In my last blog is God’s promise that all evil will be destroyed and “no sinner will be allowed in the assembly of the righteous.” So, what happens to those who persist in their evil ways, and refuse to change?
Jesus talked about people like that. They were mainly the rich and powerful in Matthew 19:23-24, but they were also the political and religious leaders in Matthew 23 who loved their status and power over people (verses 6-7), but cared nothing for them (verse 4). They also expected everyone to obey their rules and regulations, but they didn’t obey those rules themselves (verse 3).
Jesus had strong words for such people. He called them “sons of hell” (verse 15), “blind fools” (verse 17), and “whitewashed tombs” (verse 27). They were “full of greed and self-indulgence” (verse 25), and such “snakes” and “vipers” that it raised the question in Jesus’ mind, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” verse 33.
And Jesus wasn’t finished with his scathing criticism either, because in the next chapter, Matthew 24, he tells the story of the master (of a servant he’d trusted to look after his household while he was away) “returning on a day when the servant didn’t expect him” and finding the servant drunk (verses 48-50). The master is so angry he’ll “cut that servant in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” verse 51. And there’s no guessing who the “master” is here. So, again, these are very strong words from Jesus’ own mouth about people he considers worthy of hell.
And he still hasn’t finished, because in Matthew 25 he also talks about “throwing worthless servants into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” verse 30, and others suffering “eternal punishment,” verse 46.
So in answering the question, “Are evil people destroyed (or in hell) forever?” – in Jesus’ own words it sounds like it. In which case, how did he tie that in with his ministry of “proclaiming the good news of God” in Mark 1:14? Where’s the good news in condemning people to agony in a hellish darkness, or in cutting people in pieces? And what does it say about Jesus himself too?
For some people it might say great things about Jesus, because he gets rid of people who thoroughly deserve hell. But should that not include us too, for “we are ALL falling short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23? “Where, then, is boasting (for any of us)? It is excluded,” verse 27. When it comes to justice based on our thoughts and actions, no one is ruled out (Luke 12:2-3 + 8:17).
But for those hypocrites in Jesus’ day was that the end of the line? Had they gone too far, no more chances, and it was either hell or destruction forever for them?
Well, back in Matthew 23 where Jesus asks, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” – it sounds like it is either eternal hell or destruction for them, because he also tells them in verse 38, “your house is left to you desolate.” There is is nothing left but ruins – demolished and wiped out, and all memory of their rotten lives erased.
But then, amazingly, tucked away in verse 39, Jesus leaves a tiny crack open, for he also says, “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
But that involves a person moving from rejecting Jesus to seeing him as a blessing, and how does that happen? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it, so what’s the answer?…