43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—44 where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43–44, NKJV).
Did you know more is recorded in the New Testament about hell from the mouth of Jesus than anyone else? The eternal fire of hell’s unending punishment is real and a substantial deterrent against evil. In today’s passage, Jesus used hyperbolic language (cut off the offending hand, foot, eye, Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to describe the urgent need to eliminate sin in our lives lest we fall under eternal condemnation. The fire of Jerusalem’s refuse dump (gehenna, “hell”) was a fitting figure of the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and those who do not follow Christ’s will (Matt. 25:41, 46). We gain nothing when we choose not to repent of sin. In the final judgment, those who “do not obey the truth” will suffer the corruption, agony, and darkness of being removed from God’s blessings forever (Rom. 2:5-11). Better to surrender the sin that seems most important to us and do God’s will than to “go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43). While the goodness of God leads us to repentance, so does the wrath of God (Rom. 2:4-5). So, “sing to me of heaven” and warn me of hell. Jesus spoke of both to persuade faithful, righteous living (John 14:1-6; Mark 9:43-48). Purged of sin and tried by fire, the sacrifices we make to live for Jesus will preserve us unto the day of eternal bliss (Mark 9:49).
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
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.
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NKJV)
The psalmist counsels the kings and rulers of the earth to be wise, accept instruction, serve the Lord God with reverent joy, and worship the Son. This course of conduct stands in sharp relief to their futile fight against God and His Christ (Psa. 2:1-3). Wisdom, instruction, reverent service, and joyful worship are necessary traits of trusting Christ (v. 12). King Solomon observed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Reverent humility accepts God’s instruction, but pride promotes ignorance. Honoring Christ the King with obedient service is the essence of trusting Him. He sees and blesses such trust in Him. By contrast, obstinate opposition to Christ kindles His righteous wrath (v. 12). The rulers and judges of the earth continue to reap what they sow, and so do we (Gal. 6:7-8). Worship the Son and be blessed or fight against Him, stir up His anger, and be punished.
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).
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–3, NKJV)
Jesus rejected the philosophy of Karma. (“Karma is a Hindu term which comes from Sanskrit and relates to fate and action. You alone are responsible for your actions. It is the law of cause and effect, an unbreakable law of the cosmos. You deserve everything that happens to you, good or bad. You created your happiness and misery,” The Tree of Awakening.) While it is true that our choices bring consequences, that is not the only force at work in our lives (Gal. 6:7). It was wrong to conclude that these people Pilate killed were “worse sinners” than others (it was an invalid judgment, see Lk. 12:57). Evil people commit evil acts against the innocent. Time and chance happen to us all (Lk. 13:4; Eccl. 9:11-12). Suffering in the present does not necessarily correspond with some wrong in the past (Jno. 9:1-3; cf. Job). But, times of suffering and affliction should cause us to examine ourselves and repent of our sins. Whether we are experiencing a moment of distress or we see others suffering, instead of judging them as “worse sinners,” we should ponder our lives and repent of our sins. Why? Because we will answer to God for our sins and be punished justly by Him (Rom. 6:23).
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18–19, NKJV)
God’s word has been revealed from heaven (Rev. 1:1-2). It reveals our need for salvation because we have all sinned against God, and our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 1:16-17). God’s wrath is also revealed from heaven. The target of God’s just anger and punishment is “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (v. 18). Ungodliness is impiety and irreverence toward God. Unrighteousness describes conduct that is unjust and not upright toward others (1 Jno. 5:17). Ungodly and unrighteous conduct display a character of faithlessness. They hold down (suppress) the advance and blessings of divine truth in our lives. God’s wrath against sinners is justifiable because He had given a knowledge of Himself to mankind (v. 19-20). Yet, people refused to acknowledge God and honor Him with godly and righteous gratitude (Rom. 1:21). When we reject faith in God we hinder truth and put ourselves under divine wrath. We are without excuse, because God has made Himself known to us through His creation (Rom. 1:20). And, God has revealed His will to us by the word of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Heb. 1:1-2). The gospel of Christ will free you from sin and death. It is your escape from God’s wrath when you obey it in faith (Acts 10:34-35; 2 Thess. 1:8-9).