By Warren E. Berkley
One positive step we can take toward motivation for righteousness, and abstaining from sin is: Consider the revulsion of what the Bible tells us about eternal punishment. The greatest and deepest tragedy of hell is banishment from the blessed presence of God and the eternal relationship with the Son (2 Thess. 1:9). But there is more. . .
Everybody needs to know that the suffering of hell will be intensified by the kind of people who will be there. The devil and his angels will be there, along with all the immoral and depraved of mankind. It will be the home of all hypocrites; the dwelling place of murderers, liars and all the brutal, selfish men of history.
A graphic and familiar statement about the inhabitants of hell is that which is given by John in Revelation 21:8. “But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Eight kinds of sinners are named here; notice. . .
The cowardly are the fearful ones, who have not the strong faith to “overcome” (see Rev. 21:7). (See the tragedy of this kind of fear; Jn. 12:42,43; Gal. 2:12; Prov. 29:25.)
Unbelieving people do not have the faith of the gospel. They do not walk or live by faith (Rom. 1:16,17). In spite of the “many infallible proofs” and appeals of the gospel, they refuse to acknowledge the truth and live by faith.
The abominable are those whose conduct is disgusting and offensive before God. They drink iniquity like water (Job 15:16). Atheists reject God’s existence, and thus become involved in abominable works (Psa. 14:1; 53:1). Some “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Tit. 1:6).
Murderers were once regarded as the core of the criminal element of society. We connected murder with the “underworld” or with sudden impulses of selfish and wicked anger. Today, murder has evolved into a commonly accepted alternative to self-control, as we have witnessed over 20 million abortions (of convenience) since 1973! Those who are guilty, John says, “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”
The sexually immoral. The common sentiment in our society is that any and all forms of sexual expression are legitimate, just as long as they are pleasurable. One denominational “committee on human sexuality” even said: “Where there is justice-love, sexual expression has ethical integrity. That moral principle applies to single . . . married, gay, lesbian and bisexual persons” (Presbyterian Committee on Human Sexuality; via. U.S. News & World Report, June 19, 1991, p. 63). God says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers, God will judge,” so here is what has “ethical integrity” – abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:1-8; 1 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 5:19-21).
Sorcerers. Sorcery is a vain and desperate means of seeking some kind of thrill and/or guidance through drugs, potions, claimed incantations or alleged magical spells. It caters to the flesh; exalts man above God; leads people away from purity and righteousness. And, it is a lie! This is why Jeremiah said; “your prophets … diviners, dreamers, enchanters and sorcerers . . . prophesy a lie unto you” (Jer. 27:9-16). In recent times, the New Age Movement has revived an interest in things of this nature. The Christian needs to understand and teach: these things are of the Devil, and those involved “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (See also: Exod. 22:18; Mal. 3:5; Isa. 47:9; Acts 8:9-25; 13:4-12; 19:19; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 22:15.)
Idolaters give to something or someone, the affections, worship and devotion only God deserves. The prophets told the people that to follow idols is to become an idolater (Jer. 2:5). Peter wrote, those who have armed themselves with the mind of Christ will not participate in “abominable idolatries,” and John simply said: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Pet. 4:3; 1 Jn. 5:21).
All liars will be there too! Those who are false; they lie to themselves, to others, to God, they will be excluded from heaven, and punished forever. “. . . outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Rev. 22:15).
“All these hideous characters are but the creatures of sin. Sin is a cowardice, sin is faithless, sin is abhorrent, sin is murderous, sin is lascivious, sin is deceptive and idolatrous. All these productions of sin are abhorrent to the Divine nature. ‘It is the abominable thing’ which he hates, and he consigns sin to irretrievable destruction, and it is destined to have its part in ‘the lake which burneth with fire… (Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation, p. 538). Also, in this gruesome place of eternal punishment. . .
“The unjust” in 2 Peter 2:9. They have a “reservation.” The text says, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” The unjust are those who are “not in conformity with right” (W.E. Vine, p. 171). In the context of 2 Peter 2, these were “false teachers” who were bringing in “destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). Hell will be occupied by them. (Thought Question: If the false teacher enters a plea of “sincerity” or “ignorance,” will the punishment be withheld on that basis? See 1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Cor. 4:4.)
“Those who do not know God, and . . . those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” You can expect to find these impenitent, disobedient ones there, according to 2 Thessalonians 1:8. And this is one reason Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:10,11).
The lawless will be there too. Jesus will pronounce the verdict: “I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:23) In the context of this verdict, there is a contrast we discern between those who do “the will of my Father” and “you who practice lawlessness.” And “lawlessness” or “iniquity” is the condition of one without law or without authority (anomia). Faithful preachers and teachers do not stress Bible authority for fear of violating a “traditional” emphasis among churches of Christ. The attention we give to understanding and applying Bible authority is motivated, in part, by the Lord’s warning. And, “whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 Jn. 9). Where will these transgressors wind up if they neglect repentance?
Those who “sin willfully” after receiving the knowledge of the truth can anticipate “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26,27). It should be our daily desire to avoid all sin (1 Jn. 2:1). But “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 2:1; 1:9). In the Hebrews 10 context (at verse 26), the writer’s statement refers to one who sins willfully. Here is the person who sins, who keeps on sinning, and who does not allow guilt and conviction to produce repentance. If you experience the agonies of the everlasting fire of hell, these willful sinners will share that suffering with you.
If you now insist upon having your own way; if you shun the presence of God, and seek association with those who love the world, you can expect to spend eternity banished from the presence of God, and in the company of these people forever. How much better to be “justified by his blood” that we might “be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 19, pp. 592-593
October 3, 1991