DIFFERENT DEGREES OF PUNISHMENT IN HELL

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: MATTHEW 11:20-27




INTRODUCTION:


  1. The Bible teaches that all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to heaven and all those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to hell.
  2. The Bible does not teach annihilation, purgatory, reincarnation, a second chance after death, universalism, etc.
  3. Most Christians understand the basic teaching in regards to heaven and hell, but what many do not understand is that there will be different rewards given in heaven and there are different degrees of punishment in hell.
  4. For example, concerning rewards (Matt. 10:42; I Cor. 3:14).
  5. But it is not the subject of rewards in heaven we will look at now but the different degrees of punishment in hell.

 

I. THOSE WHO REJECT THE MOST LIGHT RECEIVE THE GREATER PUNISHMENT.

    1. The Bible says our Lord began "to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not" (Matt. 11:20).
    2. Our Lord spent time in Chorazin and Bethsaida. They saw His "mighty works" (11:21), but they would not repent.
    3. Those who receive the most light receive the greater punishment. Think about Great Britain, the country that gave us Wycliffe, and Tyndale, and Wesley, and Whitefield, and Bunyan, and Spurgeon, and the King James Bible. Our Lord says, "If the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (11:21).
    4. And think of the United States of America. The songwriter put it this way, "America, America! God shed His grace on thee." And God did shed His grace on America abundantly. America became the greatest nation on the face of the earth. How? Why? The grace of God. But America has turned its back on God.
    5. Our Lord rebuked these cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (11:21-24), and this is the principle: Those who reject the most light receive the greater punishment.
    6. Everyone receives a certain amount of light (John 1:9).
    7. There is a man in the book of Acts named Cornelius. The Bible says he was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" (Acts 10:2). But yet he was not saved.
    8. But though he was not saved, he walked in the light that God gave him. And then God gave him more light. And then God sent Peter to preach to him and he was gloriously saved.
    9. Cornelius and his friends and relatives responded to the light and so God gave them more light. But there are many others who reject the light God gives them. They turn away from the light.
    10. This is what happened in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Our Lord upbraided the people of those cities because they had rejected the great light that God had given them.
    11. Iím thinking now of children that have had Christian moms and dads. They have been taught the things of God since they were little but when they got older they have turned away from it. If they should die in their sins, their place of torment will be much hotter than that of some lost soul from a heathen land who never even heard the Gospel before.
    12. Let us read carefully Matt. 11:23, 24. We know what happened to the wicked perverts in Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed their cities with fire and brimstone and they are in hell right now (cf. Jude 7). According to this Scripture they are "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
    13. Can it get any worse? To be destroyed by fire and brimstone in this life and then to be cast into hell for all eternity, "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire"?
    14. According to the words of our Lord, "it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment" (Matt. 11:24), than for the citizens of Capernaum, our Lordís adopted hometown.
    15. Which "day of judgment" is our Lord referring to (11:24)? He is referring to the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
    16. The lost will be "judged according to their works" (Rev. 20:12,13), and those who have rejected the most light shall receive the greater punishment.

 

II. THOSE WHO KEEP REJECTING THE GOSPEL WILL BE WORSE OFF THAN THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HAD THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES.

    1. Godís judgment begins on this side of the grave. Men cross the deadline and then God gives up on them (Matt. 12:30-32).
    2. This is a theme that runs throughout both the Old and New Testament (cf. II Thess. 2:10-12).
    3. We do not have the time to get into all of this now but the Bible does teach that some people do commit the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31, 32).
    4. In the meantime, let me just remind you that there are greater degrees of punishment in hell for those who have heard the Gospel time and time again and have rejected it (cf. Luke 12:42-48).
    5. Before moving on, let me add that our Lord said there will be a "greater damnation" for religious hypocrites who are guilty of leading people into hell (Matt. 23:14,15).
    6. There was a prosecutor for Los Angeles County, California, by the name of Asa Keys. He was a successful prosecutor and put many criminals behind bars, notably in Alcatraz. But then one day, Mr. Keys himself committed a crime and was convicted and sentenced to Alcatraz. The inmates he had prosecuted rose up to greet him with howls and jeers. They harassed him and harangued him almost to the point of where he nearly lost his mind.
    7. Can you imagine what the lost souls in hell will do to the liberal ministers in hell who never warned them of eternal damnation, and never gave them the true Gospel, etc. I submit to you that the wicked in hell will rise up against these wretched apostates and torment them more fiendishly than Satan and his fallen angels.

 

III. GOD HAST HID THESE THINGS FROM THE WISE AND PRUDENT AND HAST REVEALED THEM UNTO BABES.

    1. Interestingly, after upbraiding these three cities for their unbelief, our Lord "answered (God) and said, I thank thee, O FatherÖ" (Matt. 11:25).
    2. At the very time He was experiencing the bitterness of manís indifference and opposition, our Lord turns in worship and praise to God the Father. "Even so, Father" (11:26) is the language of complete subjection to the Fatherís will.
    3. Most of this makes no sense to Mr. Worldly-Wise or Mr. Legality.
    4. The unregenerate religionist cannot comprehend spiritual things. Paul put it this way: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14).
    5. Those who consider themselves too educated and too sophisticated to believe the simple Gospel become afflicted with their judicial blindness.
    6. The apostle Paul put it this way, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22).
    7. But thank God for those who humble themselves and repent of their sin and turn to Christ (Matt. 11:28-30).
    8. The great themes of judgment, grace, election, and the incarnation Ė all brought out here in this passage Ė are higher than our finite minds can fully appreciate. But thank God, He "hast revealed them unto babes" (11:25).
    9. H.A. Ironside said that Christ "has made God known to those who receive His words." Have you received His words? (cf. John 7:17).

CONCLUSION:

  1. In the days of our Lord, there were four prominent cities in Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Tiberias. Our Lord pronounced judgment upon the first three but not Tiberias.
  2. Now consider this: The destruction of Chorazin and Bethsaida has been so severe that to this day no one knows for sure exactly where they were located. And the ruins of Capernaum remain as a testimony to the accuracy of Godís Word.
  3. And Tiberias still stands. This is just one of many remarkable prophecies which prove the Bible is the Word of God.


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