As I listened (yes, listened) to Revelation 20:7-15 this morning the following verse stood out to me—
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.Revelation 20:10 (NIV)
Hell—the lake of burning sulfur, fire and brimstone—is a touchy subject. It raises the temperature in the room and comes with all kinds of potentially dangerous emotional baggage. As a preacher, it causes me to pause and seriously think about what I want to say. This post is no different. Yet, something caught my attention this morning; it’s the words, “the devil, who deceived them.”
The right question
The recurring question about hell seems to be: “How can a good and loving God send good people to hell?”
I want to suggest this misses the point. Because hell isn’t about who’s good and who’s evil, but rather truth and lies. Heaven and hell is a matter of what is true and what is not. This comes back to this verse in Revelation 20:10, “the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.” The suggestion hell is real suggests that the devil is real. If the devil is real, what does that mean for us? Let’s take a look at what follows:
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:15 (NIV)
To keep it simple, the book of life is simply a record of those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, as Lord and Saviour; and anyone who doesn’t put their faith and trust in Jesus will join the devil in hell—the lake of fire. And here’s why it’s not simply a matter of who’s good and who’s bad—the devil deceives.
The question, “How can a good God send good people to hell?” is a deceptive question, because while it seems to be a good question, it takes the attention away from the issue. So yes, God is good, forgiving, and loving, but God is also holy, righteous, and just. But, the devil is also real, evil, deceiving, lying, scheming hellbent on taking as many people to hell with him.
The same can be said for the Christian who puts all their life’s hope and trust on Jesus, as Paul says:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (NIV)
Which is the truth? Which is the lie? Is Jesus real? Does the devil really matter? Is it all just a figment of human imagination? Regardless, one is true. One truth leads to heaven and hell. And another truth leads to a wasted life and pity. But it’s never a good thing to make a decision based on fear or uncertainty…so let me put it a different way.
One truth leads you to live your life with confidence and hope, lived out for the sake of others modelled by a man who sacrificed his life for the world. Another truth leads you live your life for whatever you so please, which may be filled with confidence and hope, and live your life for others. (Great job if you’re so compelled by your own selflessness…but my selflessness doesn’t last very long. Tips appreciated.)
Truth matters. Whether it’s absolute truth or relative truth, whichever truth you live by will determine where you end up. For your sake, I just hope you choose the right one.