A couple days ago I was listening to k-love radio driving around with the kids in our minivan. I know, k-love + kids + minivan, how cliche.
They were doing some game I guess it was where they asked people to call in and tell them about a saying they heard at church as a kid that they misunderstood.
A woman called in and said the phrase she misunderstood as a kid was, “Lake Of Fire.” Now I don’t have a transcript of exactly what she said, I looked on k-love’s website but couldn’t find anything. Maybe it was live and not pre-recorded, I don’t know. Anyways, I’ll just write here as best as I can recall what she said.
“When I was a kid I would hear the preacher use the phrase “Lake of Fire” and as a kid it really scared me because I didn’t understand the symbolic nature of the Bible and I thought the lake of fire was a real place where people went!” (laughter from her and the radio hosts.) “As a kid it scared me because I would think, ‘I’m not good enough to go to heaven and do everything God wants, I’m going to the lake of fire when I die!'” (more laughter) “Today I’m a mom and I teach my kids, try to be good, try to remember and follow Christ’s teachings and if you mess up, don’t worry, it’s no big deal, God has already forgiven everything.” Her and the hosts ended with a chuckle about the lake of fire and she hung up.
Dear Mom calling into the radio,
As you shared your story of your understanding of the lake of fire in scripture I could picture you as a frightened little girl sitting in a church pew. I could see your conscience gripping your heart and telling you that you could never measure up to God’s standard of moral perfection. I could feel your fear as the scenes of an eternity in hell flashed before your minds eye.
Can I tell you a little about the God of the Bible? He is much more good than you know.
You’re right that God is perfect and all of us have come short of His glory. As your conscience has already told you, we all have done wrong. Because God is so good, can he simply dismiss evil and act as if it didn’t happen? What about an earthly judge presiding over a case in a court room. Would the judge be a good judge if he let sin go unpunished? What if the criminal was sorry he had committed the crime? Could the judge let the criminal go free based on the criminal feeling remorse? No. The judge in order to be a good judge could not let crime go unpunished.
God in His goodness can not ignore hate, lust, murder, stealing, covetousness, child abuse, pride, lying and idolatry. Things that at least some of them you and I have committed. “For whosoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10) Did you know that Jesus’ considered hate as much as a sin as murder? Did you know that God sees lust as he sees adultery? His standards are much higher than yours or mine.
The Bible talks quite a bit about hell but since you used the phrase, ‘lake of fire’ here’s the references the Bibles makes to it;
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The Bible never gives any hint that the lake of fire is merely some sort of symbolism meant to represent something else.
So where does that leave the scared little girl on the church pew battling her conscience and knowing she has sinned against God?
Let me further expound to you the goodness of God. God saw humanities sin and utter helplessness. He saw the people who he had created turn their backs on him, curse him and make themselves god’s that condoned their sin and who wouldn’t send anyone to hell. We condemned ourselves when we knew to do right but choose evil instead. (Romans 2:14-15) But God devised a way to save us. A way that he could be a good judge and yet within the confines of the law extend mercy.
God did the unthinkable and came to the earth as a helpless baby born of a virgin. He grew and was tempted with every sin a boy and man would be tempted by but he never succumbed to sin. He lived a perfect life, worked hard, did miracles and proclaimed very boldly that he was God in the flesh. “…but he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrew 4:15b)
He was hated by the church goers and religious people to the point that they devised to kill him. Jesus told them, “…I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17b-18)
Jesus, the Son of God, stepped in and took the full blast of the wrath of God upon himself and took the penalty of the law upon himself, allowing those who accept this ransom on their behalf to walk away free men, with the law satisfied. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“But God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18
That last verse I shared is one I’m sure you’ve heard growing up in the South going to church. God loves you and wanted you to be freed from your sin, free from your guilty conscience and free from the lake of fire. He wants you to look to the righteousness of Jesus and to what he did on the cross. It is impossible for us to earn our own salvation.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“…all our righteousness are as filthy rags..” Isaiah 64:6
“…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day..”
When the prison keeper who was guarding Paul and Silas asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” their response was simple. They did not tell him he had to start going to church. They did not tell him he had to get his life cleaned up. They did not tell him to follow after morality and hopefully in the end God would let them into heaven. They told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
So dear mom on the radio, will you call upon Jesus today believing that he stepped in and took the wrath of God in your place? Will you trust the God who loves you so much He spilled His own blood to be sure You, His creation, would have a way to escape the everlasting destruction that is the penalty of sin?
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
Praying for you.