Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday---Ask Pastor John Piper: Is Everyone Punished the Same In Hell?



Today’s question comes from Callum in Southampton, England. “Hello, Pastor John. After listening to episode 996, ‘Will Some People in Heaven Have More Joy Than Others?’ I remembered a number of passages in the New Testament where Jesus seems to suggest that there will be people for whom the day of judgment will be worse — even than for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah or Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 10:12–15; 11:21–24). And in 2 Peter 2:19–22, it describes people who ‘have known the way of righteousness’ and then turned back. To them Peter explains that it would be ‘better for them never to have known the way.’

Revelation 14:19 describes the enemies of God being gathered and swept into the ‘winepress of the wrath of God.’ This doesn’t seem to leave much room for a ‘hierarchy,’ so to speak. I loved the explanation in episode 996 about the differing capacities for joy in heaven, about how the most joyful in the kingdom will in fact be the humblest. Amazing. But does something like this happen in reverse in God’s judgment? Are some people in hell able to perceive greater despair than others?”

“Able to perceive greater despair.” That may be true. I didn’t expect him to end with that phrase, but it’s a fascinating and helpful question to ask. What we’re actually not told in the New Testament is in what way the suffering will be greater for some than others. But we are certainly told that there will be degrees of suffering in hell.
“Every day is a precious opportunity to lay up treasures in heaven, not store up wrath in hell."
It will be unspeakably terrible for everyone who goes there — just unspeakably terrible, without any experience of good, no sight of beauty, no pleasant sounds, no bodily pleasures, no gratified appetites, no satisfied desires, no hopes fulfilled. That’s everybody. Saying that there are degrees of suffering doesn’t paint a light picture for anyone. Those who joke that they’d rather be in hell drinking with their buddies than in heaven with stuffy saints are ignorant of reality in a terrifying way. It’s not funny. They will not be having a good time.

Despair in Degrees

But although hell will be without all good for all unbelievers, it will be worse for some. Let me just read a few texts. This is Luke 12:47–48: “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.” That’s just a picture at the end of a parable, but everybody I’ve ever read says it points to greater or lesser torment in hell.

Here’s Matthew 10:15: “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” So, more or less bearable points to degrees or differences of suffering.

Here’s Matthew 11:21–22: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” More or less bearable signifies greater or lesser suffering.

Then, one more: Romans 2:4–5. This one’s so striking because of the word thēsaurizō, which means to store up. It’s usually used for storing up, like when Jesus says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). That’s the word, only here it’s used for wrath. Here’s what it says: “Do you presume on the riches of his [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing [or treasuring] up wrath” — meaning, making investments in it, putting more and more away.

We’re supposed to store up treasures in heaven by doing good deeds day after day, but these people are doing the opposite: they’re storing up, treasuring up, more and more wrath — not treasures of blessing but wrath for themselves on the day “when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5).

Five Reasons for Stages of Suffering

In those four texts that I just read — and there are several more — I see two explicit reasons given for why some will suffer more than others. Then I see three implicit reasons that flow from those two explicit ones. Let me just name these five. These are reasons why it would be so that some are suffering more than others.

1. The more light you have, the more knowledge you have, the more truth you have, the worse your sin and punishment at rejecting it. That’s right there in the texts.

2. The more kindness God shows you, not just in giving you light in truth but in, for example, giving you many undeserved pleasures in this life, the more grievous will be your unbelief and sin, and the worse will be your punishment in hell

3. If rejection of more and more light and kindness makes suffering worse in hell, then I infer that the more days you do this, the worse it will be. In other words, time comes into the picture. Day after day after day, you keep on rejecting light after light after light, kindness after kindness after kindness. The longer this goes on, the worse things are going to be.

4. There are kinds of sins that are more heinous, more destructive, more blasphemous than others, so that not only the amount of sinning over time makes things worse, but also the degree of ugliness and horror, heinousness, and blasphemy also increases the suffering.

5. In all of this, there’s a greater or lesser degree of high-handedness, arrogance — greater arrogance, greater conscious defiance and insolence, and therefore a consequent greater degree of punishment.

How We Respond to the Horror of Hell

Here’s my concluding question: What should we do with this information? Why are we told this? Is it to make us feel like the risk is not as great or make us feel better about lost people going there? What’s the point of this? What should we do? All five of these reasons send us trembling with joy to the cross of Jesus and to the grace of God, which holds onto us in the forgiveness that the cross gives. Here’s the way I think we should hear each of those five. 

1. They make us seriously vigilant not to misuse greater light and truth. To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). We should strive that the truth that comes to us would not come without humbling us, building our faith, increasing our love. In other words, don’t squander precious light that God gives you in his word and in his world.

2. We should be seriously vigilant not to misuse all the pleasures of this life by treating them as God or a distraction from God, instead of signs that he’s kind and is better than all of them together.

3. We should be seriously vigilant over every passing hour and day so that they don’t accumulate sins but accumulate the fruit of righteousness. Every day is a precious opportunity to invest, lay up treasures in heaven, not store up wrath in hell.

4. We should be seriously vigilant over our pride, lest we fall into patterns of arrogance and defiance and say, “It doesn’t matter. God can take his word and stuff it.”

Here’s a closing quote from Jonathan Edwards. If you want to walk with somebody who has thought deeply about hell, Edwards has a couple of sermons on this issue of degrees of suffering, one of them based on Matthew 5:22. Let me give you one closing quote. This is just an example of how seriously he took these things. He said in this sermon on Matthew 5:22, “The damned in hell would be ready to give the world if they could have the number of their sins to have been one less in this life.”

