed.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 213-4)

 

One thing is certain:  in any person and in any Church, anything that is a seduction to sin must be removed, however painful the removal may be; for if we allow it to flourish, a worse punishment will follow.  In this passage, there may well be stressed both the necessity of self-renunciation for the Christian individual and discipline for the Christian Church.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 214)

 

There is revealed in Scripture a “raging fire” which sooner or later will devour all God’s adversaries (Heb 10:27).  The same sure Word which holds out a heaven to all who repent and turn to God, declares plainly that there will be a hell for all the ungodly.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 160)

 

Sinful people want to excuse their behavior by saying that they just can’t help what they are doing.  In our day this usually takes a materialistic form.  I do bad things because of my genetic makeup, or because of the bad neighborhood in which I grew up, or because I wasn’t properly loved and cared for by my parents.  In religious circles it sometimes takes a theological form.  I sin because God has ordained it; it isn’t my fault. . . . He (Jesus)  acknowledges that this is an evil world and that “the things that cause people to sin . . . must come” (v. 7, emphasis added).  We can even rightly say that God has determined that it should be so, at least passively, since God is not the originating cause of sin.  Yet at the same time Jesus is equally insistent that the person who sins or causes others to sin is responsible.    (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 379-80)

 

That Satan may not gain advantage over us through our sluggishness, our Lord breaks out into an exclamation, that there is nothing which we ought to dread more than offences; for as Satan has innumerable kinds of them in his hand, he constantly, and at almost every step, throws new difficulties in our way; while we, through excessive tenderness or sloth, are too ready to yield.  The consequence is, that there are few who make tolerable progress in the faith of Christ; and of the few who have begun to walk in the way of salvation, there is scarcely one in ten who has the courage to persevere till he reaches the goal.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 336-7)

 

The argument is clear.  Jesus’ followers must become like children in humility if they are to enter the kingdom (vv. 3-4).  Those who receive such “little ones” because they belong to him in effect receive Jesus; those who reject them, causing them to stumble, are threatened with condemnation (vv. 5-6).  Things causing Jesus’ people to stumble are inevitable yet damning (v. 7).  But the disciples themselves must beware:  failure to deal radically with similar sin in their own lives betrays their allegiance to the world and threatens them with the eternal fire of hell (vv. 8-9).  Jesus’ disciples must deal as radically with pride as they were earlier commanded to deal with lust (5:29-30).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 399)

 

For instance, don’t gossip to lead me astray in the name of your supposed Christian liberties when I’m fighting every day not to turn those liberties into license to sin.  Both materialism and sexual temptations also come to mind in our culture, as it is all too easy to lead others astray in these areas without even realizing it.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 239)

 

Americans are scandalized by such Islamic “brutalities” as beheadings, public beatings, and the amputation of thieves’ hands.  How could they be so cruel? we wonder.  But we lock teenagers in cells crowded with abusive criminals; do we ever ponder what happens to their souls?  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Jesus cautioned.  And again, “It is better for you to lose one part of your body then for your whole body to go into hell.” (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 93)

 

The seriousness of committing this sin appears from the fact that it was through temptation that sin entered the human realm (Gn 3:1-6) and is still spreading (1 Tm 6:9; Jam 1:12).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 691)

 

Drastic action is necessary to overcome temptation, action made possible by prayer (Mt 6:13; 26:41).  The promise of victory is given in such passages as Mt 7:7; 1 Cor 10:13; Heb 2:18; Jam 1:12.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 392)

 

Over the gates of hell, so Dante writes, are these words:  “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  Put off hope. And put on despair forever and ever.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Assurances of the Heart, 312)

 

The final condition of the wicked is also spoken of as eternal punishment (Mt 25:46), torment (Rv 14:10-11), the bottomless pit (Rv 9:1-2, 11), the wrath of God (Rom 2:5), second death (Rv 21:8), eternal destruction and exclusion from the face of the Lord (2 Thes 1:9).  (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition, 1242)

 

O Sinner! Consider the fearful Danger you are in:  ‘Tis a great Furnace of Wrath, a wide and bottomless Pit, full of the Fire of Wrath, that you are held over in the Hand of that God, whose Wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the Damned in Hell:  You hang by a slender Thread, with the Flames of divine Wrath flashing about it, and ready every Moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no Interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the Flames of Wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one Moment.  (Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”)

 

For fire as an image for the ultimate judgment see 3:10-12; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 40, and for the more specific expression “hellfire” see on 5:22 (cf. Also destruction in hell, 10:28).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 683)

 

Therefore let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the Wrath to come. The Wrath of almighty GOD is now undoubtedly hanging over great Part of this Congregation:  Let every one fly out of Sodom:  Haste and escape for your Lives, look not behind you, escape to the Mountain, least you be consumed.  (Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”)

