Well, first of all, I want to commend Rick on such incredible planning, perfect planning to come to Palm Springs and have a conference on hell. (Laughter.) Thanks for the vivid illustration. I wouldn’t miss Resolved, believe me; it’s just a thrill and a joy and a delight to be here again. I’ve been at each of the Resolved Conferences and my personal experience in each case was one of great richness, blessing, encouragement, hope, excitement just to see a generation of young people who care about the things that are my passions and that come to us from the Word of God and have always been the passions of those faithful to Scripture throughout all of history.
This is a historic event, to draw together young people who have a commitment to the things of God—serious enough to expose themselves to the kind of penetrating teaching and preaching that is going to surface the inadequacies, iniquities of their lives is to say that this is the best of the best. The truest and most faithful of God’s people are those who are most concerned about integrity, spiritual reality, honesty, being who you really should be, even if that means a rather relentless exposure to the areas of ignorance and inadequacy that are still a part of our lives. So I’m thankful for the work of the Spirit of God in you, and I’m thankful for our speakers who have come to minister to you, and I’m praying for each of them to have a great impact on your lives.
As some of you know from Grace Church, I have been preaching through the gospel of Luke for a long time. There have been people born, lived, worked and died in our church, all in Luke. But we’re nearly through with Luke, and I regret that after about ten years. I want to read a couple of passages in Luke that set the context for us in a discussion of what our Lord says about hell.
Turn to Luke chapter 12, Luke chapter 12. I want to read the opening section of chapter 12 and then the opening section of chapter 13, which is really one continuous message given by our Lord on one day. It’s a most remarkable message.
If you just look at verse 1, you read that there were so many thousands of the multitude that had gathered together; they were stepping on each other. This is a massive crowd of people. It numbers in the tens of thousands—multiples of the tens of thousands. They’re so intent on trying to hear what Jesus says that it’s turning into a crushing mob like an English soccer match. People are liable to be trampled in this situation. One might consider this a dangerous situation with a crowd, wanting without the aid of amplification to get close enough to hear what Jesus was going to say. Close enough even if it meant maiming the people in front of you. Or maybe this was sort of Jesus’ only experience with a mosh pit. This is like a rock concert to end all rock concerts because this is not just entertainment. This is someone who heals sick people. This is someone who raises dead people. This is someone who has things to say the likes of which have never been spoken, never been thus heard.
Now if you only had one occasion in your life to speak to a large crowd numbering in the tens of thousands, what would you say? If Jesus, for example, one Sunday visited the largest church in America, what would His sermon be about? If Jesus was called to the largest convention of religious peoples, or convocation of religious people—very devout religious people, very thoughtful religious people, very traditional religious people, very historic religious people—what would His subject be? What would your subject be if you had one occasion to speak to a massive crowd?
Well, if you were to ask most evangelicals that question today, the subject probably nine out of ten times would be, “Well, they would choose to talk about the love of God.” Maybe they would choose to talk about the grace of God. But in perhaps the largest crowd that Jesus ever spoke to, He chose to talk about hell and He chose to talk about hell to the most religious people. This is what He said, end of verse 1, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more they can do. 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! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet none one of them is forgotten before God? Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you’re of more value than many sparrows. And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess Him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”
One great message to a massive crowd of very religious people—at the very core of that crowd are the Pharisees who are the purveyors of that religion. Basically the religion of the common people of Israel was the religion that had been crafted by the scribes and basically propagated by the Pharisees. The scribes being the theologians; the Pharisees, if you will, being the ministers of that system of religion. It was the dominant religion of Israel, and it was basically the faith that was proffered in every local synagogue.
So when Jesus says to the people, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” He is basically saying to them, “You had better escape the religion you’re a part of or you’re going to end up in hell.” Actually most people are okay with hell for Hitler. I remember one night—Rick reminded me of it—on Larry King I was on with Rabbi Kushner, who had written the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and the subject of hell came up, and his comment was something like, “Well I know there is a hell, but God would never send anybody there.” Which seems a little pointless, as well as untrue. And off camera the discussion was “except Hitler.” There is in the mind, certainly of Jewish people, the fact that if there is a hell, Hitler would be there. And since there was a Hitler, there ought to be a hell just for him. Most people are okay with a Hitler hell. Some people would be okay with a hell for Saddam Hussein or other massacring dictators. Certainly people would be okay with a hell for Joseph Stalin and people like him. Some people would find hell okay for mass murderers or serial killers or other committers of heinous crimes. And I would say many people would be okay with a hell for the grossly immoral. Many would be okay with a hell for the outwardly corrupt and vile and wicked who are impenitent, intractable and irreligious. And all those people will be in hell.
