“Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications; nothing more, and equally nothing less.” J.I Packer
As we dive into the gospel of Mark, we are going to begin with some very direct words of Jesus towards those who have varying degrees or levels of interest in following Him. Scripture is very clear that “God, our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:3,4). Our God is amazingly “…patient,…not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). But He knows our hearts are divided, and He knows there is an all out war with diabolical, unseen, but very real forces for our eternal destiny. So Jesus, being the good God that He is, wants to make crystal clear that we have choices, and those choices will either result in eternal blessing or eternal damnation. Let’s read our first passage:
Mark 8: 34-38 “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Comment: Now it is very possible that most of those people “wished” to follow Jesus. But wishes alone are wishy washy. They rarely result in anything of worth. So Jesus makes very clear what is going to be necessary in our daily choices to be able to truly follow Him. First we must deny ourselves. And one of the things we must deny ourselves of is the image we have perhaps unknowingly formed of who we want Jesus to be. Some of us are going to have to deny ourselves the right to hold on to the concept of love we have developed over the years. Only God is love. And thus only God is able to define it, much less consistently walk it out. Only God is just. And thus only God can define justice. Second, we are going to have to take up our cross. One of the reasons I am going to the trouble to put all these studies together is so we can all clearly see what Jesus has said about the consequences of choosing not to follow Him on His terms. Being ashamed of Him and anything He has said or done or promises to do to those who rebel against Him is not an option for those who would seek to follow Him. Especially when the people we are trying to please are people of such an “adulterous and sinful generation.”
Mark 9:42-48 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Comment: Children, who believe in Jesus, are very special and precious to Him. It is hard to overstate how serious an offense it is to be a stumbling block to one of them. You instantly become an enemy of Jesus. And if you do not repent and get cleansed, healed and delivered from your condition,you will end up in hell and will experience eternal torment. There is no extent we should not be willing to go to to get cleansed, healed and delivered from whatever sin is operative in our lives. Now please note that there are brackets around vs. 44 and vs. 46, both of which are exactly the same as vs. 48. The reason for the brackets is in the original greek, vs. 44 and vs. 46 are not in the early greek manuscripts, which are the most reliable and trustworthy ones. Vs. 48 is in the early greek manuscripts, and thus is fully reliable and trustworthy as being the inspired word of God.
Mark 10:15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Comment: All the more reason why we should tremble at the thought of being a stumbling block to such a child. The church wherever it gathers desperately needs such children to model to us the kind of childlike faith, trust and humility that is required of all of us. Please note without this childlike faith and trust, no one will enter the kingdom of God.
Mark 12:1-12 “And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 2 At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3 They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. 6 He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 8 They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not even read this Scripture:
‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; 11 This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.” Comment: Pretty obvious that Jesus is saying that those who reject Him as the Messiah, Savior and Son of God will be destroyed by God – the Owner of the Vineyard. No explanation of what He specifically means by “destroy”. Please note the goodness and mercy of the owner of the Vineyard in repeatedly sending people (prophets) and finally His own Son. But there is an end to His mercy.
Mark 13 Comment: Mark 13 is similar to Matthew 24 in terms of Jesus’s discussion of the end times with His disciples. Interesting that while He doesn’t specifically mention Hell, Hades, Destruction or Eternal Punishment, He does state in the context of persecution and tribulation that “…the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (vs. 13). And He warns of being led astray or deceived by false Christs and false prophets in vs. 22. And He states that “He (Jesus) will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds,…” in vs. 27 implying that only His “elect” (referred to also in vs. 20, 22) will be gathered to Him. Because of the danger of being led astray or not enduring to the end when being persecuted, Jesus exhorts and warns them to be alert for His return in vs. 29, 32,33-37, implying that there is a grave penalty for those who are not ready and watching and who are about His business when He returns.
Mark 16:15,16 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Comment: One of our motivations for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth is the reality that those who refuse to believe and worship our Savior will be condemned to an awful punishment.
Luke 12:5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” Comment: One of the reasons all people should fear Jesus Christ is because He alone will determine our eternal destiny. Many of the promises of God in scripture are for those who fear Him. One of the reasons people do not fear Him as they should is because they do not know the truth about how He promises to deal with those who rebel against Him. Another reason some do not fear Him as they should is because of false prophets and false teachers who teach false doctrine regarding the severe penalty of rebelling against Him.
Luke 13:1-5 “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Comment: We earthlings have a tendency to focus on the apparent sins of others, and overlook our own. Jesus encountered that problem everywhere He ministered. It is why He warned against unrighteous judgment in Matthew 7, wherein we tend to focus on the splinter in someone’s eye, overlooking the beam or log in our own eye. So in this passage He is warning against that, emphasizing that our primary concern in life should be our own repentance, without which we will perish. As to the meaning of “perish”, it clearly does not merely mean die, as all will die, whether they repent or not. So it would appear it is another way of saying one who does not repent will not enter heaven; but rather will be cast into hell.
(I am seeing the need to do a thorough study on the word “perish” since it appears 11’s in the four gospels and is translated from a greek word that appears 86 x’s in the New Testament and is translated in several different ways depending on the context. More on that later).
(I will be posting a blog article soon re: Luke 14:12-24).
Luke 16:19-31 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Comment: The context of this well known story or parable is opposition and “scoffing” Jesus was experiencing with the Pharisees whom Luke says (in vs. 14) were “lovers of money.” Knowing love of money was at the root of their hardness of heart, Jesus told this story. Now being wealthy in and of itself is not a sin. Ignoring the needs of the poor around you and basking in your wealth in a self indulgent way is the sin. And that is what this rich man routinely did. We know he knew of Lazarus in his desperate state of need, because while in torment in Hades, he calls out to Father Abraham to send Lazarus to give him some relief from the flames he was engulfed in. We know from this passage that there are no second chances. We know from this passage that this man was not annihilated, but was consciously enduring “torment” and was in “agony”. We know from Jesus’s response to the rich man towards the end that hardness of heart is not easily overcome “….they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” We know from this passage that the opportunities our merciful God gives people in this life is sufficient for them to repent.
I leave you with words from John Wesley regarding the agony and torment of those in hell. Rare that you would hear such words in today’s pulpits. But that doesn’t mean they are not accurate and worthy of our sober consideration. “Consider that all these torments of body and soul are without intermission. Be their suffering ever so extreme, be their pain ever so intense, there is no possibility of their fainting away, no, not for one moment…They are all eye, all ear, all sense. Every instant of their duration it may be said of their whole frame that they are ‘Trembling alive all o’er, and smart and agonize at every pore.’ And of this duration there is no end…Neither the pain of the body nor of soul; is any nearer an end than it was millions of ages ago.”