When Did We Get Protestant Purgatory?
By Dan Ecklund
What is a Christ-less eternity? Who thought up an eternity separated from God, or a godless afterlife? It has become almost sinful in the eyes of American churches to use the word “hell” unless the flames are stamped out and shaded areas are added.
A person listening to our modern day preaching of hell, could easily decide that hell sounds like a place to go where there are few clouds and people are all grilling steak. Much of this is because they worry about offending someone, and the fear men.
No matter of what churches or preachers say, the only thing that does matter is what the Scriptures say:
How does Scripture define what the biblical hell is?
There are three words translated “hell” in Scripture:
Gehenna (Greek): The place of punishment (Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; and James 3:6).
Hades (Greek): The abode of the dead (Matthew 11:23; 16:18, Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27).
Sheol (Hebrew): The grave (Psalm 9:17; 16:10) .
Hell is shown to be a place. Rather than a type of lifestyle, or just struggle as some people believe, the Bible places it as a location. For those who teach that we go through “hell” in this life, they fail to see that this world is as close to heaven as most people will ever see.
The Bible refers to the fate of the unsaved with such words as the following:
“Shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
“Everlasting punishment” (Mathew 25:46) .
“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51)
“Fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17) .
“Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Romans 2:8, 9).
“Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
“Eternal fire...the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 7, 13).
Revelation 14:10, 11:
“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
The theme for hell is eternal, and a pit, rather than a room with a door. Scripture is the basis for the doctrine, and Jesus Himself spoke more of hell than He did of heaven. It was because of love that He warned of God’s wrath and judgment.”
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Why would hell be so bad and eternal? Some modern day preachers argue that because God is love, hell must end, or not exist at all. Many cults argue that no one who is love would do something that sounds so evil. Such type of foolish arguments only come from men who do not understand the nature of a perfect God, and His goodness that requires justice.
Think about your own cry for justice. When you hear a news story of an evil man doing horrible crimes against a child, do you ever hear people say?: “I hope he gets a Christ-less eternity” or “I hope he never sees God.”
Obviously, a person who loves children wants anyone who harms them to be caught, and for justice of the law to come down on that person without mercy for such wicked acts. Jesus also mentioned this when it came to harming children.
“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”
The time and severity of punishment for crime, is always based on the one in who the crime is committed against. If you murder a bug, you will face no punishment. If you kill a homeless drunk on the street, you might get ten years. If you kill a police officer, you are probably going to be executed.
The same act was committed each time, but what changed was the one whom you committed the act against, and their position of authority. All sin is against God, the highest of all. Because He is eternal, so is His love and justice.
Perfect justice is one of the traits of God men should fear. Because God has promised to bring EVERY evil deed to light, and set a day to judge everyone, men should be fearful. The day is certain, as God has placed all men on death row, since we all will die. The system is perfect, in that no man will escape, even if they avoid capture in this world.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Why is the biblical hell so awful?
Because God hates sin. He will bring wrath and justice against it. When the One in the highest authority is offended, the punishment is also the highest. As mentioned before, Jesus loved children, but yet in America, we can legally kill them and many in our churches support such sinful acts. Men turn up the heat in hell on their own, as they try to stand against God’s fury.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.”
Anger turns up the heat, and God is angry at sin. Some say God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. It is a common saying that is in error. God hates the sin, and promises to send those found in sin to hell if they do not repent. Despite this, every generation of mankind has thought that he has put himself into a better state than those they believe who have died and gone to hell. They trust in their actions and religious practices to remove them from the justice of God. Many will be disappointed.
“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. 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!’”
What about mercy?
Mercy is another trait of God. Mercy is undeserved favor, which is why a person cannot earn their way out of hell. If a person does many good works, or suffers for acts of sin, as a method of payment, then God would owe mercy to them. If God is good, can His justice be removed by mercy?
God doesn’t cancel out His own traits, rather through Christ, made it possible for men to receive mercy. Because wrath and justice were brought on Christ instead of those who place their faith in Him, God can extend mercy to those who repent and trusted fully in Him.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Without the reality of biblical hell, men fail to see the full glory of God. Everyone will bring glory to God. Either they will repent and trust in Christ for His mercy and love shown in the cross, or they will spend eternity in hell as an everlasting example of the justice and goodness of God to destroy evil.
If a preacher is so foolish as to remove the justice and wrath of God, he has tried to rob God of traits that bring Him glory, and diminish the work on the Cross. The repeating warnings of scripture of God’s justice and wrath are given, and serve to cause men who listen to cling to the Savior, and run from sin as though he was fleeing from a dragon.
Do not heed the foolish of those who make little of the truths of hell, rather believe them and trust the only One that took your place.
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).