The Consequences of Sin--Part 3
Oct 29, 2009
Virtually all genuine Christians understand the basic teaching that Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world. The only ones who may not realize this are those who think that being a Christian is a matter of joining a religious organization. The reason Jesus had to die is because, as Paul said, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
Since the time of Adam, death has been the penalty for sin (Gen. 2:17). If eternal torture in hell were the penalty for sin, then Jesus would still be there in the attempt to pay off the sin-debt of the world.
Consider this . . . Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament sacrifices, whether they be lambs, goats, bullocks, or doves. All of these pointed to His one true sacrifice for sin. Some theologians have argued that since many of these animals were placed on the altar and burned or roasted, this argues for hell-fire as the punishment for sin.
However, they first miss the point that the animals were killed before being burned. None were burned alive. Secondly, when Jesus actually came to fulfill those prophetic sacrifices, He died on a cross. He was not put on an altar, nor was He even burned alive. He was crucified, and while that was certainly death by torture, it was not by fire.
And when Christians undergo baptism, which is a type of death and resurrection, it is by water, not by fire. When we die daily and crucify the flesh, putting to death the old man, it is accomplished by the fire of the Holy Spirit, not in a torture pit. There are many ways to die, but death is the point of the whole thing.
Most of you are aware, of course, that when we put the "old man" to death, he does his fair share of screaming as if being tortured. The old man does not like to die.
Visions and Dreams of Hell
I have found that biblical teaching on the subject of hell seems to be contradicted by some people's dreams and visions. There are always many dreams and visions that originate in the fleshly mind, of course. But many are real (divine origination) as well. The question is how to interpret the real ones.
All visions, whether written in Scripture or not, ought to be interpreted according to Scripture. How many times have you heard the preachers say, "Let the Scriptures interpret themselves" when we come to a dark saying or one of Daniel's visions? Daniel saw strange "beasts" which turn out to be symbolic of nations. John saw dragons, which are not literal either.
Genuine visions and dreams are pictures of spiritual/heavenly things that do not have the same form as we see on this physical earth. Hence, in order for our minds to comprehend spiritual things, these pictures need to be translated into earthly languages. So Daniel saw beasts, which he could relate to, instead of abstract beings/nations, so that his earthly mind could comprehend them and describe them in earthly terms.
So also is it with genuine visions of "hell." These usually are earthly portrayals of spiritual conditions, usually portraying the spiritual condition of certain people. The primary rule is to let Scripture interpret every vision and dream. Scripture is our divine dictionary. If anyone wants to know the meaning of a dream or vision, let him find it in Scripture.
The problem comes only when people do not properly understand the Scriptures, because then they interpret the visions according to unscriptural definitions. Nothing is more evident of this than when we discuss visions of hell.
For example, some see people in hell being tormented. They immediately assume that this confirms their church's teaching that sinners will be tortured in hell forever. But if they understood the true biblical teaching on the subject, the interpretation would be far different.
I can assure you that a large portion of humanity is experiencing "hell" right now by the spirit here on earth. These people may appear to be living "normal" lives, but their spirits are in sin's torment. When someone receives a genuine vision or dream about such people, they are seeing their true condition that is unseen by human eyes. For this reason, many have had visions or dreams wherein they are rescuing people from hell. This is the dead giveaway, because if someone is in hell already, how is it that one can rescue them? Are they willing to admit that there is hope beyond hell?
With such a wide variety of visions and dreams, there is no way to explain even a tiny portion of them. But if you know the basic principles/laws of interpretation, you can interpret each of them as they present themselves.
The first law is to use the Scripture as your dictionary.
The second law is that genuine visions/dreams are spiritual in nature and that the mind is picturing these spiritual concepts in earthly terms that it can understand.
The third law is that there is no time or space in the spirit, but the mind cannot comprehend such spiritual conditions and must picture the event in terms of time and space (distance).
The difficulty, then, is that the mind has already distorted the spiritual reality the moment the vision is implanted in us. Something is always lost in translation from the heavenly language to the earthly. This is because the carnal mind cannot comprehend the things of the spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). The only way to truly understand the vision, then, is to know the Scriptures.
A vision of hell can indicate the spiritual condition of people who are currently alive. They need the baptism of fire in order to "compel egregious sinners to repent," as Clement said (Part 1). John the Baptist put it this way in Matt. 3:11, 12,
(11) . . . He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
The baptism of fire is designed to burn up the chaff in you. That is the purpose of Pentecost, which is why the Pentecostal offering in Lev. 23:17 was two leavened loaves of bread that were to be baked in the fire. The fire purified the Pentecostal offering. Without the fire to kill the leaven, the offering was unacceptable to God, for no offering could include leaven (Lev. 2:11).
John expressed the principle in terms of wheat and chaff, but the truth is the same. The same holy fire from heaven that consumed the offering in Lev. 9:24 is the "hell" of sacrifice to consume the offering and pay the penalty for sin. Unfortunately, many have said, "no, hell is a different fire from the fire of the Holy Spirit."
Actually, I agree with that statement, because man's concept of hell is actually the "strange fire" that was offered in Lev. 10:1. There really are two kinds of fire--the first originating with God and His Word; the second originating with man and his incorrect interpretations of the Word.
The baptism of fire is not pleasant to the flesh. Most of us have experienced flesh-burn by following the pillar of fire in the wilderness. The discipline of God can be really tough, and at first we think He is engaged in child abuse. But He loves those that He chastens (Heb. 12:6). Sometimes we wish He would not love us quite so much.
If we do not submit to the baptism of fire in this life, we will be subjected to it at the Great White Throne judgment. Today, we are given opportunity to submit willingly; later, it will be by lawful decree. Let us all submit to the fire of God today, so that we may avoid the lake of fire in the judgment.
This is the third part of a series titled "The Consequences of Sin." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones