Tim Keller - The Trouble With Christianity: 5 Why It's So Hard To Believe It - Hell

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Luke 16:19-31 Hell: Isn't the God of Christianity an angry judge?


  • God is a judge. He is a judge who consigns people to hell.
  • How can you possibly reconcile the concepts of judgement and hell with the idea of a loving God?
    • Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together.
      • Matthew 25:41 Matthew 25:46 Matthew 5:22 Matthew 18:8-9 Mark 9:3 Mark 9:43 Matthew 10:28 Matthew 25:30 Jude 6-7
    • For Jesus hell was a real place, since he said that after judgment day people would experience it in their bodies. Hell is a place not only of physical but also of spiritual misery.
    • Virtually all commentators and theologians believe that the Biblical images of fire and outer darkness are metaphorical. (Since souls are in hell right now, without bodies, how could the fire be literal, physical fire?) Even Jonathan Edwards pointed out that the Biblical language for hell was symbolic, but, he added, 'when metaphors are used in Scripture about spiritual things . . . they fall short of the literal truth." (from "The Torments of Hell are Exceeding Great" in volume 14 of the Yale edition of Edwards works.)
    • It is metaphorical probably for something infinite worse than fire. The reality will be far worse than the image.
    • Christian understanding what the Bible says about hell is crucial for:
      1. Understanding your own heart
      2. For living at peace in the world
      3. For knowing the love of God

