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Archive for July, 2011

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!
Luke 10:15

In the verses just prior to this, Jesus is sending out 70 of His followers as missionary teams. He is talking about places that rejected God’s message and has already mentioned Sodom, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, and Sidon. Jesus is expounding on the consequences of rejecting the Gospel. He is saying that to reject the message was the same thing as to reject Him.

Capernaum had been “exalted to heaven” on several levels. It was geographically at a higher altitude on a hill. It was economically high in commerce because of the water supply and location on Sea of Galilee. And it had been spiritually enriched by the many miracles Jesus had performed there recently.

Green’s literal translation does not politely say brought down, rather, it says, “To hell you will be thrust down!”

The Matthew Henry commentary has this to say:

The doom of those who thus receive the grace of God in vain will be very fearful. They that were thus exalted, not making use of their elevation, will be thrust down to hell, thrust down with disgrace and dishonour. They will thrust in to get into heaven, in the crowd of professors, but in vain; they shall be thrust down, to their everlasting grief and disappointment, into the lowest hell, and hell will be hell indeed to them.

Jesus uses repetition to strongly reinforce his teaching that to reject the message of salvation is to end up in Hades, the place of the dead.

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[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Luke 3:17

This verse is not actually what Jesus says about hell. This verse was spoken by John the Baptist who was telling about what Jesus will do. In that regard, John is fulfilling his life’s mission of preparing the way of the Lord.

Even though this verse does not deal with what Jesus said, I have included it here because it shows that Jesus is The Winnower. He is the one to separate between the wheat and the chaff.

The metaphor of wheat and chaff or wheat and tares is found throughout scripture. Wheat represents the fruitful souls who fear God. Chaff represents the worthless ones who do not.

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Image of Canaanite winnowing fork, gutenberg.org

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[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

38 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
Mark 12

In these verses Jesus clearly indicates that there are different degrees of condemnation. It appears that Jesus listed the offences in ascending order from the least denunciation to the greatest damnation. They liked the prestige of their attire: petty vanity. They wanted the recognition in the business world: braggadocio They demanded the royal treatment: overt pride.

Devouring widow’s houses is the most serious crime committed against people. It goes far beyond taking advantage of the helpless, although that is a great part of it. They are misusing their position and power and are destroying lives under the public pretense of helping society.

I have heard folks try to make a modern-day analogy by comparing the scribes to television preachers. Maybe that was the case a quarter century ago, but the old folks of today were in the prime of life when the big scandals started breaking; people are savvier in that respect today.

If Jesus walked the earth today, He would condemn DFCS. Under the pretense of saving the innocent, this abuse of government power is destroying families. They are puffed up on how “good” they are, and just like the scribes, they whine about never getting enough respect. Neither the scribes nor DFCS have earned the eminence that they think they ought to have.

The greatest condemnation in this passage is reserved for those who offer long prayers. I don’t blame God one bit for that decision; no one likes a windbag. But that is not what He is really pointing to here. These long prayers were intended to make the scribes look godly. In a twist on the sin of idolatry, they wanted to be idolized. They were not only putting other things before God, they wanted to be the idol that others revered.

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[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

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42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it is better for him if a millstone turned by a donkey is hung around his neck, he had been thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:42-48

Verses 44, 46, and 48 are identical quotations from Isaiah 66:24. Some of the early manuscripts record Jesus quoting Isaiah only once. The verse in its entirety reads:

Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.

Some of the Jewish rabbis taught that ‘worms’ signified torment of the body, and ‘unquenchable fire’ related to torment of the soul.

The word hell here is Gehenna in the Greek. Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, is on the southeast side of Jerusalem. It has a long history, but perhaps it is most notorious as the place of child sacrifice to the god Moloch. During the time of Jesus’ ministry it was a garbage dump, filled with decay, and fires burned there continually. Jesus used it as an object lesson for describing hell to His disciples. Jesus always spoke of the place of eternal punishment as real, not figurative.

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[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 41“Then He will also say to those on His left, `Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25

More commentators disagree on the meaning of this passage than any other scripture in this study about what Jesus told his disciples about hell. Among the commentators who stop short of declaring the entire Gospel of Matthew a work of fiction, there is agreement on this point:
Jesus taught about a time of judgment; the outcome of which he declares is eternal.
Additionally, most agree that there is a separation of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked are ordered to depart.

It is worth noting that the separation of the sheep and goats is administered by the Son of Man from His throne of glory.

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Woodcut illustration of Matthew 25:32, by J. C. Weigel, published 1695

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Matthew 25 contains two parables from the same sermon on “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto…” Both end with a sentence about being turned out of the kingdom. These are folks who were originally headed for God’s kingdom. In the latter instance, Jesus says:

Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 25:30

This is the sixth time that Matthew has mentioned “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” and one of eight times that ‘gnashing teeth’ are mentioned in the New Testament. In this Gospel, Jesus used the same term in reference to these people:

8:12 – faithless sons of the kingdom
13:42 – sons of the evil one
13:50 – the wicked
22:13 – improperly dressed man
24:51 – the unprepared hypocrite, with other hypoctites
25:30 – the worthless slave

Many parables. Same ending. If the weeping and gnashing of teeth had been mentioned only once, it might be considered to be as metaphorical as the parable. But it is consistently presented as a real place of torment.

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[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

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32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near   […]   50 the master…will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:32, 50-51

It is relatively easy to know what time of year it is by looking at a tree, especially a tree that produces fruit. Similarly, a spiritually perceptive person will know when a season of judgment is near. For others, it may be a complete surprise.

The main teaching in this passage (verses 33-49 are not copied above) is Jesus’ rather lengthy description of the end times leading up to His return. Verse 51 wraps up with an account of the unfaithful servant for whom a place will be appointed with the hypocrites. In this place there will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth. It is an allotted and fixed judgment, and those to whom it is assigned react with rage and violent anger.

Some teach that hell will be a place of remorse and regret, but Jesus does not teach that here. Some people teach that Matthew liked to use the phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth as a metaphor, but that is not indicated here either.

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clipart credit

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