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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Only One Escape from Hell
Text:Matthew 13:47-58 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2013
Added:2023-05-04
Updated:2023-05-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Unto God Our Savior 
I Lift Up Mine Eyes to the Mountains
Praise the Savior
Day of Judgment! Day of Wonders!    

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


02/03/2013
“Only One Escape from Hell”
Matthew 13:47-58
 
Those of us who are parents know the power of repetition. How many times have we repeated ourselves over and over again so that our children, or perhaps our grandchildren, would remember the importance of what we are telling them?
 
Repetition is a powerful tool, and repetition was used powerfully by Jesus as He taught.  We certainly see His use of repetition in these verses. In verses 41 and 42 the Lord had said, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
 
Then in verses 49 and 50 He repeats Himself. He again says, This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
 
Why did Jesus repeat Himself? He repeated Himself for the same reason that we as parents repeat ourselves: To get the point across. Unfortunately, often warnings are not taken seriously.  Not only do children often let the warning of their parents in one ear and out the other, but many people of every age do the same thing with these warnings of Jesus.
  
Many are like the seventy-year-old man who was talking about how hell simply doesn't exist. He said he wasn't afraid of dying because there is no such thing as hell. His little grandson spoke up and said, “Grandpa have you ever died yet?”  It was an excellent question by the perceptive grandson because Hebrews 9:27 declares, “…Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.”
 
The word for judgment is from the same root word as separation. In this parable as Jesus talks about fishermen fishing, and how the fish in the net are separated, the good fish from the bad, He is really speaking about the final judgment, especially on those who refuse to believe in Him. In verses 49 and 50 Jesus says: This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
 
The Final Separation
 
The Bible teaches several certainties regarding that final separation – that final judgment of everyone who has ever lived. First it will be unchangeable. Once we breathe our last breath there is no way to change our eternal destiny. There are millions upon millions of people who will be deeply disappointed to learn that there is no second chance. There is no purgatory. There is no “tribulation time” after the church is “raptured”, in which to repent of your sin and focus with saving faith on Christ. There is no opportunity after a person has died to change their eternal destiny. There is heaven and there is hell. It is either-or. There is no in-between. 
 
It is clear from this parable of the net that there is no in-between spot. And it is clear throughout Scripture. Consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man, who was in hell, asked Abraham to send Lazarus, who was in heaven, with just a drop of water to cool his tongue. Abraham replied, in Luke 16:26, Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone from their crossover to us.”
 
No one, of course, would want to go from heaven to hell. Abraham uses that expression just to show the impossibility of crossing the great chasm between heaven and hell. It cannot be crossed either way. Those in hell are in hell permanently. There is no escape and the torment is eternal. 
 
A second truth in this passage is that judgment is determined by what we have done on earth. It is not a works salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But if we are saved by grace through faith, then our actions will show the reality of our faith because “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” as James 2:17 so clearly teaches.
 
That is why 2 Corinthians 5:10 gives this warning: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for things done in the body, whether good or bad.”  On that day, before the judgment seat of Christ, what we have done will show whether we truly had faith in Jesus or not.
 
That is why self-examination is important here and now. It is necessary to look at ourselves and examine how we live our lives. In the context of the parables in Matthew 13, ask: “Have you and I let the deceitfulness of wealth choke the good seed of the gospel? Does trouble and persecution fill us with bitterness and cause us to fall away? Or, are we like the man who found the treasure in the field?  Are we like the merchant who found the pearl of great value, giving up all for the treasure of Christ and the kingdom of heaven?”
   
The answer to these types of questions shows whether by God’s grace and Spirit’s power we truly have faith in Jesus. And our faith in Christ alone – or lack of it – will determine where we spend our eternity.
 
A third truth about the final separation is that it will be permanent; nothing will end that final state. And while that will bring agony to unbelievers, it will bring great joy to believers.
 
Years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a special vacation as we attended the Ligonier Conference and afterward took a Caribbean cruise with R.C. Sproul and a group of other Christians. But just as the departure date was marked, so was the return date. 
 
We cannot think of vacation without thinking of it being over and the reality of everyday life resuming. For me the first full week after that vacation included a Bible study on Tuesday and chapel at Mid-America Reformed Seminary on Friday. There were sermons to be prepared for Sunday. Good Friday and Easter were coming up, how could they be addressed most appropriately?  What texts have I used in past years? What text should I use this year? There would be visits to be made, along with the regular work of the ministry which isn’t seen, but consumes a pastor’s time. 
 
And I’m sure you can relate to that, no matter what your occupation and calling in life is. Here on earth we are very conscious of when something pleasurable, such as a vacation, draws to a close.  It’s over. It’s back to reality.
 
But in heaven – in a paradise far greater than anything on this earth – it will never be over. There will never be a day when the Lord says to us, “Your vacation in heaven is over. It’s back to the rat race on earth.” What a blessing eternity will be for those of us who believe, with saving faith, in Jesus Christ! 
 
