• Tony Birkhead

Heaven and Hell Week-2



The Reality of Hell’s Fury should Motivate us for Heaven’s Glory!

INTRODUCTION

Hell shows us God is Holy and we are not- 1 John 1:5, Romans 3:23, Isaiah 59:2

Hell shows us God is just and punishes sin- Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:15, 21:8, Matthew 8:10-12, Mark 9:47-48

Hell shows the ultimate reason for the cross- 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 3:24-26, John 3:36

KEY SCRIPTURE

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Matthew 10:28-30

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Matthew 25:31-46

If you were to base your understanding of heaven on contemporary books and movies, what would you think? What would you think about hell?

How seriously do people take the afterlife? How seriously should we take the afterlife? How does the reality of heaven and hell change how we view this life?


Read John 3:36

This verse indicates God’s wrath, for a time, is on every single person. Have you ever thought of God’s wrath being on you? What does that mean?


How, then, can a person avoid the wrath of God?


Will God ever “get over” someone rejecting Jesus Christ? Why not?


If we are going to believe God’s Word, and if we are going to teach others that rejection of God’s Son Jesus means an eternity of misery in hell, then we had better understand why the rejection of Jesus makes the Father so angry. But God was merciful, and instead of crushing the rebellion of men and women right then and there, He made a way by which they could be redeemed. God sent prophets to tell them that the Messiah was coming, and that He would bear their iniquities. God the Father sent His Son Jesus, to give amnesty to all of us who are in rebellion against God. The price for our forgiveness was His own life. Jesus died on the cross, taking the wrath that men and women deserved, so that they might be reconciled to God. That’s what makes God so angry about the rejection of Jesus. It is the rejection of God Himself, and the greatest sacrifice and demonstration of love that could ever be shown.


Read MATTHEW 10:28-30.

How can these verses serve as a positive motivation for believers?


How would you describe a healthy fear of the Lord?


What do you learn about your value to God from these verses? Why is that important to understand when you think about eternity?


We should not fear God’s wrath if we love His Son Jesus, but we do fear what will happen to others if they do not repent and believe the gospel. We proclaim the gospel for their sake, even when they are hostile toward us, so that they might repent and escape the wrath that abides on them. In this passage, Jesus also teaches us that we have great value to God. God provides everything for sparrows, and if God takes such care of sparrows, He will surely take care of those made in His image. God does not grudgingly give us heaven for the sake of Jesus, God delights to give us all good things because of the love that Christ has shown us.


MOVING FORWARD

  • How would you say your understanding of heaven or hell affects your conduct in this life? How should it?

  • Penn Jillette, of the magician duo Penn & Teller said this: “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” What reasons or excuses do believers have for not telling people about Jesus? What happens when we don’t?

  • How can we, as a group, better hold up the reality of heaven and hell for each other?

PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for His gracious gift of salvation through Jesus on whom He poured out His wrath on your behalf. Thank Him for the promise of heaven and pray for those you know who are bent on hell. Invite God to embolden you to share the truth about eternity with those He puts in your path this week.

COMMENTARY

Matthew 25:31-46

25:31. When the Son of Man comes in His glory points to the future and the closing era of God’s plan of redemption. Jesus’ return at some point in the future is often treated with slight embarrassment today by otherwise fine Christians. Their expectations have not been met even though the signs seem to line up again and again. The words glory, angels, and throne call attention to the majesty, power and authority of the second coming.

25:32. The word for nations can refer either to Gentiles only or to all people from every nation including Israel. The latter is to be preferred here. The emphasis is on all people as individuals, not on nations collectively. Each person will be judged based on his or her response to the Gospel and will receive Christ’s verdict. Jesus will separate them one from another. This image of judgment gives rise to several important points. First, all of human life and effort boils down to a basic choice based on Jesus’ message and sacrifice. A second important point we can take from the image in this parable concerns the sheep and the goats. Distinguishing between these two animals is difficult, especially from a distance, except for someone who knows precisely what to look for. A shepherd is qualified.

25:33. The positions of left and right indicate the complete distinction. There is no middle ground. The sheep have the position on the right, the place of honor. The goats are on the left, in this case the place of rejection.