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Black Conservative Candace Owen Unapologetically Unloads In Congressional Hearing On White Supremacy


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Late


Forth in your name, O Lord, I go, my daily labor to pursue, you only, Lord, resolved to know in all I think or speak or do.

The task your wisdom has assigned here let me cheerfully fulfill; in all my work your presence find, and prove your good and perfect will.

You may I set at my right hand, whose eyes my inmost secrets view, and labor on at your command and offer all my work to you.

Help me to bear your easy yoke, in ev'ry moment watch and pray, and still to things eternal look and hasten to that glorious day.

Then with delight may I employ all that your bounteous grace has given, and run my earthly course with joy, and closely walk with you in heaven.

 (A Hymn-Prayer by Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer of Methodism and younger brother of John Wesley)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunday, When NFL Success Doesn't Make You Happy

NOW THAT THE LONG FOOTBALL SEASON IS UPON US,  it's fascinating to read how one NFL player came to terms with a gnawing sense of emptiness and despondency in his successful life and career:

BY AUSTIN CARR @ The Gospel Coalition

Early one morning after a win last season, I sat in my chair during my quiet time with God feeling empty and despondent.

It was odd to be feeling this way because the team was rolling, I was getting good on-the-field experience, and the likelihood of a playoff run was climbing. After some prayer, it became clear that I was unhappy with my individual performance.

My role in the previous game had been mostly the blocking that goes unnoticed and scores you few high-fives from teammates on the sidelines. If only I had scored last night—or at least made a big catch—then I’d be happy, I thought to myself.

In my heart, I had dethroned God and put career success in his place. Achievement on the football field had become my functional idol. I couldn’t point to the moment or day that this became true, but my frustrated mood was clear evidence that God needed to do some heavy lifting in my heart to reorient its affections to orbit around Christ again.

Flame of Worship

The pull of idolatry on our hearts is stronger than we’d like to think. The world stokes the flame of worship for all gods except the one true God.

In my younger days, a teammate shared that the name brand Adidas stood for All Day I Dream About Sports. That turned out to be false—Adidas is named for founder Adi Dassler—but I’m convinced the Adidas acronym actually diagnoses the natural bent of every passionate athlete who loves the game he or she plays. This is a tragedy!

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines idolatry: “What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

The marketing campaigns in the sports-entertainment industry call me to give more of my heart’s affection and mind’s imagination to sports, sports, and more sports. Whether it’s the 24/7 Watch ESPN app or the Direct TV NFL Sunday Ticket package, I notice a war for my attention and affections. This world disciples—even indoctrinates me—to give my best attention to, place my highest hope in, and lavish my greatest affection on my sport.

Ethic and Excellence

That said, any serious athlete knows that excellence doesn’t come without relentless attention and dedication. Just one look at Kobe Bryant’s journey to historic greatness reveals that a dizzying work ethic likely has as much to do with high achievement as talent.

But often, if we’re honest, an exemplary work ethic can come at the expense of excellent love for Christ. In the pursuit of greatness, our hearts can salivate over the prospect of glory-collecting rather than glory-reflecting. And the alluring possibility of greatness, popularity, riches, or comfort make for fast-and-ready idols waiting to bait our hearts away from the Lord.
Achievement on the football field had become my functional idol.
Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that we ought not go to great lengths to become excellent at our craft. I’m saying that the journey to excellence is rigged with self-constructed booby traps that—when missed, tolerated, or ignored—lead to self-destruction.
This self-destruction upends families, strains friendships, and encourages sinful compromise. These sad outcomes aren’t glamorized on social media, so they rarely serve as effective warnings. Instead, self-destruction begins with but a subtle yet deceptive reorientation of the heart away from God’s glory and goodness.

Main Thing

So, Christian, we must strive to keep the main thing the main thing: Love God above all else. Jesus is clear when he defines the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

It’s tempting to say this command is easier said than done, but when one pauses to consider the beauty of God’s love shown for us in Christ, it’s easier done than said! How could we not give all our love to a God who rightfully could have condemned us, but instead died in our place to give us eternal life with him? To exchange living in his truth for fame or follows reveals how deep our sin runs and how prone we are to wander.
To exchange living in his truth for fame or follows reveals how deep our sin runs and how prone we are to wander.
So what do you do if you find yourself like I did that fall morning, frustrated and wandering? The answer is simple: turn to the beauties of Christ to be drawn back to him. Or as Thomas Chalmers argued almost 200 years ago, the antidote to spiritual sin is spiritual passion.

In his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” Chalmers contended that the only way to break the hold of a beautiful object on the soul is to show it an object more beautiful—and the most beautiful thing is the good news of salvation in Christ.
So when you find success in your sport—or even the idea of success in your sport—shining as the object most worthy of your love and affection, reintroduce your heart to the gospel truth of Christ in fresh ways such as fasting from social media, praying through a psalm, and cultivating spiritual disciplines. In time, you will watch your idols shrink away.

Center of the Solar System

Consider comparing your life to our solar system. The order and harmony of everything in it depends on the reliability of the object at its center. In the same way that all the planets would go completely haywire were the sun to be replaced by a star half its size, our lives go haywire when Christ isn’t at the center. The “planets” that fill our lives—finances, relationships, energy, interests—all are in their proper place when orbiting Christ. What or whom is at the center of your life’s solar system?

I’ve found that when my biggest dreams, sincerest intentions, and highest affections are orbiting around Jesus, I’m most filled with joy and most effective as a tool for his kingdom. Oh, how worthy the cost of giving up my idols if my heart is to be absorbed with the goodness of God, singing with the psalmist, “Taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps. 34:8)

Then it doesn’t matter whether I’m being thrown touchdown passes on the field or not; my satisfaction in him is guaranteed.