1. Understanding what the Bible says about hell is crucial for understanding your heart

    • Only parable where a character, the poor man has a proper name, Lazarus
    • Other character is nameless, the rich man
      • This is done deliberately
      • Rich man could not have been an atheist nor a pagan.
      • He would have believed in the God of the Bible.
      • He would have prayed to the God of the Bible.
      • He would have obeyed the lawas of the God of the Bible, but he's in hell without a name.  Why?  Luke 16:25 - "He had his good things, ultimate things that gave him value"
    • Summum bonum (Latin for the highest good) is an expression used in philosophy, particularly in medieval philosophy and in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods. In Christian philosophy, the highest good is usually defined as the life of the righteous, the life led in Communion with God and according to God's precepts. In Hinduism and other Eastern Religions, Summum bonum is cognate with such concepts as Dharma, Tao, Shreyas, Moksha, Liberation, Jeevan Mukti, Self Realization.
    • What is your highest good?  What is the thing you live for?  What is the think that is your ultimate value?  What is that, that gives meaning to your life?  What is it that gives you a sense of who you are?  Whatever this is, is the thing that give you an identity?
      • Rich man had (past tense) his good things
      • Status and wealth was the basis for his identity
      • Status and wealth is now gone and now there is no "him" left
      • He was a rich man nor nothing
      • He now has no identity, he's gone, he's nameless
      • When you take away everything, like wealth and status, he has not identity
    • The alternative?  Kierkegaard defines sin as "Building your identity on anything but God."
      • Traditional definition of sin is breaking God's law
      • Kierkegaard agrees with this but wonders if this is a sufficient definition, and the reason he questions it is because of the Pharisees
      • Pharisees follow ALL the law yet they are lost because they are their own saviors and lord because they are seeking their own salvation.  They are trying to put God in the position that because they are so good, God has to bless them, and He has to answer their prayers, and He has to give them a good life, and He has to take them to heaven
      • Pharisees by obeying the law build their identity not on God but on their moral performance
      • They are getting their pride and self-worth out of their morality and the religiousity and it's destroying their character on the inside.  They are filled with pride and self-righteousness and ravening and rigidity and on the outside they are wreaking havoc because the best definition of sin is building your identity on anything besides God.
    • Romans 6
      • If you take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing; if you look at anything in this life and say, "If I have that then I have importance and value, but if I don't have that then I am nothing."
      • Money, career, talents, looks, relationships, parents, children, power, approval, comforts, control, and make any of these fundamental to your significance and security rather than the love and knowledge of God
      • You may believe in the God of the Bible, you may obey the laws of God of the Bible, you may pray to the God of the Bible, but your faith, the justification of your life, the roots of your identity, what you really worship is something else.
      • This starts in your heart, a spiritual, cosmic fire
      • "Fire and Darkness" are vivid ways to describe what happens when we lose the presence of God. Darkness refers to the isolation, and fire to the disintegration of being separated from God. Away from the favor and face of God, we literally, horrifically, and endlessly fall apart.
    • Addiction Steps:
      1. Disintegration
        • As addictions grow, you need more and more of the addictive substance to get less and less of the kick and the high and the satisfaction
        • You need more and more of the substance and you will do anything and everything to get it
      2. Isolation
        • You have to lie about things
        • You have to always defend yourself
        • You are always blaming everyone and everything else for your problems
        • Nobody understands you, and everyone is against you
      3. Denial
        • Inability to increasingly see what really is happening
        • Gettting more and more out of touch with reality
    • Iron Giant says, "Souls don't die, souls can't die."
      • If he's right, and this is what the Bible says then your soul after death goes on forever, and your personal conscienceness goes on forever
      • Every single person is addicted, grounding your very identity, taking your very self from something besides God than can never give you the satisfaction that you hope it will give you.
    • If we are all addicted in the ultimate sense and our soul is gone forever, what does this mean?
      • C.S. Lewis put the two together and said, "Christianity asserts that we are going to go on forever and that must either be true or false.  Now there are a great many things that wouldn't be worth bothering about if I was only going to live eighty years or so, but I had better bother about if I am going to go on living forever.  Perhaps my bad temper or my jealousy are getting worse so gradually that the increase in my lifetime will not be very noticeable but it might be absolute hell in a million years.  In fact, if Christianity is true, hell is precisely the correct technical term for it.  Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others, but you are still distinct from it.  You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it.  But there may come a day when you can no longer.  Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or to even enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on and on forever like a machine.  It is not a question of God 'sending us' to hell.  In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud."  (This is the fire and darkness)
      • You watch a log burning in the fire, it is falling apart
      • Things in your life (career, relationships, etc.) enslave you, may disintegrate you, isolate you so that when something gets in the way of them:
        • Insted of just being afraid you become paralyzed
        • Instead of just being angry you become actively bitter
        • Instead of just being wounded and hurt, you become devastated.  You want to throw yourself off a bridge.  You feel worthless.
        • Instead of being despondent, you hate yourself forever and ever
      • This is the fire!!!!
        • Do you see it in yourself?
        • Do you see where it is going to take you?
      • Denial then happens
        • C.S. Lewis says, "The doors of hell are locked from the inside."
        • This is the whole idea behind hell
        • Rich man is astonishingly blind and in denial and filled with blame-shifting
          • He's still ordering Lazarus around - He wants him to bring him water to cool his tongue
          • He still expects Lazarus to be a servant
          • He does not ask to get out of hell
          • He tries to get Lazarus into hell with him
          • He urges Abraham to send a messenger to go and warn his still-living brothers about the reality of hell. Commentators have pointed out that this is not a gesture of compassion, but rather an effort at blame-shifting.  He strongly insinuates that God did not give him enough information to escape hell
    • Summary
      • Hell is just a freely chosen identity based on something else besides God going on forever
      • Hell is just your freely chosen identity based on something else besides God going on forever
        • Disintegrating, disintegrating, disintegrating.
        • Your refusting to admit that is what it is
      • C.S. Lewis says, "In the long run, the answer to those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question, What are you asking God to do?  To wipe out past sins and at all cost give them a fresh start, He did this at Calvary.  To forgive them even when they don't ask for forgiveness.  To leave them alone."
        • This is what hell is
        • Only two kinds of people in the end
          1. Those who say to God, "Thy will be done."
          2. Those whom God says in the end to, "Thy will be done."
      • All that are in hell choose it; without the self-choice it wouldn't be hell
      • Understanding the nature of hell, seeing everyone as spiritual addictis is crucial for knowing how to deal with what is going on in your life.
      • You have to see and understand the seriousness of this
      • What you do as a Christian most of your life is seeing the fires come up, and you work to blow them out
        • I have to deal with these with the Gospel and Grace, and they continuously come up again, but it is helpful to know what they are and what will extinguish them.
      • Who are you really?  Have you got a core identity?  A name based in what God has done for you in Jesus?  Based in being a child of the King?  Based in getting to the new heavens and the new earth?  Have you got a fundamental core identity that is there not matter what the circumstances, no matter what happens you know who you are?  There's a stability, do you have that or are you just a business man (fill in anything on the line)?
      • Are you willing to look into yourself as deep as this doctrine is calling you to look?

