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The word “repent.” Who likes it? I know I don’t.

Why not? Well, I’ve been successfully inoculated by my culture in a negative way to avoid using this word. Cartoons and images of Bible-thumbing, weirdos on sidewalks. Some long-haired, wild-haired prophet carrying a sign that reads, “Repent. The end is near.” I have been mocked into compliance. So, I repent. I must do better. I ask the reader to forgive me and pray for me.

People, believers and unbelievers alike, have a difficult time repenting. Take a look at these verses in which the Lord tells us that, even though people are dying from different diseases, they won’t repent:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts (Revelation 9:20–21).1

Diseased, dying bodies everywhere and no one turning to God.

And this:

They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory (Revelation 16:9).

Interesting. Those who don’t believe God exists will hate and curse Him.

I believe we are being prepared for this day. I think the world will say that this terrible heat and these pandemics are caused by global climate change. God is not sovereign, they think—climate is.

What will it take for people to recognize their Creator and their Savior? Well, Romans tells us that they already know God exists, even though they deny it. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19). They actively suppress that truth. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Their hearts are darkened. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Sometimes I see people on television, in a store, on the sidewalk and think, “That person is talking, but someday they could very possibly be in hell.” Hell-bound person talking. As you would, I often pray for that individual when such a thought rampages through my brain. Hell is, to state the obvious, a horrible fate. Let me re-state that. It’s a horrible eternal fate.

The only quote I know from Dante’s Inferno is, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” It’s a sign that hangs over the gates of hell.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

In our lives, most of us live with some semblance of hope. Life is hard on everyone, but most of us have at least a little optimism that things will eventually get better. But what if no hope existed in any way whatsoever? I’m not only talking about a lingering illness, constant destitution, and an absence of friends and family. I’m talking about no light, the gloom of utter darkness, as Peter and Jude refer to it (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13). No water. Unbearably hot all the time (Luke 16:19-31). You can’t turn on a fan or the air conditioning. No hope of anything ever, ever getting better.

Ever.

Just constant scorching heat and darkness.

Hell is such a place.

In Mark 9:47-48, Jesus describes hell as a place where “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Their worm. I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if that means the desires of human beings just go on and on and never end, with never any hope of having them met.

Ever.

No hope.

Such a reality makes me shudder.

It’s true that hell is not often written of in the New Testament, but it’s there, clear enough. Our first reason for talking to people and encouraging them to repent should not be the threat of hell but God’s love and provision for forgiveness. Yet, hell is a possible dwelling place for the unbeliever with whom you are speaking. We should keep this certain future, certain reality in mind.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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