May 6 I Wednesday
1 Kings 21-22
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!…You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”—Matthew 23:29, 33
The topic of “hell” can be an uncomfortable topic. In the NIV translation of the Bible, we will find the word “hell” occurs about 14 times in the New Testament. Of those times, Jesus is the one saying it 12 times. Some of us may assume that Jesus is the one who only talked about the good stuff and His disciples later added the really hard stuff. Contrary to that belief, hell is a doctrine of Jesus, and in love, He told people the truth.
Interestingly, Jesus never talked to the crowds about hell, only to the religious people and His disciples when He was alone with them. We find this in Matthew 13 where Jesus gives a parable about the kingdom of heaven with a man sowing good seed in his field but an enemy comes and sows weeds into the very same field. The servant asks, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” The man said, “No, because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30).
When Jesus said this parable, the crowds were listening to Him. But when they went into a house, Jesus told His disciples another parable about the kingdom of heaven: “When [the net] was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:48-50). Contrary to the first parable, Jesus further expanded in the second parable as He described the outcome of the bad fish, being thrown into a blazing furnace––in other words, hell.
A possible reason for the difference between Jesus’s teachings to the crowd and to His disciples is because they need to know it. Especially since they will be ministers of the gospel message after Jesus ascends to heaven, these disciples had to understand the consequence and what it means to be separated from God.
When we realize that hell is a very real place, we come to an understanding that the gospel is not just about going to heaven, but if we choose not to believe in Jesus, there is the eternal consequence of damnation and separation from God.
Prayer: Beloved God, how sobering to realize that hell is a very real place. I ask that You grant me courage to share Your gospel truth with others. Thank You, Lord.