27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to get to the heart of the matter when identifying and turning away from sin. Of course, adultery remains a sin as it was under the Law of Moses (Exod. 20:14; Rom. 13:9). Even the first covenant called on Israel to love the Lord God with all their heart (Deut. 6:5). Jesus drills down to the root of this (and every) sin; the heart’s desires and impulses (1 John 2:15-17). Lustful looks at a woman are adultery in the heart, and so is the act. The heart is the source of sin. Sin lurks in the recesses of the heart’s desires, emotions, and motives (Gen. 4:7; Matt. 15:19-20). God’s word has the power to pierce the heart and reach its thoughts and intents (Heb. 4:12). By doing so, it convicts us of our sins and calls us to repent (change our heart, Acts 2:37-38; 26:20). Jesus vividly described the severity of repentance: “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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off 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 (Matt. 5:29–30).” Jesus will forgive our sins when we repent (Acts 17:30; Matt. 11:28-30). And drastic steps are necessary to repent to avoid sin’s eternal punishment.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:4–7, NKJV).
Friends tell us what we need to know because they care for us; they look out for us. Jesus is our truest friend who tells us not to be afraid of those who can kill us. They have no power over our immortal soul. God has the power to judge and punish our sins in hell. That is where we ought to place our fear. God is not a terrorist who threatens us. He cares for us and tells us of the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). He loved us and sent His Son to save us from our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 6:23). Fearing God is an act of faith, not terror. God does not forget the sparrows, and He will not forget you. He knows you better than you know yourself. (Quick, how many hairs are on your head? God knows, even though you do not.) Your value is far greater than sparrows. So, do not fear people who threaten you because of your faith. Confident faith leads us to confess Jesus instead of being afraid (Lk. 12:8-9).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49–50, NKJV)
Hell is real, and hell is horrible. Jesus often spoke about hell and warned of “everlasting fire” into which those cursed by sin will “depart” (Matt. 18:8-9; 25:41). This sorrowful scene of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” will not be God’s doing. Some who do not believe in hell try to convince us God does not punish people, and if He does, then He is a horrible God. Their attempt fails miserably. The eternal punishment of hell’s corruption results from sowings seeds of sin in our lives (Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:1-11). God sent His Son Jesus to save us from sin’s eternal death. We do not rely on poets’ imaginative journeys to explain hell (i.e., Dante’s Divine Comedy). We listen to Jesus. Denying hell’s existence and its eternal punishment of sin denies Jesus (Matt. 25:46). It is that simple. We believe the Son of God and the truth He taught about hell (Jno. 1:14; 14:6). Those who accept the Bible as God’s word believe in eternal hell (and eternal heaven) because we trust His word as truth (Jno. 17:17). If you deny hell is real, you do not believe Jesus (“Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire,” Matt. 25:41); you believe the devil (“You will not surely die,” Gen. 3:4). We urge you not to believe the liar and father of lies (Jno. 8:44). Believe and obey Jesus, who warns us to escape the condemnation of hell (Matt. 23:33).
Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the Lord. “And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this? (Jeremiah 5:9, NKJV)
The cup of Judah’s iniquities had reached the brim: “Their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased” (Jer. 5:6). Like her sister Israel to the north, idolatry, adultery, selfish indulgence, oppressive leaders, false prophets, and faithless neglect of God headlined her sins (Jer. 5:7-8, 11-13). Yet they were sure punishment would not come upon them (Jer. 5:12-13; Micah 3:11-12). Even to this moment, many have created a view of God that takes everyone to heaven. Sin is minimized out of existence; therefore, they eliminate the prospect of punishment. “A loving God will not send people to hell!” they proclaim. We must divest ourselves of this illusion. Yes, God is love. His severity is also real (Rom. 11:22). Our God is a consuming fire against evil (Heb. 12:29). Over and over, God called His people to turn from their sins and return to Him (Jer. 3:14-18, 22; 4:4; 7:13, 25-26). Because Judah and Israel rejected God’s word and refused to repent, God had no choice but to exact punishment. God’s word is clear; those who “do not know God” and those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” “shall be punished” when Christ returns (2 Thess. 1:8-9; Matt. 25:46). Now is the time to repent and turn to the Lord. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31–33, NKJV)
Of course, we understand Jesus is describing people under the figure of sheep and goats. The setting is the day of His glory and judgment. Attended by a heavenly host, Jesus will be arrayed gloriously on His throne of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). All the tribes of humanity from Adam to the last day will gather before Him, where each person will give an account of our lives (Rom. 14:12). Christ will judge impartially and righteously according to God’s truth, and each of us will receive judgment according to our deeds (Rom. 2:1-11). Judgment involves a moment of decision and separation, and Jesus describes it as separating sheep and goats (a common practice to this day). The question on our heart should be, “Will I be a sheep or a goat?” The answer is up to us. Jesus describes the sheep as those who loved their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 25:34-40). These will inherit a kingdom of eternal life (v. 34, 46). The goats are those who failed to regard others before themselves. By failing to serve others, they failed to serve Christ (Matt. 25:41-45). These will inherit an eternal punishment of fire (v. 41, 46). Instead of denying the judgment, denying our sins, or denying eternal hell, we should believe Jesus and serve Him by serving others. Prepare for Judgment Day. Sheep or goat; Which will we be?
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?