Saturday, June 14, 2008

Heaven and hell

I'm attending the Resolved Conference this weekend in Palms Springs, California. You can view some great photos here by Lukas VanDyke. It's nice for once to attend a conference in our neighborhood rather than having to travel across the country to go to it.

The theme of this year's conference is "Heaven & Hell."
So far, we've heard from Rick Holland, Randy Alcorn, and John MacArthur. All have done a great job. As Rick said last night, if death is an unpopular topic today, hell is even more unpopular. Both in our culture and in our churches, we've concealed the reality of death and hell in a dark closet. Even heaven rarely gets the attention it deserves. I find myself knowing very little about heaven and rarely thinking or preparing myself for it.

I've already been admonished that I need to conduct my life and ministry with a greater view of heaven and hell. It's a dishonor to God and the gospel to avoid these weighty doctrines.

May all of us resolve as Jonathan Edwards did at 19 years old to "to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments" (Jonathan Edwards, Resolution #55).


Paul said...

When I read the gospels, some verses frankly strike me as much less inspired than others. For example, the one that says believers can drink poison and suffer no ill effects - I don't think it's a coincidence that no church has made a sacrament out of that verse. It's an oldie but not such a goodie.

All the talk of hell, especially in John, has a similar effect on me - if falls flat. It reads like a very obvious and tendentious effort on the part of this writer, writing many decades after Jesus' death, to threaten and scare other Jews of his time into accepting Jesus as the Messiah - or else.

The Jesus who tells everyone that disagrees with him that they're going straight to hell also strikes me as radically inconsistent with the Jesus who preaches and practices repeated forgiveness, mercy and love.

Stephen Jones said...

Hi Paul, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote in different styles, with different settings, to different audiences. Yet all of them give us a consistent picture of a Jesus who spoke often of both heaven and hell.

It's not unloving or inconsistent for Jesus to teach on both heaven and hell. In fact, I believe telling the truth about hell is the most loving thing He could do, even when that truth hurt. Similarly, a doctor is only loving when he announces to his patient that he has cancer.

Hell is "bad news" for all of us, because the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23). But thankfully, it's only half the story. The same Jesus who spoke of hell also offered heaven to all who will believe in Him. "For whoever believes in Him will not perish [in hell], but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

I hope you'll take time to search out these truths more. Nothing could be more important.