Jesus and Hell – Mark 9:42-50

Jesus spoke more about judgment, and about hell, than he did about heaven. Mark 9:42-50 is one of these times:

If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, 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 stumble, 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 stumble, 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 “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.

To our modern ears, the very idea of hell sounds incredibly judgmental. Christians can come across as hateful and intolerant, even if they respectfully and plainly speak about what the Bible teaches.

It’s difficult to speak about the judgment of God. It’s not easy anytime. This difficulty is personal for us as well, because we think about the people we know who don’t follow Jesus.

There is, therefore, a great temptation for Christians in this area. The temptation is to soften or change what we say the Bible teaches about hell.

There are a few ways that Christians can compromise in this way.

First of all, Christians can be tempted to not think or talk about hell. This is an avoidance strategy that is enormously harmful. The scriptures clearly teach this doctrine, and so we ought to as well. If hell and judgment is not spoken of, it’ll kill off any urgency that we have for wanting people to know Jesus, evangelism will slow, our prayer life will be general and not specific. However, if we understand the judgment of God, and that Jesus is good news, and is returning to judge the living and the dead, our prayers will grow warmer, we’ll bring people by name to our Father in heaven.

Second, Christians can fall into compromise with how they think about hell. The doctrine of hell can and has been changed by various people and groups. This again is enormously harmful. It’s dishonest and bears false witness about God. For example, some people teach that unbelievers will simply cease to exist at death and are annihilated. This is not what Jesus teaches.

Third, Christians can be tempted to get rid of the doctrine altogether. There are some who promote the idea that everyone will go to heaven in the end, no matter what a person believes about Christ. This is what is known as universalism, of which there are several variants. Yet, it’s clearly not what God’s word says.

While these ways might seem Christian on the surface, they are unfaithful. They might seem loving but they’re not Christian. They’re not what Jesus taught in Mark 9 and in other places.

We need to know that there is a real judgment, and eternal consequences for sin. If sin doesn’t matter, and God simply overlooks it, then the cross of Christ wasn’t necessary. God would not have sent his own Son. The warnings in scripture of judgment, ought to drive us to the good news. We need bad news, and to see where we sit with God without Christ, to know why Jesus is good news, and why we need to believe in him.

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