2. Understanding what the Bible says about hell is crucial for living at peace in the world.

    • Mark 13
    • There are many people who really get afraid that if you believe in a God of judgment and in the doctrine of hell, it means you will disdain classes of people, and you will oppress them.
    • NON-CHRISTIAN CLAIM:  What are the prospects of equal citizenship for those damned by their refusal to be born-again?
      • Can Christians treat them as equal citizens if Christians feel the non-Christians are lost, judged, and damned?
      • Christians are going to oppress the non-Christians, disdain them, and feel it is all right to maginalize them
    • This objection and claim does not show understanding about what the Bible really says about hell at all
    • Hell is not something imposed by God in violence
    • Luke 16:25 - Abraham calls the Rich Man, "Child....", a term that contains sadness, and a sense of tragedy.
    • Cycle of retaliation is not fueled by a belief in a God of judgement, but it is fueled by a lack of belief in a God of judgement.  If God were not angry at injustice, that God would not be worthy of worship.  The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violenece by ourselves is to insist that judgement is legitimate only when it comes from God.  My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengence will be unpopular with many but it takes the quiet of the suburban home to believe that human non-violence results from a belief in God's refusal to judge in a land soaked in the blood of the innocent.  It will invariably die with other captivities of the liberal mind.
    • Believing in a God of judgement is the only thing strong enough to have us live in peace on earth.

3. Understanding what the Bible says about hell is crucial for knowing the love of God.

    • Rich man asks for a miracle, "Send Lazarus...."; Raise him from the dead
    • Luke 16:29-31  - Abraham was saying that the fear of hell, and the fear of damnation will never change the fundamental structures of your heart.  The fear of hell also won't keep you from ending up there.
    • What is wrong with us and the world?
      • Self-centeredness, self-absorbtion, me, me, me over you, me rather than you
      • In our move away from God, we see the soul disintegration our self-centeredness creates.  We can see how our selfishness and self-absorption lead to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them. Yet this tendency to move away from God is our choice.
    • Scaring people with the fear of hell will get them to act good and believe, but why do they respond this way?
      • For their own sake, more selfishness
      • Not doing it for God, using God because they were good and for what they were really building their identity on.
      • Rearranging the evil in your heart to make you a moral person
    • What does change the fundamental structures of the heart?
      • Love, radical love, unconditional love
      • The kind of love shocks our hearts into a whole new way of living.
      • Luke 16:30-31  - Is anyone, including Jesus, being raised from the dead enough to do this?  NO!!!!  If Jesus suddenly showed up and even blew out the side of the mountain, this would only cause fear in people.
      • Jesus was saying, "No, the key is that you must know why He died and rose from the dead."
        • Luke 16:31  - You find and understand this in Moses and the Prophets (The Bible).
        • It was God's will to crush Him so when we looked upon Him we were apalled.  Jesus was disfigured beyond human appearance and recognition.  His form was marred beyond human likeness.  For the Lord made Him a guilt offering but the results of His suffering He will see and be satisfied.
        • You do not know how much Jesus loves you unless you understand how much He sufffered for you on the cross.
        • Imagine a friend of yours comes to visit you and you aren't home.  He then tells you, "Hey, I was at your house the other day and I saw one of your bills was due.  You weren't around to pay it so I paid it for you."  How should you respond?  You have no idea how to respond until you know much the bill was for?  Shake your friend's hand or fall down on the ground and kiss his feet.
        • Unless you believe in hell, you will never know and understand how much Jesus loves you, how much He values you.
        • Jesus spoke more about hell than all others put together in the Bible.  Why?  Because on the cross, He took it, the fire fell down into His heart.
        • When Jesus was separated from the Father's love on the cross, both Father and Son expeirenced the most unspeakable pain for our sake.  Jesus experienced a disintegration, and an isolation infinitely greater than you and I would ever experience spending an eternity in hell.
        • Jesus took the isolation and disintegration we deserved on Himself
          • Why?  => He loves you!!!
          • 2 Corinthians 5:18  - Reconciliation
          • 1 Peter 1:23  - Regeneration
          • John 6:40  - Resurrection
    • Ironically, when people get rid of a God of judgement and hell to make God more loving, they actually make Him less.
    • If I want to be transformed, I have to believe in hell
    • The Biblical doctrine of hell, if you don't really understand it, or just understand pieces, you could twist it to create a pretext for cruelty but to really read about it, to really understand how all the plot lines of the Bible regarding justice come together on Jesus Christ who was the judge of the earth who came not to bring judgement but to bare judgement and to go to hell ffor His enemies.  If you understand that, if you grasp that, it is going to equip you to live at peace with other people, with God who did this for you, and with yourself.
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