 

III-  Humble, dependent, toddler-like trust in Jesus, our substitute, Who went to hell for us, is the key to salvation.  (Mt 1:21; 10:28; 16:25;; 19:29; 25:46; Mk 10:30; Lk 9:24; 19:10; Jn 3:15-21, 36; 5:24; 6:40; 10:28; 11:25-26; 17:2-3; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 16:30-31; Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-12, 21; 6:23; 10:9-13; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:4-9; 1 Thes 5:9; 1 Tm 1:15-16; 1 Jn 4:9-10; 5:11)

 

Those who are sent to hell never will have paid the whole of the debt which they owe to God, nor indeed a part which bears any proportion to the whole.  They never will have paid a part which bears so great a proportion to the whole, as one mite to ten thousand talents.  Justice therefore never can be actually satisfied in your damnation.  But it is actually satisfied in Christ.  Therefore he is accepted of the Father, and therefore all who believe are accepted and justified in him.  Therefore believe in him, come to him, commit your souls to him to be saved by him.  In him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell.  (Thomas Watson,  The Doctrine of Repentance, 77)

 

Scripture gives us reasons to believe that the righteous will not only inherit heaven, but the entire new creation, Mt 5:5; Rv 21:1-3.  (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 737)

 

Of course, in the final analysis the answer to any problem is not merely to run away, especially since it is so difficult to avoid temptations in our culture.  The real answer is a love for God and the transformed mind and heart that flow from it.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 380)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who has established the most equitable entry system to heaven that is possible.

 

Gospel Application:  Realize your desperate need to depend upon the work and righteousness of Jesus to allow you into heaven and stay out of hell.  Trust in Him as a result of recognizing His great love in light of your great need.

 

Lea Clower – “Religion is for people who want to stay out of Hell.  Christianity is for people who have been there.”

 

Spiritual Challenge:  As much you hate to, Jesus is asking you as a Christian to contemplate the reality of hell and the salvation God has provided for you to avoid it.

 

“Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath.” (Samuel Storms; The Grandeur of God, 124)

 

Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)

 

After all, it was on the cross that God’s love and His wrath converged in all their majestic fullness.  (John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 11)

 

When people don’t believe in a final judgment, they don’t feel ultimately accountable for their actions.  There is no firm leash holding back sinful impulses.  As the book of Judges puts it, there is “no fear of God” in their hearts, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

The doctrine of hell is not just some dusty theological holdover from the Middle Ages.  It has significant social consequences.  Without a conviction of ultimate justice, people’s sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bonds are broken.

People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man–no respect for human laws and authorities.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 21-2)

 

You cannot be enticed or tempted nearly as much with that which is inferior to that which you find beautiful, desirous, magnificent and the focus of your affections. That is one of the reasons why Jesus was able to withstand the full on assault of the Devil’s temptations.  And finding Jesus beautiful and glorious we can too!  —Pastor Keith

 

“I fear we do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our soul’s disease.  We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colors, saying, “I am your deadly enemy and I want to ruin you for ever in hell,” Oh, no!  Sin comes to us, like Judas with a kiss, and like Joab with an outstretched hand and flattering words.  The forbidden fruit seemed good and desirable to Eve, yet it cast her out of Eden.  The walking idly on his palace roof seemed harmless enough to David, yet it ended in adultery and murder.  Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings.” (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, 7)

 

Christian, wake up.  Shape up.  Grow up.  Your personal holiness matters.  Christian, “be killing sin or it will be killing you” and potentially killing others, these “little ones” in the Lord.  What we do privately–with our hand or our foot or our eye (those are private or personal parts)–actually can affect other believers.  That’s what Jesus is teaching here.  How you see things (the eye) affects how others see, what you do (the hand) affects what others will do, and how you walk (the foot) affects how others will walk (cf. Eph 4:25).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 504)

 

What are we to think of this doctrine?  It is hard–and it should be hard–for us to think of this doctrine today.  If our hearts are never moved with deep sorrow when we contemplate this doctrine, then there is a serious deficiency in our spiritual and emotional sensibilities.  When Paul thinks of the lostness of his kinsmen the Jews, he says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Rom 9:2).  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1151-2)

 

Hereby the saints will be made the more sensible how great their salvation is.  When they shall see how great the misery is from which God has saved them, and how great a difference he has made between their state and the state of others, who were by nature (and perhaps for a time by practice) no more sinful and ill-deserving than any, it will give them a greater sense of the wonderfulness of God’s grace to them.  (Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments”)

 

“If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying! “— Tim Keller

 

CHRIST:

HELL CONQUEROR

 

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