But what is wonderful for believers will bring unspeakable horror for unbelievers. Unbelievers will come to that agonizing reality that they will spend eternity in the torment of hell. Mark 9:48 records these words of Jesus: Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” He makes it clear that the torment of hell is eternal.
 
There is a “new theology” that teaches that all the horrific descriptions of hell are nothing more than imagery. Others, even some formerly solid theologians, have latched on to the doctrine of annihilation. However, that is hardly a new doctrine; it has been used by the cults for many years. That doctrine teaches that at the final judgment unbelievers are simply annihilated and done away, or perhaps punished for a short time, and then annihilated; there is no permanent punishment.
 
Instead of “new theologians” with the old heresy of annihilation, we need more theologians like the Anglican theologian from a former generation, J.C. Ryle, who wrote: “The watchman who keeps silent when he sees a fire is guilty of gross neglect. The doctor who tells us we are getting well when we are dying is a false friend. And the minister who keeps back hell from his sermons is neither a faithful or loving man.”
 
Precisely because Jesus is full of love and compassion, He warns us repeatedly of the reality of hell and the eternal torment of those who refuse to believe in Him. As parents, and perhaps grandparents, we repeatedly warn our children and grandchildren – not because we’re nags – but because we love them and we have concern for the way that they live their lives. Jesus, out of love, also repeatedly warns us about hell. Nobody in the pages of Scripture speaks more about hell than Jesus.
 
The Reality of Hell
 
Throughout history there has been much speculation about what hell will be like. Dante wrote his famous Inferno, and many other writers have tried to picture the agony of hell, along with ministers such as Jonathan Edwards, best known for his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
 
Both verse 42 and verse 50 stress the agony of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some of you have perhaps heard about the preacher who was preaching on hell. He was repeating the warning of Jesus that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. A little boy spoke up to his mother, but his voice carried and it was loud enough to be heard throughout the entire congregation. The little boy asked, But what if they’re like Grandpa and don't have any teeth?”  The pastor also heard the question and saw the smiles of the congregation. Without missing a beat, he sternly said, “Son, teeth will be provided.”
 
That is exactly what we say in the Apostles’ Creed. When we say that statement, “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” we are saying that we believe that teeth will be provided, both for believers to enjoy the greatest wedding banquet ever to be revealed. And for unbelievers to eternally gnash those teeth in the anguish of hell. That is the clear teaching of the Creed because it follows Scripture:
 
Daniel 12:2 – “Multitudes sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” 
 
John 5:28-29 – the words of Jesus – “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” 
 
Acts 24:15 – “There is a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”  
 
And those verses harmonize with these words of Jesus: The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
 
While there is much that we don't know about the torments in hell, we do know clearly from Scripture that there will be a fiery torment of resurrected bodies. Skeptics say that since Satan is a spirit, the fire must be figurative. But these verses and many others teach that there will be real fire, that this is not mere imagery. Again, as Jesus said in Mark 9:48, Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” He makes it clear that the torment of hell is eternal.
 
Not only will there be fiery torment for the resurrected body, but also there will be intense psychological suffering in hell. This is clearly taught in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus recorded in Luke 16. In that parable, the rich man who is in hell is told to remember his life on earth. Jesus said, Remember that in your life you received good things while Lazarus received bad, but now he is comfortable here and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:25)
 
In this life we cherish memories of good times, our minds drift back in fond recollection. But in hell, memories will bring great torment. Those in hell will remember all the wrong choices they made in life. They will remember how they chose earthly treasure instead of heavenly treasure. They will remember the grandeur of creation, the truth of Psalm 19 that The heavens declare the glory of God...” The truth of Romans 1:20 that “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, – so that men are without excuse.”
 
The vast majority in hell will remember that they shunned the gospel. They will realize that they had this Book of Promise in their hands, but never took it to heart. And those memories may be, in many ways, more agonizing than the physical torment.
 
There will also be psychological pain brought on by guilt. A minister by the name of Brownlow North gave a series of sermons on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus which led to revival in Great Britain more than a century ago. He spoke about the rich man's concern for his brothers – that the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them about the reality of hell. North pointed out how that concern could not have been motivated by love, for there is no love in hell. Rather, the concern for his brothers was motivated by guilt. He would remember forever, with intense guilt, that he led his brothers astray.
 
And the rich man in hell realized that his brothers would harass him when they reached hell for leading them astray. And Brownlow North writes of the guilt of fathers and mothers who will forever agonize that they never repeatedly corrected their children and warned them about the reality of hell. North also described how some of the most miserable people in hell will be ministers who led their congregations into hell. They will understand then, with agonizing and eternal sorrow, why James wrote: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)
 
Brownlow North was, in a sense, echoing the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6, If anyone causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come.” (Matt. 18:6, 7)
 
Promises and Warnings
 
The parables do not always paint a pretty picture for us. In the parable of the net, we see the fishermen with their catch of fish. On the one hand, it is a simple story that Peter and the other fishermen could easily relate to. But on the other hand, the parable of the net is a warning of the certainty of judgment, the eternity of hell, and the agony of being there forever.

