5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. 6 The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (James 3:5–6, NKJV)
Here, James drills down into the destructive power of the tongue. Great good results from using good words (note the preaching of the gospel that forever changed the world, Matt. 28:19-20). But, the tongue given to evil is a fierce fire that engulfs a person and his world. Note the traits of the fiery, sinful tongue. 1) Its realm is iniquity. It operates in a system of injustice and unrighteousness. 2) It defiles the whole person. Food does not defile a person, but the words formed in the heart and communicated by the tongue do (Matt. 15:11, 18). When spoken, evil words stain one’s soul, and soil one’s reputation and influence for good. Everything becomes defiled through its scorched earth policy (Prov. 26:18-21). 3) It eventually destroys one’s entire life. We set our course in life in no small measure by the way we use our words. When left unchecked, the destructive tongue leaves in its wake a lifetime of misery. 4) Hell is at the heart of the fiery tongue. Whether its fire is gossip, flattery, profanity, or false teaching, hell is the source and accelerant of the sinful use of the tongue. Wicked words race through this world like a forest fire. Extinguish their devilish destruction by using just and pure words of truth and peace (Jas. 3:17-18).
26 ‘Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ (Acts 2:26–28, NKJV)
This quotation of Psalm 16:9-11 is applied to Jesus by the inspired apostle (Acts 2:25, 29-31). The King James Version of Acts 2:27 says, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell…,” leading some to ask whether Jesus went to hell when he died. The word used in verse 27 is hades (the grave or place of departed spirits), not gehenna (the place of everlasting punishment of sin, Mk. 9:43-48). The prophesy speaks of the resurrection of Christ. His body would not see corruption (Acts 2:31). His spirit would visit a place of Paradise or comfort, not a place of flaming torment (Lk. 23:43; 16:22-25). Jesus did not go to hell. He did not preach to spirits held in prison before He was raised from the dead (a misinterpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20). The comfort of Paradise and the flames of torment are separated by a great gulf that is unmovable and not crossable (Lk. 16:26). There are no opportunities to obey the gospel call after death (Heb. 9:27). Death is coming to us all. We will all be resurrected, because Jesus was raised (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The question is, will we be raised to life, or to condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29)? That depends on whether we will believe and obey Jesus now (Heb. 5:8-9). What is decision? Where will you spend eternity?
28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28–29, NKJV)
Jesus said the place sin begins is the heart. The heart is the mind, the seat of our intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and volition. “Lust” means to “set the heart upon,” to “long for” (Strong’s Concise Dictionary of Greek NT Words, I:31). In the heart, lusts (and plans to fulfill them) are contemplated, formulated, and postulated before they are practiced (Jas. 1:14-15). The mind is also the place where lusts can be regulated, resisted and refused (Jas. 1:16; 1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus used exaggerated language in vss. 29-30 to describe the extent of the repentance required to remove the source of sin and escape the suffering of hell. Repentance changes the heart so that the lust to sin no longer has a place to reside within us. To repent of our sins we will have to surrender things very dear to us in order not to perish in sin. (The removal of an eye or a hand illustrates the severe nature of repentance.) We will not see the profit of severing our connection to the sin in our hearts as long as our lusts are more precious to us than eternal life. Giving up sin is a small price to pay to escape the everlasting punishment of hell.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NKJV)
Death and Hades will be overpowered and destroyed at the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:26). At the resurrection and judgment day, Christ (who has “the keys of Hades and of Death,” Rev. 1:18) will destroy death and the grave, fulfilling the prediction that “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). The “lake of fire” is the “second death,” the place of eternal punishment where the devil and his cohorts “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Death will never claim another body. Hades will never hold another departed spirit. On the judgment day they will “die” – forever separated from the power and fear they have exerted against humanity. The “second death” has no power over those who have part in the “first resurrection,” for they share in Christ’s victory over sin and death (Rev. 20:4-6; 6:9-11). However, those who are not saved in Christ are not in the Book of Life. Their judgment will be the lake of fire, the second death. Hell is real. Hell is forever punishment, eternal separation from God and all this is good. It is outer darkness, filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; Mk. 9:43-48). Knowing these things beforehand should compel us by faith to repent and follow Jesus completely.
13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13–14, NKJV)
It is truly sad that so many people say they believe in Jesus, yet they refuse to believe and do what He said about salvation and heaven. We must come face to face with whether we truly believe what Jesus said about going to heaven, or whether we are content to deceive ourselves about our faith. Jesus said few find the narrow gate and the difficult way that leads to life. Saying, “Lord, I believe” will not be enough on the day of judgment (read Matthew 7:21-23). We must do the will of the Father and not practice iniquity to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easy to go to eternal destruction (hell). But the way to heaven is confined to doing the Father’s will. Doing my will or your will or someone else’s will is the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction. Jesus said many are on that path. Honestly ask yourself, “Which path am I on?” Then, believe the answer Jesus gives in His word and do the Father’s will to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-41; 10:34-35). We will not go to heaven if we will not do the Father’s will on earth. That is what Jesus said. If you believe Jesus, then do what He said and you will have found the narrow gate and the difficult way that leads to life.
1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” (Psalm 89:1–2, NKJV)
God is merciful, but He will not at all clear the guilty who reject His mercy by refusing to repent and obey Him (Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:3). A distorted view of God’s mercy lulls souls into complacency toward sin. Convincing themselves that God is too loving to see any soul be punished in hell, they willingly deceive themselves with the illusion that everyone will go to heaven. (Well, at least, most people!) Jesus often spoke of hell, and said many who call on His name will depart into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46). God is not only merciful, He is also faithful. We can depend on Him, as surely as the heavens show His fidelity. We trust what He says is the absolute truth. Let us tell others of His ageless mercy and call them to find it for themselves in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:16).
as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7, NKJV)
If you saw a loved one running into a burning building, would you warn them and try to stop them? Of course you would. Why then, when we warn homosexuals of their sin and its punishment of eternal fire, are we charged with being hateful bigots? It is a false and scurrilous charge. However, we know why some make it. Sinners hate the light of truth, and are willing to compromise with other sinners so their own sins will not be exposed (Jno. 3:19-21). Therefore, they let them run into the fire without warning – and call it love. What a selfish approach to take toward the reality and eternal destruction of sin – any sin – including the “sexual immorality” of homosexuality. We cannot stand by and watch souls run headlong into the punishment of eternal hell fire without sounding God’s warning. Love demands it. Jesus sounded warnings against sin (Mk. 9:42-48). Was Jesus a hateful bigot? No. We will follow His example, and in love we will warn sinners to repent, and thereby escape the punishment of eternal fire.