No Place to Hide - Part 3

Scripture: Matthew 25:41
The topic of hell is not an easy or pleasant doctrine in Scripture, but a necessary one to look at. In this last of three broadcasts we look at the question, "What about this everlasting fire that the Bible speaks about?" and also the "unquenchable fire"?
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For the last two days we've been talking about the terrible subject of hell. Now, friends, it's not easy or pleasant for us to deal with this topic because, really, the description of it in the Bible is terrible indeed. But it is no more terrible than the conception that many people have of it because there's more distortion and misunderstanding, perhaps, of this subject than of any other Bible doctrine. That's why we're taking the time here to deal with it from the Bible standpoint alone.

We've already found that the wicked are going to be punished right here in this earth and they will not be punished until the end of the world. People do not die and go immediately into the punishment of hell-fire. First, they must come before the judgment. They must be tried. Their cases must be settled and then every man will be punished according to his works. The Bible describes that lake of fire and brimstone down at the end of the world. It will come after the millennium when the time of the judgment is here and all the wicked are to be destroyed. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death." So these people are going to die. The wicked will burn in that fire, but they will be burned up. They will be entirely and completely destroyed, because "the wages of sin is death."

Now somebody might say right here, "What about this everlasting fire that the Bible speaks about?" Well, it does say that, of course, in a number of places. One is Matthew 25:41. Now what is this everlasting fire? Let's let the Bible explain. In Jude, verse 7, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Now here we have an example of eternal or everlasting fire. The Bible says that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with eternal fire. Let's notice what the apostle Peter says on this same subject, and this will settle it forever. Friends, what about this eternal fire that burned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. What did it do to those cities? Second Peter 2:6, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." Why, friends, isn't that wonderful? God says here that those cities suffered the vengeance of eternal fire but they came down to ashes even though it was eternal fire. It went out when it came to ashes. Those fires are not burning today. The Dead Sea is rolling over the place where those ancient cities once stood. So then, what is this eternal fire then? Well, it's something that burns and turns something into ashes and from which there can be no more existence. Now I'm sure that you'll have no question regarding eternal fire after you study these texts carefully.

Now what about unquenchable fire? Mark 9:43 mentions a fire that can't be quenched, and people have said, "Well, that's a fire that just will never go out, will just go on burning and burning and burning, and the people will be tormented without end." Well, that's not what the Bible teaches, friends. I'm glad when we have some of these perplexing things, we don't have to guess or speculate. We can go right to God's answer in the Bible. Now look at Jeremiah, chapter 17, and here's where the Lord threatened the city of Jerusalem with a fire that would not be quenched. He says, "If you'll obey My voice, I'll make your holy city, Jerusalem, the capital of the earth. (Now I'm telling you what this says in so many words) And I'll bless you above all other people." But then in the last verse, He says, "But if ye will not hearken unto me ... will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." Now, friends, did they obey? Of course not. And we know the city was destroyed by fire and according to 2 Chronicles 36:19-21, this city was burned and destroyed to fulfill the word of Jeremiah the Prophet-that's actually what it said. Now Jeremiah the Prophet said a fire would be set in the gate and it would never be quenched, but friends, that unquenchable fire went out. Unquenchable fire can't be put out; it can't be quenched; but after it has burned everything up, it will go out. Unquenchable fire will go out when the wicked are all burned up. The Bible is very clear on this, and explains it carefully.

Perhaps you're wondering about the word "forever" that's used in connection with the destruction of the wicked. Revelation 14:11 says, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." Well, what about that? How could we explain that? Well it's certainly a fair question and we ought to consider it. First of all, we ought to realize that the word "forever" as used in the Bible, does not always mean what it means to us today. "Forever" when we use it means un-ending-on and on and on. But in the Bible, friends, it doesn't always mean that at all. It has many meanings in the Bible, but generally speaking it means a period of time either limited or unlimited. It might mean on and on throughout the ages or it might mean a very short period of time. In fact the word "forever" is used 56 times in the Old Testament alone in connection with something that has already come to an end. Now that ought to make it clear to everyone that when the word "forever" appears, we can't assume that it simply means "without end."

