Sunday, July 02, 2006

Apollumi...The "Ignored" Doctrine

At my other blog, I wrote a series on issues with raising children, culminating with a post concerning the drastic number of children from evangelical homes who turn from their faith once free from their home and the influence of their parents. That got me to wondering why Christian parents don't take more serious and more drastic steps to disciple their children, given the enormity of the problem and the implications of anyone (but especially one's own child) rejecting the Savior.

As I pondered, it came down to one major point: we don't really believe in the reality of hell. Sure, we give it lip-service...but when was the last time you pondered what it would really be like? (I'm writing to myself here as well!) When was the last time you heard a sermon on the subject? (Here's one by Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis.) It's been said that Jesus spoke more of hell than he did of heaven! At the 1990 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson preached a message on the realities and justification of the doctrine of eternal punishment and hell. It was one of the finest sermons on the topic I've encountered (unfortunately I can't find it at the Desiring God website.)

So I thought this would be the appropriate blog to bring the topic of eternal judgment and hell to the forefront.

In Romans 1, Paul says he is under obligation both to the Greek and to the barbarian. This obligation is for the Gospel. It can easily be considered that we, too, are under that same obligation. If we really believed in the eternal conscious torment that is hell, then I truly believe we would structure our lives differently, for who would want anyone to end up there, especially those we love and care about? We would own up to our obligation and wouldn't be so casual and fearful about witnessing. We wouldn't be so casual about discipling our children. We wouldn't be so casual about our own faith!

An understanding of the reality of eternal conscious punishment at the hands of an infinitely holy and powerful God would take captive our every thought with concern for the lost. Is it not love for the lost that would bring about that concern? Would we not be fulfilling the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, by seeking their salvation?

Give consideration to John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Note particularly the word "perish." In our language, "perish" often brings with it the imagery of annihilation. For example, when I squash the mosquito on my arm in the Minnesota summer, it "perishes" "ceases to exist." However the Greek word translated "perish" doesn't translate that easily into English. "Apollumi" literally means both "to destroy" and "to perish" but it carries with it a more complex understanding. Vines Expository Dictionary (pp 164) says this "...idea is not extinction but ruin; loss, not of being, but of well-being."

Think about the implications of ruin and loss of well-being for eternity. Think about an eternal, unquenchable fire in which you are burning but not being destroyed. Think about a devouring worm eating you, yet not consuming you. Think about existing in this pain and suffering in the midst of complete and total darkness. And then think about the absolute lack of hope amidst this will never end!! A person can endure tremendous suffering when there is a glimmer of hope. This was illustrated by the years and years of torture endured by our POWs in Vietnam, and is currently being shown by the suffering of millions of persecuted Christians around the world. But take away hope...and I can't even find words to describe the utter despair that would ensue. And this would be for eternity...forever...infinitely. Maybe this is part of the reason the Bible describes it as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." What else could one so condemned do?

At least in this posting, I am not going to argue the case for the justness of hell. My only interest here is to try to encourage both myself and others to consider its reality and then act accordingly. Reread the first portion of the previous paragraph inserting the words "my child" in place of "you." That brings a whole new gravity to the doctrine of hell, doesn't it?

Andre Seu once wrote an essay in "World Magazine" where she mentioned the preoccupation of some with the "rapture." Her point was that a silent "rapture" is happening each and every day, with untold thousands of people departing this world for eternity.

And in eternity, there are only two options: heaven because you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb...or eternal conscious punishment in the outer darkness of hell because you aren't. Do we love enough to do what is necessary to bring the Good News to our family and friends? And I mean doing it personally...not just in round-about ways or by bringing them to church in hopes that the pastor will do it. I mean living the Gospel in love and service to our neighbor. I mean actually regularly discipling our children. I mean going against both the worldly culture and the evangelical culture by being radically committed to showing the love of God in Christ to a lost and perishing world. So, I ask again, "Do we love enough...?"

Sadly, I think the answer is often, "no." Let us pray for God to change our hearts and give us the courage to do otherwise....


jadeshort said...

Hi Charley

Thanks for this. I agree with you, it seems that these days it is much easier to focus on how wonderful God is, kind of like an 'airy-fairy' ethereal being who would never send anyone to a hell. Why, Hell must be something left over from mythology, it doesn't really exist.. My dh was saved out of a Jehovah's Witness background. One of the first attacks that came from his mother was, "they are going to tell you that there is a hell". His reply to her as a brand new Believer was, "I know that NOW I am not going there!" In raising our children, consequential behaviour must be made very clear!

Charley said...

Did you click and read Andre Seu's article in "World?" If not, I would highly recommend it....