One of my favorite actors died yesterday. His name was Robin Williams. He was born in the early 1950’s and rose to fame in the television series, “Mork and Mindy” where he played an alien named, “Mork” who fell in love with a woman named Mindy. Later on, he entered a successful career in film. His most notable work includes, “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting.” As for me, a 90’s child, his work in, “Aladdin” and “Flubber” made me laugh and shaped my sense of humor. His gentle, yet rapid-fire delivery appealed to many people. He was always eager to earn the laughs of his audience. Many will miss him. Yet, as I found myself upset at the news of his death, the weight of it soon began to lift. I didn’t know him personally, maybe that’s why the feelings left so soon. His talent will be missed (no doubt!). Hollywood will mourn, but soon his coffin will be in the ground and all that will be left is his memory. One hundred years from now, he will be studied but eventually forgotten. This earth is our temporary home, just like our bodies.
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass. Isaiah 40:6-7 (ESV)
For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:11, ESV)
His death caused a ripple in our lives; for a split second, the world felt a bit lonelier. Many throw sentiments around like, “Rest In Peace” or “You will be missed” or “heaven just got another angel.” But, us Christians don’t think about why we say these things. We look at death with tunnel vision: everything gets blurry past the point of our own experiences. It’s so much easier to just think of Robin Williams as a man we saw, and see no longer, instead of an eternal soul who stood before God when he died.
It’s with great sadness that I am about to say this: Maybe Robin Williams is in Hell. We forget that he blasphemed God, used profane language, and planted dirty jokes in the minds of people. For all the (sometimes) clean laughter he gave us, Robin Williams was still a sinner like us, and like us he needed to be redeemed. He needed more than another trip to rehab. He needed more than the money, the acting jobs, and our applause. He needed to be redeemed from himself. He needed to be made new. Instead of us listening to him, he needed to hear from God. He needed to hear about the cross; about the resurrection; about forgiveness, and the mercy, longsuffering, and love of God. He needed to deny himself, carry his cross, and follow Jesus. Perhaps he had, maybe he was saved during his last days on earth. Only God knows. But, for God’s sake we shouldn’t brush Hell under the rug and say, “rest in peace”- we need to take his death as a reminder that someday soon we will die along with everyone else.
Our bodies are temporary (Rev. 21-22). It’s a part of living in a world dominated by sin (Gen. 3). Somehow we get caught up in the hoopla of trying to look young forever, to pile high our bank accounts (no generosity), and live life to the “fullest.” It’s much easier to live this life as if it ends when your body dies. Your body may die, but you won’t. But, it seems like lately we Christians seem to enjoy talking more about the comforts we have in Christ, while missing the point: we were rescued.
It’s not the dying that should scare us- it’s the fact that we will see God (Heb. 9, Matt. 12). Unless Christ is our attorney, the verdict will be guilty. To be guilty means more than just being counted a sinner, it means receiving due justice: Eternity in Hell. Hell is not a bad word, it’s actually a good word: it’s a real place because we really deserve to be there. That’s the cost of sin.
Here’s my point: Christians, Hell needs to mean more to you than a curse word you use. It needs to wake you up to an existence that is far more real to you than your feelings and everyday problems. The flames need to be felt in your own heart. You must understand where you came from and Who saved you. You must snatch others out of the flames (James 5). You were going to perish, but God took you out of the fire.
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” says,
“O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is 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.”
We are helpless. There is a tarp under us that is hanging over the flames, slowing tearing apart. Our own hearts are inclined to turn away from any help- we are neither able nor willing, but God was able and willing. He rescued you. He brought you back to Himself. The moment you understood your inevitable ruin, is the moment you ran to safety in Christ. That, is the gospel! That, is the grace of God. Hell is what we rightly deserve, but God chose to give us something we cannot earn nor deserve. God was not obligated to save you, but He committed Himself to be your Rescuer. Consider what your fate would have been, now consider the fate of those around you. Where do they stand with God?
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4-5, ESV)
There will be people around us who won’t be counted innocent in God’s eyes. They will not spend eternity with Jesus. They will spend eternity away from God. There are many who doubt that a loving God would send someone to Hell- so, they accept the Jesus part, but throw away the part about Hell and punishment. Perhaps we don’t understand what God’s justice means.
Therefore, listen closely:
If we fail to understand God’s justice, then we fail to know God’s love, God’s mercy, and God’s grace. Good news is only good when there is bad news. If Hell does not exist, then Jesus saved us from nothing, died for nothing, and only came to preserve us. If all we are in danger of is evaporating, then there is nothing to drive us into the arms of Christ except the selfish motive of wanting to stick around. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that non-witnesses will be “burned up” and obliterated. Same goes for some Seventh Day Adventists.
The best way to not think about Hell is to suppress it, or find a more temporary, false alternative. But, if we are to see the truth about our sinfulness and God’s grace, then we need to accept the consequences of both: For Hell to exist, sinners must be punished. For grace to exist, Jesus must be punished instead of you. Jesus had to die the death worthy of a sinner, in order to give us the reward He deserved (eternal life). There is no other option. Either both exist or neither do.
In the gospels, Jesus speaks about Hell far more than He does about heaven. The words of Jesus are haunting because they are true. Unless we turn from ourselves, to God, we will perish:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5, ESV)
We are sinners and we are guilty- and, like a father watching his children rebel, God is grieved in His heart to see His creation turn away. As Judge, He must condemn them (see Ezekiel 18, Lamentations 3). If God doesn’t punish the guilty, then how can He be God?
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV)
24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24, ESV)
Hell is a real place, but God’s grace is greater than our sin (Eph. 2:1-4). Jesus has come! Jesus is alive. You are set free by trusting in Him. The Christian life begins with obeying the command of Jesus: come and die, and you will live. The old you must die, in order for your new life in Christ to begin.
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 Forwhoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
Like Robin Williams, we all will die. The applause, the glory, the money, our bodies, will deteriorate.The clock will stop ticking on this life here, and eternity will begin. On which side of eternity will you end up?
Until next time,