You know, it's a good thing sometimes for us to look up some of these words and find out what they really do mean. If a word in English concerns us, we look it up in the dictionary. If a word in the Bible concerns us, we look it up in a lexicon or a Bible dictionary. Now let's give a definition from five Bible lexicons of the word "forever." This is from Greenfield: "Duration, finite or infinite, a period or duration, past or future time." This is from Schaenelius: "An age, time, whether longer or shorter." This one is from Liddell and Scott: "A space or period of time, especially a lifetime." Now friends, the Bible often uses the word "forever" in reference to a person's lifetime. Here's another from Parkhurst: "It denotes duration or continuance of time but with great variety." And then Robinson: "Duration, the flow or course of time in various relations as determined by the context." Now that's a good one. He said it means a period of time but it can mean without end, short, long or medium, but you have to take the context to be sure what it's talking about.

Now perhaps you're saying, "That's strange, how could a person ever know for sure what forever means?" No, it's not strange at all. We have the same things that obtain in our speaking today. In our language right in this country, take for example, the word "tall." What does it mean? What does the word "tall" mean? Well, we have to know what you're referring to. If you mean a tall man, we think of 6 feet, 5 inches, maybe. But suppose you're talking about a tall tree, that means something else, 60 feet perhaps. A tall mountain, 6000 feet or even 10,000 feet. It's the same thing with the word "life." We speak of the life of a man, referring to the length of life, that's 70 years or maybe even 50 years. Then we speak of the life of a tree; some of these great trees, 200 years or maybe 300 years. Then we speak of the life of God, eternity, never-ending, of course. Well, it's the same with the word forever. You must know how it's used and to what it's referring, because a word doesn't always mean the same thing, it depends on the usage. For example, Jonah-and I could name many of these today. Like I mentioned 56 times in the Old Testament "forever" is used in connection with something that already came to an end long ago. But here in Jonah 2, it says he was in the whale's belly forever, but in the same book it specifically says in another place that it was three days and three nights. There the word forever meant three days and three nights.

In another place in the Bible, "forever" specifically means ten generations. In 1 Samuel 1:22, Hannah lent her son to the Lord; she said "forever" her son would be lent to the Lord, but then she said, "as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord," in verse 28. So that makes it clear, friends, that we can't take this word "forever" to mean without end. It means usually the rest of a person's life or as long as an individual lives, and that's what it means in Revelation 14:11. Some of those wicked will live longer than others. Revelation 14 specifically says day nor night so some of them will be living days in the fire. We do know that much. But it will mean the length of time until they are completely perished, until they pass into oblivion, and are destroyed. The wages of sin will be death.

Don't you realize, friends, that an eternal hell of torment would be hell for God. The Lord loves His people; even though they're wicked, He loves them. Even though He has to punish them, He loves them. And to think that God would take the people that He loves, even though they are wicked, and put them somewhere to be tortured throughout eternity, where He could listen to their screams every day for mercy, how can a person believe a thing like that? It would be truly hell for God. And I submit to you, if God really did that, He would be guilty of worse atrocities than the Germans ever thought of in their torture camps. We've all heard of Adolph Eichmann and how he destroyed six million Jews, how he experimented with many of them and injected them with poisons and destroyed them with injections, flame-throwers and gas chambers, and all the rest of it. It's horrible, too horrible to even talk about; makes our hair stand on end to read about it. But, my friends, I say again that if God kept an endless hell of torment, He would be guilty of worse atrocities than those attributed to Adolph Eichmann. At last, at least, Eichmann allowed them to die. Their miseries came to an end. Their punishment ceased. Many preachers, even great theologians, say that God will never relieve the wicked; that He'll keep on burning them and tormenting them without end, throughout eternity. This is the thing that made Robert Ingersoll a great infidel and unbeliever.

Well, I'm preaching this today, friends, because I want to wipe away this libel from my Savior's name. The Lord Jesus has been given credit for establishing this ignominious doctrine of eternal torment when He taught actually something entirely different. And I say it's libel and slander to teach such things, and I believe it's nothing short of blasphemy to accuse God of doing things that the vilest criminal wouldn't do. Even in the world of crime, there's a code of ethics and no criminal would take his own dear boy and put him in a fire and roast him forever and listen to him scream. And yet men have the gall to accuse God of that and I say that it's blasphemy, it's slander, it's libel. You say, "Well, then, what is hell for?" The Lord answers that in Matthew 25:41. He says, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

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