By Sonya Polino
Holy Spirit, open our eyes to see you, and our ears to hear you and our hearts to receive what you have for us today.
Reading Romans 9, we are splashed in our face with a good dose of freezing ice cold water. Paul reminds us that we cannot forget that we are eternal creatures. We dare not lose sight that something immense and cosmic is at stake - a heaven to be reached, and a hell to be avoided. Human souls are the battle ground on which massive spiritual battles are being waged. The stakes are enormous. The winner takes all and the loser loses everything. Everyday of our short lives has eternal consequences for good or ill. Eternity is being affected. Right now counts forever!
Hell is a very real place. It is a place promised just as definitively as heaven is. Many people reject the biblical notion of hell simply because they find it too horrible to entertain. Would a merciful God draw such a place on the map? If so, it's … well … absolutely hellish. A miserably written final chapter with no THE END. Truly allowing our minds and hearts to imagine it, especially with the faces of some of our loved ones in view, drains the blood from us.
So understandably, hell’s stock has fallen lately from the lack of public confidence. Thousands, perhaps millions, reject hell as a myth yet still believe in heaven and cherish fond hopes of going there. This kind of one-sided optimism defies explanation.
C.S.Lewis once wrote about the doctrine of eternal punishment: “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.” C.S.Lewis penned an entire book examining the reality of that awful place.
Jesus who gave heaven a five-star rating also described an otherworldly chamber of horrors. “(Hell) has long been prepared; it has been made ready …. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.” Isaiah 30:33 Quickly read Revelation 6:16 and 20:10.
God didn’t make hell for people. Jesus said it was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). It is unnatural for humans to be there. God takes no joy in sending anyone to eternal misery; His Son was a lifeguard, urgently warning swimmers of treacherous waters. But in dozens of passages God warns that He will hurl everyone into that unthinkable pit who persists in challenging or ignoring Him.
Jesus mentioned hell more frequently than heaven. And He was blunt. His pleas were so urgent because hell’s pains are so unbearable.
Paul had this very defined reality of hell. But look at how he applied it to his life’s perspective.
Romans 9:2 “... I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood…”
Paul carries the burden of his people with “intense sorrow and continual anguish”. This very real knowledge of hell is a driving force, one of his primary motivations. Is it ours?
When we ask the Lord to break our hearts for what breaks His, wouldn’t this be THE heartbreak? He quite literally paid it all. There is no need really for any other decision than “Yes Lord”. “They only need to “confess with (their) mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in (their) heart that God raised Him from the dead, (they) will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9 - 10.
I know that I personally do not live each day from the active perspective of eternity. There are innumerable distractions in my “here and now” that has clouded my focus. Oh yes! No doubt I love the Lord and live each day for Him! But do I live each day intently focused on the reality of Heaven and Hell? And if I really did, how would that intent focus change my actions and speech throughout the day?
This one is hard. This one makes us squirm and uneasy. We put labels on ourselves and use them as protection barriers. I’ve done it. I feel fairly confident that I can speak for mostly everyone reading this, that we have walked away from a hard conversation with the Holy Spirit tugging at our heart to instead engage in that conversation.
Let’s challenge ourselves. Let’s begin by asking Holy Spirit to place the reality of hell and the depth of His justice in our hearts. Let’s bring that reality deeply into our prayers, and truly allow Him to break our heart for what breaks His. Let’s begin by carrying the burden for our unsaved loved ones to the Lord. Then let’s put ourselves into His loving hands. Ask Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to His leading and that we will be radically obedient to Him, not to “reason”, “hesitate” or “question” ourselves out. But to courageously step in as He leads, trusting Him to lay the path ahead of us. Let’s boldly be part of what He is doing in the lives around us!
The good news for us, and for our loved ones that follow after us …
“Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness - namely, the righteousness that comes from faith … the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
May our gratitude for our salvation continually overflow.
Holy Spirit, reveal the depth and truth of your justice, make the knowledge of hell real to us. May this revelation motivate and inspire us to be courageous in showing your goodness and grace to those around us. May we be sensitive and discerning to where and with whom You are leading us to act and speak. We know that it is your goodness that draws us all to repentance. We love You and We trust You Lord! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!