25:34. The King emphasizes Jesus’ dominion and power at the final judgment. His reign, which is no less real today, will be complete— all of creation will be forced to acknowledge His authority. Those on His right are invited to come. They will receive their reward for faithful service. Notice they are not about to be blessed but already are blessed by my Father. The word blessed emphasizes God’s action in bringing people into His desired relationship with them. The fact of our relationship to God leads naturally to the next image in the parable. Inherit the kingdom underscores the Christian’s place in God’s family. The Scripture often uses the imagery of an “inheritance” to describe our inclusion in God’s family and the reward we will enjoy.

25:35. The criteria for judgment is surprising, and a few preliminary words may help to understand the specific intent of the parable. Judgment is based on works in this parable, but this does not mean Jesus was describing salvation by works. He was emphasizing the importance of service, and service especially to the neediest people in our society. His strong language here does not negate the wider New Testament teaching of salvation by grace through faith. It simply highlights the results of salvation.

25:36. Naked may refer to someone without any clothes or someone who only has an undergarment. Ministry to the sick is always important. Only when you have benefited firsthand from this kind of kindness can you really appreciate its impact. In this context the people in prison may refer to those who fell on hard times through debt or were abused in some manner by the wealthy and influential. They were the weak and poor.

Matthew 10:26-30

10:26-27. Part of the fear of persecution is that the truth of the injustice may never become known, and justice may never be served. But Jesus encouraged the Twelve not to fear injustice from the persecutors. Ultimately, any concealed truth will break into the open. In fact, he exhorted his disciples to be instrumental in making the truth known (10:27), that justice might be done.

10:28-31. Another fear related to persecution is the fear of bodily harm and death. But Jesus helped his disciples to shift their focus. He told them, in essence, “Do not worry about your body. It is expendable. Concern yourself, instead, with the condition of your soul-life, which is eternal, and which, if invested rightly now, returns great reward” (16:24-27). A believer who adopts this perspective will not be afraid of those who can kill the body but will fear God’ the Lord who has authority as judge to condemn the soul and the body to eternal destruction in hell. This healthy fear of God will cause a person to live by obedience, respecting the authority and power of the judge (Prov. 1:7). To the stark truth of 10:28, Jesus added the comforting grace of 10:29-31, assuring the believer that the judge is also the Father, who values his children greatly and will always protect their souls.

Using a line of reasoning converse of that in 10:24-25, Jesus argued that because the Father cares what happens to the lesser (an insignificant sparrow), he will care much more deeply for the greater (a person made in his image—especially one who claims him as Father). The price of sparrows used in sacrifices (10:29), two for an assarion (the smallest copper coin), is intended to emphasize the insignificance of the bird; while the numbering of one’s hairs (10:30) by the Father emphasizes how much the Father values and cares for his child.


DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

As Christians, true love is defined by God himself. Love is not our God, love is shown to us by him. So, in today’s verse we learn what real love looks like: Jesus Christ and his mission to save us. What’s amazing isn’t simply Jesus’ sacrifice for people who are undeserving. It’s his sacrificing for people who are ill-deserving. There’s a difference.

UNDESERVING VS. ILL-DESERVING

Imagine someone broke into your house. They robbed your valuables and destroyed the property. At the end, you were left with a shell of what once was your safe home. However, the police caught the criminals and took them to the station. Upon hearing this, your father went to the station. And rather than telling the cops to “throw the book at them…” Your dad says something else. He tells the police, “Please don’t prosecute them. I know they’re guilty. I understand they destroyed my home and stole my things. But I will stand in their place and take their punishment.” The officers are stunned—as are the criminals. It’s quiet for a moment as everyone processes what your father just said. Then one of the criminals breaks the silence. He asks, “Why would you do that?” Your father answers, “I love you.”

WHAT LOVE REALLY LOOKS LIKE

This is a simple illustration of what love really looks like. You see, people are not only undeserving of salvation, we are ill-deserving. We aren’t mere bystanders. All it takes is a moment looking around the news to see humans are actively engaged in evil. Wars, human trafficking, murder, rape, robbery, and the list goes on… Yet, while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. He loved us in a scandalous way. This is the measure of Christian love. This is the breadth of God’s forgiveness. This is the depth of his kindness. …and remember, God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4).

APPLYING GOD’S LOVE:

How will you reflect God’s love for people today?

Where do you need to be drawn in by this radical grace and repent?

Is your heart thankful to God? If so, does your gratitude for his love overflow into your life?

How will this mark the fruit of evangelism in your life?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:32-33

Consider the following:

Modern day cross: A decoration to be worn on a necklace, bracelet or T-shirt, hung on a wall, or placed on a bumper sticker, etc.

