The Reality of Hell and God’s Presence
I know we have been in a walk through the distinctives of the ARP, but I wanted to take a break as I had a few questions asked about the sermon yesterday in the early service regarding light and darkness, and especially how each of them relate to Heaven and Hell. Here’s some thoughts.
There is a call to love the light that reverberates throughout the Bible. The marking out of darkness as the realm of evil is an image which is meant to evoke for us the vanity of seeking after wicked things, for they lead us astray from the good and they actively take us away from the truth. Darkness has always, in every culture, been the domain of the dead. Your grandaddy’s old saying that nothing blessed happens after midnight has been shared by old men to their progeny in Romania as much as Mongolia. It is a universal knowledge. It is part of the reason why the color black is the shade chosen by those who which to be seen as transgressive, non-conformist, and those who wish to let everyone know they mean trouble. The silver and black of the Raiders was chosen on purpose.
In the beginning (no pun intended) when we are first introduced to our God it is mentioned that darkness was on the face of the deep. The Holy Spirit is seen hovering over the waters. Then God makes light which comes neither from the sun nor the moon, but from the command of His voice. Why was it made? It is not as if the Third Person of the Holy Trinity needed it to see. Our God does not have eyes like men. Also darkness isn’t meant to imply the absence of God, and light the presence of God (more on that in a minute). It can seem as if there is a deeper thing going on here that we are not quite ready to comprehend completely, especially if you are coming to Genesis with preconceived notions of what to expect. However, as we think about what the Lord is doing we need to remember that as the patriarchs gave us testimony, they knew that one was to come who would give light to the answers we seek.
The Apostle John as he writes his gospel will mimic these opening words of Genesis and apply them directly to Jesus Christ. He writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Christians are to be people of the day. That doesn’t mean that believers shouldn’t work second or third shift or some such silliness. What it does put forward is that we understand something about the nature of our God that the world does not. He sees all and knows all. There is no hiding from His presence, even in the darkness. The presence of light is meant to give us a vision of the glory of God. Those who grope around in darkness (see Deut. 28:29) cannot praise Jehovah for they see Him not. Light in the context of Genesis 1, John 1, and myriads of other verses says to believers that if they want to understand the world around them, be at peace, and receive all the goodness which comes to the those who love the Lord than they best be abiding in the light and seeking out the light wherever He may be found.
That was the point Christ was making in Matthew 6:22-23. Those who love the light and hate the darkness will seek the light to dwell within them. Whether it be from the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of Colossians 3:16 or the word of God more generally as Psalm 119:105 speaks to us the message is the same. As we interact with the voice of Jehovah as He speaks to us in the magnificence of His revealed will the less and less we’ll be interested in what the darkness entices us to do and to hear of its message. We’ll see the darkness for what it is, the pathway leading to death. On that note we’ll close with something else I mentioned yesterday.
In the Scriptures Hell is described by Jesus as “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12). Jude 1:13 speaking of the apostates who stain the love feasts of the church says of Hell, “. . . for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” While it may seem odd that a place which contains a lake of fire would also be without light, the point made is that in Hell there is no good, no light which is from above. It is the domain of wickedness. Of course, Christ confirms this when He is speaking to Nicodemus in John 3:19. He says, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
R.C. Sproul notes of these people: “Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.”
As we see there is not a single person in Hell against their will. They love the darkness and would rather be eternally destroyed than recognize the truth found in the Scriptures. It’s one of the reasons why Paul in Colossians 1:13 will say of the gospel work of Christ for sinners that, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” That is what the good news of the light does for blacked out idolaters. He opens our eyes to see the fullness of grace and the beauty of the reality that light has taken on darkness and triumphed.
As John the Baptist proclaimed at the Lord’s coming:
“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” – Matt. 4:16
Praise be to the Lord.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church