Help or Hindrance?
we be good without hell? Can society succeed morally without
the weight of eternal torment being held over its head? This
was a theme article in the June 16, 1997 Christianity Today
magazine. Mr. Jerry Walls, the author, purports that the consequence
of Divine judgment is a necessary barrier to moral wrong. Unfortunately
he assumes that eternal conscious torment in hell is the Biblical
penalty. It is not. "For the wages of sin is death; but
the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
eternal torment an effective deterrent of evil? The doctrine
has had centuries to prove its ability to tame and sanctify.
Sadly, as any history student can attest, from the time of our
Lord's earthly ministry to the present human history has been
filled with an abundance of murder, robbery and vice. All committed
by professed Christians aware of teachings about hell. The threat
of eternal torment, erroneously preached as part of the Good
News, has not controlled evil. It did not and cannot engender
godliness in the world.
true motivating force to serve God and righteousness, the one
we pray all Christian people will gain strength from, is love.
A love of things Divine such as righteousness, justice, mercy,
peace, joy—these alone will bring obedience from a fervent
pure heart. Other motives, such as fear, tend to produce Christians
"in name only."
acquaintance with many Christians throughout the spectrum of
Christianity has shown that a very small minority gave themselves
to Christ because they feared eternal torment. The scripture
1 John 4:18-19 echoes the motivation for our commitment to Christ.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out
fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made
perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us."
Matthew 13 Jesus painted a broad panorama of Christian history.
The parable of the wheat and tares describes the course of Christianity
from the beginning, to its culmination in a harvest. A householder
sowed good seed in his field. The anticipated fruitage was corrupted
by the householder's enemy who over sowed the wheat field with
tare seed (false wheat) while the householder's menservants
slept. When the blade was spring up and brought forth fruit,
the act of vandalization was manifest. The true wheat was choked
in the midst of overwhelming amounts of imitation wheat.
Explained the Wheat and Tares
lesson greatly interested the disciples and so they asked Jesus
to explain it. What a great benefit to us that he did! The householder
represented Jesus. The field—the Christian world with
its fruitages. The good fruit represented Christ's true followers,
his faithful disciples. Tares, which outwardly look like wheat,
were imitations planted by the enemy—Satan.
tares were not to be weeded out until the harvest which would
take place in the end of this world or age (Greek — aion).
Jesus' work at the end of the Christian Age is as Chief Reaper.
He will then send his angels (Greek angelos—messengers),
his disciples, to harvest the wheat at his second advent just
as he did at the first. Luke 10:1-3; John 4:35,36
Seeds, One True—One False
two fruitages resulted from two different kinds of seed. Wheat,
the true Christian, springs forth from the Word of God. This
is taught in the parable of the sower. "The seed is the
word of God...they which in an honest and good heart, having
heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience."
Luke 8:11,15 The apostles carried forth the ministry of Christ,
preaching the word of life, sowing seeds of the kingdom. The
Father "begat us with the word of truth". James 1:18
"In Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel,"
said the Apostle Paul. I Corinthians 4:15
sinister turn in church history occurred when the apostles fell
asleep in death (compare Matthew 13:25). In their absence Satan
sought to corrupt the church. His weapon was error. Just as
truth produces a true Christian, so error produces an imitation.
Satan's work of corrupting God's truth in Christ began even
during the apostles' time. "Every spirit that confesses
not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and
thus is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that
it should come; and even now is already in the world."
I John 4:3
anti-christian spirit spread throughout the Christian world
sowing tares. Satan hoped to choke the spiritual life out of
God's wheat by surrounding them with tares. One of Satan's principal
instruments to sow bad seed were the Neo-Platonist Christians.
These "philosopher" Christians sought to apply scientific
methods in understanding scripture. Their "science"
was derived from Plato, a great man—unfortunately also
unfortunate result of bending scripture to fit human philosophy
was the creation of bad seed and its fruit—nominal Christians.
Human science did no favor to the church of God. How sad that
the apostolic admonition was not heeded, "Avoid profane
and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
which some (believers) professing have erred concerning the
faith." I Timothy 6:20,21
False Seed Close up
such false seed was the Grecian philosophy of eternal torment
for the wicked. Neo-Platonic concepts of the afterlife corrupted
the simple truth of the Bible Hell. The New Testament Hades
and the Old Testament Sheol no longer were perceived as the
death state. They were instead transformed into a place of eternal
conscious torment. (Space does not here permit an adequately
thorough discussion of death and hell. We encourage you to order
the booklet "What Say the Scriptures Concerning Hell?"
offered at the end of this letter. The scriptures on these subjects
are fully discussed in the booklet.)
threat of such enormous and eternal suffering held over the
heads of unbelievers has not, is not and will not accomplish
what God intends for the masses of mankind. Converted to Christ
under pressure many people (who would not otherwise burden themselves
with Christ's cross), have made a profession of faith.
Real Purpose in Christianity
through coercion is not God's purpose in Christianity. "True
worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:
for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit:
and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in
truth." John 4:23,24 In other words, God wants our hearts
to yield in willing love to Him and His truth. Many unwilling
converts, motivated by fear, have feigned obedience to Him.
That is how a tare is created.
purpose of Christianity is to call out a people for God's name.
Those called out are God's elect. The elected ones, found faithful
in this life, will serve as priests and kings of God. Their
ministry will be to the remainder of humanity—those not
called and willingly converted during the Christian Era. See
Acts 15:14-17 and Revelation 5:10.
in National News
Rekindling of Hell" (U.S. News and World Report for March
25, 1991) noted "Record numbers of Americans now believe
in a nether world and in a wide variety of after death punishments."
According to a Gallop survey done in November 1990, three out
of five Americans now believe in hell. However, views of what
constitute hell sharply differ.
try to understand hell philosophically and, through human wisdom,
invent the hell of their choice. Others fall back on creeds
of human invention and hold forth the hell of tradition. Some
are returning to the Scriptures to study them anew. The Scriptures
are shedding light on hell. "Such highly regarded theologians
as Clark H. Pinnock, theology professor at McMaster Divinity
College in Hamilton, Ontario; John R.W. Stott, president of
the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Philip
E. Hughes, a noted Anglican clergyman and author, contend that
rather than suffering endlessly, those who ultimately reject
God will simply be put out of existence in the 'consuming fire'
who subscribe to this view—called 'annihilationism'—point
to New Testament passages that speak of 'eternal destruction'
and 'the second death' for those who know not God and to the
Old Testament prophet Ezekiel's declaration that 'the soul that
sins shall die.'" (U.S. News and World Report, March 25,
1991, p. 63). These men are commendable for turning back to
scriptures to understand what hell is. Hughes interestingly
observes "that the traditional belief in unending punishment
is linked to the erroneous belief in the 'innate immortality'
of the soul—a belief, he says, that is based more on Plato
than on the Bible."
the other hand, traditionalists "argue that annihilationism
takes some of the punch out of Gospel preaching. 'To tell the
unrepentant that the worst fate that could befall them is extinction,'
says Harold O.J. Brown, a theology professor at Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School, 'makes continuing in sin seem less risky.'"
And that is the very point of the parable of the wheat and tares.
Wheat, the true Christian, rejoice to leave sin behind. They
love righteousness and hate iniquity. They are not coerced by
terror, but by love and the beauty of God's Word.
hope for all God's people is that they will be led on to full
Christian fruitage by God's Word. We pray that His people will
stand firmly for the truth even against the majority public
opinion or entrenched human creeds. Remember that the tares
in the parable are the overwhelming majority. Let us all, by
the grace of God, receive the Word of God into good and honest
hearts, bringing forth good fruit with patience.