Yet, thankfully, there is a way to escape from hell. But there is only one escape. It is through saving faith in Christ alone. When Jesus suffered on the cross, He bore for us all the agony of hell. He was separated from the love of His Father in heaven. He called out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
 
Because He was forsaken, we who have saving faith in Him alone will never be forsaken. And because He bore the curse of our sin, suffering all the agony of hell in our place, we escape from the punishment of hell. Not only do we escape from hell, but we are ushered into heaven; we are ushered into the glory of the new heavens and the new earth – eternal life in the presence and joy of our faithful Redeemer and Lord!
 
Hearing the repetitive warnings of Jesus, how imperative that we take both the promises and the warnings of Jesus to heart! The disciples did. In verse 51 Jesus asked, “‘Have you understood all these things?’  ‘Yes,’ they replied.”
 
In a sense their answer is comical. They did not understand in all its fullness what Jesus said. But on the other hand, they did take His teaching to heart, as would be evident in their lives. And for most of them it would be evidenced by their deaths as well as they were martyred. They took seriously both the promises and warnings of Jesus.  In the words of Acts 26:20 theyproved their repentance by their deeds.”
 
By contrast, when Jesus came to His own home town, although the people recognized His wisdom and miraculous power (54), they did not believe in Him.  In fact, verse 57 begins by saying: They took offense at him.”
 
It is a sad reminder that all the evidence in the world won’t change the hardness of the human heart.  Sometimes we hear unbelievers say, “I would believe in Jesus if I saw evidence of His miracles. If I had lived in the first century and saw first-hand what is recorded in Bible, I would believe. But I can’t take it on someone’s word, on the writings of the apostles.” 
 
They are like the philosopher, Bertrand Russel. He claimed to be wise, but was a fool. Although he claimed to be an agnostic, he became increasingly antagonistic against Christianity and denied the existence of God. On one occasion, he was asked what he would say to God if he discovered the Creator did, in fact, exist. He replied, “I would say, ‘Why didn’t you give me enough evidence to believe?’”  
 
 But he showed himself to be a fool. The evidence is all around us. As Psalm 19 notes:
 
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they display knowledge.
 There is no speech or language
    where their voice is not heard.
 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
 
And that is why God’s revelation of Himself in creation leaves all humanity without excuse, as Romans 1:20 declares. It takes far more faith – a truly blind “faith” – to believe in evolution while rejecting the promises and warnings given by Jesus. Anyone who says there is not enough evidence to believe is kidding themselves. The people in Jesus’ home town witnessed His miracles and acknowledged that His wisdom was great. Yet they did not believe, and unless they repented and later believed, they will be among those who will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth for all eternity in hell. 
____
 
It is only by God’s grace and Spirit’s power that we have saving faith in Christ alone and escape from hell. As Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” But Scripture also puts before us the responsibility to believe in Christ. When the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
 
Is that where your faith is this morning? And mine? By God’s grace, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, have you and I taken to heart both the wonderful promises of our Savior and also the stern warnings?  Do you and I acknowledge that we deserve hell and that the only escape is through saving faith in Jesus Christ? He alone is the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) And as Acts 4:12 teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
 
As we confess our sins and our need for salvation, may our focus always be on Christ alone and His redeeming work. Amen!
 
 
sermon outline:
 
“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate
 the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where
 there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” - Matthew 13:49-50
 
                                  “Only One Escape from Hell”
                                             Matthew 13:47-58
 
I.  The purpose of repetition: Jesus, because of His love, repeatedly warns us
     about the reality of hell (41-42; 49-50)
 
 
 
II. The final separation of the wicked from the righteous (49) will be:
      1) Unchangeable (Matthew 25:11-13; Luke 16:26)
 
 
 
      2) Determined by what we have done in this life, whether we have believed
           in Jesus (Acts 4:12; 16:31), and shown it by our deeds (Acts 26:20;
           2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 2:10; James 2:17)
 
 
 
      3) Eternal (Daniel 12:2; Mark 9:48; Matthew 18:8, 25:46)
 
 
 
III. The suffering of hell will include both the physical torment of resurrected
       bodies (50) and emotional and psychological agony brought by memories
       of lost opportunities to repent and believe (Luke 16:25-31)
 
 
 
IV. The only escape from hell is through saving faith in Christ alone (John 14:6;
       Acts 4:12), so it is imperative that we take both the promises and the warnings
       of Jesus to heart (51-58)
 
 
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Ted Gray

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