First Century cross: An instrument of extreme and violent capital punishment reserved for the worst of society’s criminals. A method of execution invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans. Crucifixion was so horrific that we actually have a word, excruciating (literally, “from the cross”), that describes pain so agonizing it must be associated with the worst of deaths. Why then, would Christians choose an emblem of such detest and embarrassing public defeat to represent themselves? Because as Jesus hung on the cross in defeat, he was actually winning our ultimate victory. Jesus allowed his body to be broken and abused in the most unbearable way, and just when it looked as if Satan had won, the Father “raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by [death]” (Acts 2:24).

The cross symbolizes Jesus’ victory over hell even from the dust of defeat. The worst that this world can hold for any person, Jesus faced, once and for all, and rose in perfection and ultimate victory. This is what the cross means. It is so much more than an iconic piece of jewelry or decoration for our living rooms. It represents Jesus’ defeat of the hate, malice, rebellion and sin that our Enemy is enthroned upon and that lurks even in our hearts. When you next see a cross, do two things: Remember what it really represents, Make sure that others understand it as well (but do so in love).

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

Mark 7:20-23

When we think about ourselves, many of us tend to think we are basically good. We don’t kill people, rob banks, or trip elderly folks at the grocery store. But when it comes down to it, there is a reason that hell is a real place where millions will suffer eternally separated from God, his goodness, and his presence. In dealing with sin, God deals with the sinner because the problem isn’t all of the sin “out there”, but the sin “in here”. He did this with Jesus on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), though Jesus himself had never sinned he did take our sin upon himself (Isaiah 53:11-12) and bore God’s wrath against sin, for “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10).

God also dealt in a like manner with rebellious Israelites in the Old Testament (Numbers 16:35), and even those who would lie to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (Acts 5). We are born defiled, sinning, and rebellious toward God. In fact, Jesus taught that from our hearts comes every evil we see play out on this earth. Whether sins of commission (we do something we shouldn’t have) or sins of omission (where we didn’t do something we should have), we are guilty and dirty with sin from our infancy, skilled in deceit and pride. How true then is Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:10-19

Today’s passage presents an interesting paradox. Paul promises the Philippians that God will supply all their needs (Phil. 4:19) yet admits that he has experienced times of want (Phil. 4:12). To reconcile these two statements, let’s consider God’s divine viewpoint.

Paul wrote these words from a prison cell, a place of great physical distress. From a human perspective, we might all agree that God should have provided for the apostle by relieving his suffering. But instead, the Lord taught him contentment in this difficult situation. Although his physical discomfort remained, a greater need—for a changed attitude—was met.

A change of heart toward ongoing suffering is a huge challenge. On our own, it’s impossible, but the Lord promises to strengthen us through Christ. By living in dependence and submission to Him, we gain His power to overcome our negative, sinful attitudes and learn contentment in all kinds of situations.

Our problem is not that the Lord won’t provide for us, but that we so often fail to understand what our deepest needs are. God sees from an unlimited perspective and works for our eternal good, providing for us according to His good purposes from the limitless supply of “His riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19).

Instead of pleading with God to take away your difficulty, ask Him for strength and a new perspective. Although He may not always deliver you from trials, you can count on Him to help you learn contentment, no matter what your external needs may be.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


DAY 5

And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment.

Jude 1:22-23

Maybe you’ve been asked this question—or have asked it yourself: “How can a God of love send someone to Hell?” Let me respond by quoting J. I. Packer, who wrote, “Scripture sees hell as self-chosen. . . . Hell appears as God’s gesture of respect for human choice.”

C.S. Lewis summed it up this way: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”

And Timothy Keller noted, “In short, hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity.”

If someone ends up in Hell, it breaks the heart of God. They rejected God’s solution, and they charted their own course.

General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, said that if he had his way he would, as part his training for evangelism, take his trainees and dangle them over Hell so they would be able to comprehend what awaits those who don’t know the Lord.

I want to do everything I can to warn everyone I know so they won’t end up in that horrible place. I’m not suggesting we should call every unbeliever we know and say, “You’re going to Hell!” The Bible says, “The goodness of God leads [us] to repentance” (Romans 2:4 NKJV).

Tell them about what Christ has done for you. Tell them about the hope of Heaven. Tell them about the forgiveness of sin. And tell them what the repercussions are if they don’t believe. Don’t leave that out. Don’t dilute it. We have the hope of Heaven, but we don’t want anyone to go to Hell.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

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