by Larry Stockstill
Is there a real, eternal, burning hell? In Philippians 3:18-21, Paul describes only two options for our final destination: destruction and heaven. How foolish it is for us to make our natural appetites-the temporary pleasures of food, drink, and creature comforts-the altar of our worship! We, as future citizens of the New Jerusalem, are only passing through this world. Paul, well aware of this truth, said this knowledge caused him to "strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven" (Philippians 3:14). What other goal is worthy of pursuing?
The tragic opposite of the heavenward call is the downward pull of hell. Isaiah said (and Jesus later quoted in Mark 9:48) that for those in hell "the worms that devour them will never die, and the fire that burns them will never go out" (Isaiah 66:24).
Hell is an eternal lake of fire. It is a fixed, immovable torment where death is not an option. Once a person is in hell, it is impossible for him to ever escape. The rich man, suffering the anguish of hell's flames, begged Lazarus simply to dip his finger in water to cool his parched tongue (Luke 16:24), but it was not possible (v. 26).
Hell is indeed an awful place, but heaven is wonderful beyond measure. I have set my sights on heaven. How about you?
66 This is what the Lord says:
Where will my resting place be?
and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord.
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
and who tremble at my word.
3 But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a person,
and whoever offers a lamb
is like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig’s
and whoever burns memorial incense
is like one who worships an idol.
They have chosen their own ways,
4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them
when I spoke, no one listened.
and chose what displeases me.”
5 Hear the word of the Lord,
you who tremble at his word:
and exclude you because of my name, have said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy!’
6 Hear that uproar from the city,
hear that noise from the temple!
7 “Before she goes into labor,
she gives birth;
before the pains come upon her,
she delivers a son.
8 Who has ever heard of such things?
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
than she gives birth to her children.
9 Do I bring to the moment of birth
and not give delivery?” says the Lord.
“Do I close up the womb
when I bring to delivery?” says your God.
all you who love
rejoice greatly with her,
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
12 For this is what the Lord says:
and dandled on her knees.
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
and you will flourish
he will bring down his anger with fury,
and many will be those slain
17 “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens,
18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done,
19 “I will set a sign
22 “As the new heavens and the new earth
66 This is what the Lord says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?
Could you build me such a resting place?
2 My hands have made both heaven and earth;
they and everything in them are mine.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts,
who tremble at my word.
3 But those who choose their own ways—
delighting in their detestable sins—
will not have their offerings accepted.
When such people sacrifice a bull,
it is no more acceptable than a human sacrifice.
When they sacrifice a lamb,
it’s as though they had sacrificed a dog!
When they bring an offering of grain,
they might as well offer the blood of a pig.
When they burn frankincense,
it’s as if they had blessed an idol.
4 I will send them great trouble—
all the things they feared.
For when I called, they did not answer.
When I spoke, they did not listen.
They deliberately sinned before my very eyes
and chose to do what they know I despise.”
5 Hear this message from the Lord,
all you who tremble at his words:
“Your own people hate you
and throw you out for being loyal to my name.
‘Let the Lord be honored!’ they scoff.
‘Be joyful in him!’
But they will be put to shame.
6 What is all the commotion in the city?
What is that terrible noise from the Temple?
It is the voice of the Lord
taking vengeance against his enemies.
7 “Before the birth pains even begin,
Jerusalem gives birth to a son.
8 Who has ever seen anything as strange as this?
Who ever heard of such a thing?
Has a nation ever been born in a single day?
Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment?
But by the time Jerusalem’s
her children will be born.
9 Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth
and then not deliver it?” asks the Lord.
“No! I would never keep this nation from being born,”
says your God.
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem!
Be glad with her, all you who love her
and all you who mourn for her.
11 Drink deeply of her glory
even as an infant drinks at its mother’s comforting breasts.”
12 This is what the Lord says:
“I will give Jerusalem a river of peace and prosperity.
The wealth of the nations will flow to her.
Her children will be nursed at her breasts,
carried in her arms, and held on her lap.
13 I will comfort you there in Jerusalem
as a mother comforts her child.”
14 When you see these things, your heart will rejoice.
You will flourish like the grass!
Everyone will see the Lord’s hand of blessing on his servants—
and his anger against his enemies.
15 See, the Lord is coming with fire,
and his swift chariots roar like a whirlwind.
He will bring punishment with the fury of his anger
and the flaming fire of his hot rebuke.
16 The Lord will punish the world by fire
and by his sword.
He will judge the earth,
and many will be killed by him.
17 “Those who ‘consecrate’ and ‘purify’ themselves in a sacred garden with its idol in the center—feasting on pork and rats and other detestable meats—will come to a terrible end,” says the Lord.
18 “I can see what they are doing, and I know what they are thinking. So I will gather all nations and peoples together, and they will see my glory.19 I will perform a sign among them. And I will send those who survive to be messengers to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans
22 “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain,
so will you always be my people,
with a name that will never disappear,”
says the Lord.
23 “All humanity will come to worship me
from week to week
and from month to month.
24 And as they go out, they will see
the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me.
For the worms that devour them will never die,
and the fire that burns them will never go out.
All who pass by
will view them with utter horror.”
66 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
5 Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
6 A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence to his enemies.
7 Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.
8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
10 Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:
11 That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
12 For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14 And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.
15 For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many.
17 They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.
18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
19 And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
20 And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord.
21 And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord.
22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.
24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:5 circumcised
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal,
15 All of us, then, who are mature
17 Join together in following my example,
5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,
15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush
and none of us knows how long this will be.
Will the foe revile
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
13 It was you who split open the sea
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you made both summer and winter.
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people
do not forget the lives of your afflicted
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places
may the poor and needy
22 Rise up,
remember how fools
1 O God, why have you rejected us so long?
Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture?
2 Remember that we are the people you chose long ago,
the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession!
And remember Jerusalem,
3 Walk through the awful ruins of the city;
see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary.
4 There your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries;
there they set up their battle standards.
5 They swung their axes
like woodcutters in a forest.
6 With axes and picks,
they smashed the carved paneling.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground.
They defiled the place that bears your name.
8 Then they thought, “Let’s destroy everything!”
So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped.
9 We no longer see your miraculous signs.
All the prophets are gone,
and no one can tell us when it will end.
10 How long, O God, will you allow our enemies to insult you?
Will you let them dishonor your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your strong right hand?
Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them.
12 You, O God, are my king from ages past,
bringing salvation to the earth.
13 You split the sea by your strength
and smashed the heads of the sea monsters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan
and let the desert animals eat him.
15 You caused the springs and streams to gush forth,
and you dried up rivers that never run dry.
16 Both day and night belong to you;
you made the starlight
17 You set the boundaries of the earth,
and you made both summer and winter.
18 See how these enemies insult you, Lord.
A foolish nation has dishonored your name.
19 Don’t let these wild beasts destroy your turtledoves.
Don’t forget your suffering people forever.
20 Remember your covenant promises,
for the land is full of darkness and violence!
21 Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again.
Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Arise, O God, and defend your cause.
Remember how these fools insult you all day long.
23 Don’t overlook what your enemies have said
or their growing uproar.
74 O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.
8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.
12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.
16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.
19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.
20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.
21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.
22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.
23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
15 Don’t wait in ambush at the home of the godly,
and don’t raid the house where the godly live.
16 The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.
15 Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.