47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Hell isn’t a very popular subject. Indeed, I dare say if a sign were outside the church building flashing Hell as the Sunday sermon the crowds would be dismally down. Hell is all too often not taken into our consideration or perhaps, like Governor Felix whom the Apostle Paul spoke to, we purposely delay our thoughts on the subject postponing them until perhaps a more convenient time (like our deathbed) – yet oftentimes this convenient time to hear Truth never arrives. We often do not like dwelling on death, the devil and destruction or even that which counters it – faith in Christ if it means we must change our lives, be uncomfortable or held responsible. We discover Paul’s encounter with Felix in Acts:
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Acts 24:24-25 (NIV)
There is generally no flocking to hear about hellfire and brimstone or even accountability – our ears don’t normally perk up to the sound of those words. We much prefer listening to topics on love and joy and peace. Things that tickle our ears and make us feel warm and cozy and good inside. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” simply do not give us the warm fuzzies we seek. It’s as if we believe that if we do not hear about Hell or think about Hell or just plain ignore Hell, it will simply go away. We do not like thinking our choices and actions reap either eternal consequences or blessings. But sticking our heads in the ground about the end of the age or the end of our lives won’t make it magically disappear.
Interestingly, the Lord Jesus spoke quite often of this place of torment - stating it to be a very real place of horror. In love, he warns us –kindly red flags us - as well as all who followed faithfully after Him – over and over again - so that at the end of our lives we will not find ourselves unsaved - words cannot adequately describe that doom. He died to save us - for us to be with Him eternally in heaven.
“It is shocking to reflect that a change in the weather has more effect on some men's lives than the dread alternative of heaven or hell. A woman's glance affects them more than the eye of God. We cannot, however, be content with this; we labor that those around us may savingly believe by putting their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the grand saving act: The man brings his soul and commits it to Christ for safe keeping, and that entrusting of the soul to Jesus saves him. He makes the Saviour trustee of his spiritual estates, and leaves himself and all his eternal interests in those dear hands which once were nailed to the cross. Oh, how we long to see the Holy Spirit bringing men to this, that they may believe in Jesus Christ by resting in Him and trusting upon Him. For this we live, for this we would be content to die, that many might believe.” Charles H. Spurgeon
In our verses for today our Lord likens the coming kingdom of heaven to a net being let down into the vast sea of humanity bringing up all sorts of catch – the good with the evil – the fish with the trash, rubbish, dirt, weeds and vermin. This net has begun to fill and will continue to fill until our Lord’s return. The time will come at the end of the age when it becomes full and carefully drug to the shore where - by the hand of the angels - the good and the bad will be separated. Those who through faith in Christ will rise to be with Him in paradise eternally and those who sadly willing choose not to believe will be thrown into the place of torment prepared for the devil and his angels. Jesus tells us later in Matthew:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” Matt 25:34 (NIV)
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Matt 25:41 (NIV)
“God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision God gives us the freedom to move away from God's love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God's choice. It is ours.” Henri Nouwen
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:16-21 (NIV)