Quote Jesus’ Words About Hell – He Believed In It: A Response to Mick Mooney
by Clint Chiles, Student Pastor, Elkview Baptist Church
Since the time of Christ, Christians have held to the belief of eternal punishment. The Scriptures plainly state that salvation is through faith, not by works (Eph 2:8-9). In a day of “political correctness” and “fear of offending others,” people have begun to reevaluate the truths that have been taught from the Scriptures. Many speakers, leaders, and “pastors” who claim to be Christians have recently denied the doctrines of hell and eternal punishment stating “love wins” (See: Rob Bell).
This morning on the Huffington Post website, Mick Mooney wrote an article entitled “Don’t Quote Jesus’ Words About Hell – He Doesn’t Believe in It”. Is this true? Have we misunderstood the truths of the Scriptures concerning the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment? In my response to Mr. Mooney I want to examine two areas: the words of Christ and the words and works of the apostles.
What did Jesus teach?
In Mooney’s article, he argues that the entrance to heaven, according to Jesus, was based on works and not faith. Mooney states: “Jesus did not talk about one’s lack of faith, but a lack of one’s own good works.” He later adds that the reason Jesus spoke in such graphic language to the Pharisees was because “his intention (were) not to preach a correct theology, but to get the Pharisees to question their own wrong theology.” Was Jesus not concerned about correct theology and just using hell and punishment as a teaching device?
Jesus Himself summed up the Pharisees as self-righteous, hypocrites (Matthew 23:1-36; Luke 11:37-44) whether they were present with Him or not. They claimed to know God, but were actually far from Him. They claimed good works and deeds, but their hearts were not right with God. They refused to repent of their sins and place their faith in God’s Son. Due to the fact that they were deceiving themselves and were deceiving others, Jesus spoke with them very harshly, however the truths of the Scripture were the same no matter who Jesus was talking with. You can present the truth of the Scriptures in different ways without violating the gospel. Jesus didn’t sit and yell at the woman caught in adultery because she knew she was guilty. Jesus knew her heart; therefore, Jesus deals compassionately with her. Zacchaeus knew he was guilty of stealing and wronging others; Christ dealt with him accordingly. The Pharisees justified their sins and hardened their hearts; therefore, Jesus spoke with them more harshly, especially since they claimed to be right with God (although they were not, because they refused to repent and believe in Christ).
Did Jesus say works would save? Not at all. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Some might state, “See! Jesus says that we must do the will of God!” What is the will of God? Jesus says in John 6:29 that the will of God is that you “believe in Him whom He sent”. In other words: God the Father’s desire is that you believe in the Son whom He sent. Read a little further. Jesus says in John 6:40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, not through good works.
If that wasn’t enough, Jesus states in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” On the Day of Judgment, unbelievers will claim to have done good works in Christ’s name, but will still not enter God’s eternal kingdom. Why? They did not repent and believe. Further, Jesus states that they must depart. Depart to where?
In Matthew 25, Jesus is with His disciples and shares two parables: the parable of the virgins (Matt 25:1-13) and the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). In both of these parables, the main point is not the characters works, but their lack of preparedness. The five unwise virgins were not allowed into the celebration because they failed to prepare. The lazy servant in the parable of the talents really didn’t know his master because if he did, he would have prepared accordingly. In both stories, the characters’ hearts were not right.
Concerning Luke 15:11-32 Mooney writes, “When Jesus shared his parable of the prodigal son there was no bad ending, no separation, no gnashing of the teeth; rather, there was an abundance of grace, forgiveness and redemption. It is here we see Jesus presenting a graphic picture within his parable that aligns with our true belief regarding the gospel of grace.”
I agree whole heartedly that the gospel is a gospel of grace. However, Mooney again fails to see the passage in its context. The man has two sons, who both despise him. One does it openly, the other does it internally. Both are guilty. The son who rebels openly: leaves the house, squanders all his inheritance, repents of his actions, and comes home to a gracious father who forgives him. The other son is angry and bitter. He didn’t get a party. He has been “faithful” in actions, but not in his heart. This parable is pointed to the crowd… and to the Pharisees, who were listening to Jesus speak this parable (Luke 15:1-3). The parable doesn’t have an ending, it’s an open ended invitation. Which son will you choose to be: the son who repents and returns to his father or the self-righteous child who really despises his father in his heart?
It is clear that Jesus taught salvation is by faith, not works. In Matthew 7:23, Jesus tells those who did works and did not believe to depart from Him. To where? To eternal punishment in the lake of fire. The parable of the virgins and the parable of talents both end with Jesus stressing “pain,” “outer darkness,” and “everlasting punishment”. This was not spoken to the Pharisees as Mooney may as suggest, but to Jesus’ disciples only. Jesus Himself believed and taught in hell and eternal punishment.
What did the apostles teach and do?
The disciples were Jesus’ closest friends and the ones He poured into the most. They followed Him, heard Him, and continued to teach what He taught. So, what did the apostles teach concerning hell and eternal punishment? As we have already seen, Matthew records in his gospel that Christ taught and believed in hell and eternal punishment.
The apostle Peter states that “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Pet 2:4). Peter goes on to add in verse 9, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” Peter clearly believed and taught that hell is a real place and that the ungodly will be judged. Peter also taught with urgency that men need to repent and believe the gospel in order for their sins to be forgiven (Acts 2:38). People need to be saved not because of a “good works” problem, but because of a sin problem.
The apostle Paul believed and taught that the “judgment of God” will fall on unbelievers because of their sins (Rom 1:18-32). Paul abandoned His life as a Pharisee because he encountered the resurrected Christ and believed the Gospel. Not only did Paul leave his life as a Pharisee, he and all the other disciples believed so strongly in the gospel that they gave up their lives to take the gospel all over the known world so that men might believe in Christ and be saved from the wrath to come. If we believe in hell, it should motivate us to go and tell others. The apostles are living proof of that.
Jesus taught and believed in hell. The apostles’ words and lives confirm this. In writing the book of Revelation, John writes about the final judgment that awaits all unbelievers throughout history (Rev 20). Unbelievers will be judged by Christ Himself and then tossed into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15) with Satan for all of eternity (Rev 20:10).
Jesus Himself tells John in Revelation 21:8 that those whose do not believe will “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” This isn’t a message to the Pharisees. This isn’t a message to the Sadducees. This is a message to all who will hear the truths of Scripture.
Did Jesus believe and teach about hell and eternal punishment. Yes He did… and He laid down His life, so that those who will repent of their sins and place their faith in Him will be saved and avoid such a terrible place.