Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Eternal God, an Eternal Heaven, and an Eternal Hell

The girls and I have been reading J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Matthew for quite some time. After my surgery, we put it down for a while, but have slowly been putting this back into our routine. Yesterday, we read Ryle's thoughts on Matthew 26:14-25. The part that struck me was his comments on verse 24 (The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”). He uses this statement from Jesus to explain why we must reject the idea of universal salvation and must affirm an eternal hell. I had never heard it explained this way before and thought it might be beneficial to others as well. This is a long quote, but I just couldn't bring myself to cut any more out of it.

Let us learn, in the last place, from these verses, the hopeless condition of all who die unconverted. The words of our Lord on this subject are peculiarly solemn: He says of Judas, "It had been good for: that man if he had not been born."

This saying admits of only one interpretation. It teaches plainly that it is better never to live at all, than to live without faith, and to die without grace. To die in this state is to be ruined for evermore: it is a fall from which there is no rising; it is a loss which is utterly irretrievable. There is no change in hell: the gulf between hell and heaven is one that no man can pass.

This saying could never have been used if there was any truth in the doctrine of universal salvation. If it really was true that all would sooner or later reach heaven, and hell sooner or later be emptied of inhabitants, it never could be said that it would have been "good for a man not to have been born." Hell itself would lose its terrors, if it had an end: hell itself would be endurable, if after millions of ages there was a hope of freedom and of heaven. But universal salvation will find no foot-hold in Scripture: the teaching of the Word of God is plain and express on the subject. There is a worm that never dies, and a fire that is not quenched. (Mark 9:44) "Except a man be born again," he will wish one day he had never been born at all.

Let us grasp this truth firmly, and not let it go. There are always persons who deny the reality and eternity of hell. We live in a day when a morbid charity induces many to exaggerate God's mercy at the expense of His justice. Let us resist such teaching with a holy jealousy, and abide by the doctrine of Holy Scripture: let us not be ashamed to walk in the old paths, and to believe that there is an eternal God, an eternal heaven, and an eternal hell. Once depart from this belief, and we admit the thin edge of the wedge of scepticism, and may at last deny any doctrine of the Gospel. We may rest assured that there is no firm standing ground between a belief in the eternity of hell, and downright infidelity.

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