However, they will be the minority. They will be a small minority. Most people in hell will have been very religious. That’s the stunning truth. Heaven is not for the good religious people in hell, for the irreligious and bad people. Most people in heaven will be religious, all people in heaven will be religious, but in a different way. All people in heaven will have come to their true religion through faith in Jesus Christ. Most people in hell will be religious, but in a wrong way. They will have followed a religion that cannot save.
The illusion is, “I’m a good person. God will certainly take me to heaven. God would never send me to hell.” That’s what’s behind this text. They all expected to go to heaven. They were good people. They were religious people. They worshiped the God of the Old Testament—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They believed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. They were looking for the Messiah. They believed in prophecy, they believed in—most of them—a coming Messiah, a coming kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth, as we heard from Randy in the last session. But they were on their way to hell. And they were being sent there by the purveyors of a very destructive, damning religion—apostate Judaism. That’s why Jesus begins by saying, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”
This is pretty typical for the ministry of Jesus. In fact, it’s so typical that I’m currently working on another book to come out in a year or so on how Jesus dealt with false religion. In a word, how He dealt with the Pharisees or the Sadducees on some occasion. And repeatedly in dealing with errant Judaism, He did not commend them for worshiping the true God and being good, He warned them about hell. Jesus told them in Matthew 5:22 that God was going to throw them into the fiery hell. In chapter 5, verse 29 that He would throw their whole person into hell, and He was talking to the Jewish people. To the religious leaders, He said, “You are sons of hell whose converts are double sons of hell” (Matt. 23). He called these leaders serpents, vipers who would never escape the sentence of hell. This is what is stunning about Jesus’ ministry. It was the religious people that He condemned to eternal damnation. All false religion, including apostate, Christless Judaism, is eternally damning.
Now I want us to look at this passage just a little bit, and there certainly is a lot more that could be said and should be said and we’ll be able to say. And then I want us to jump over to chapter 13 and draw it to a conclusion. Let’s go back to verse 1. There are so many thousands of the multitude that have gathered together that they’re stepping on one another, and He began saying to His disciples, first of all—I just want to pull that out. This is a huge crowd. In the midst of this crowd there are some mathetes, the word for learners. There are some who are honestly interested in what Jesus is saying and would classify themselves, as people often did when they followed certain selected teachers, as a disciple of that teacher—in process as a learner.
In the midst of the crowd there are the Pharisees who are, for the most part, beyond spiritual help. That’s why you have in the New Testament only one Pharisee by name ever converted to Christ. There are the very devout followers of the Pharisees, who during Passion Week get a little closer to the idea that Jesus might be the Messiah and hail Him as Son of David when He comes into the city on Monday, but they scream for His blood on Friday. So there are the hardcore followers of the religion pervaded by the Pharisees.
But there are also these non-hostile disciples who are in process. Some of them aren’t true believers. Some of them have made up their mind about the Lord Jesus Christ; others are in the process of considering the claims of Christ. They are the interested followers, not just the Twelve; disciples is a much bigger word than that. They’re following Him and listening to Him out of interest, out of admiration, out of openness, out of hope, out of curiosity, out of a perhaps infantile kind of faith. They have not rejected to Him, not yet. He calls them in verse 4, “My friends.” They still are friendly toward Him.
Over in verse 32 we learn that there are only a minority because He identifies them as a little flock, and that might be just the true believers—very small amount. We know that even on the Day of Pentecost there were only 120 of them in the city of Jerusalem, gathered in the Upper Room. So it is to that group of people who either now believe in Him and constitute the little flock, or those who were still intrigued and still interested in Him and still want to know that He in particular addresses His words. However, if you go over to verse 54, you read at the beginning of the verse, “He was also saying to the multitudes,” and He goes on at the end of this message to direct His words to the whole crowd. So what you have here is our Lord giving a warning to people who are still at least demonstrating some interest in the things that He is saying that are contrary to their religion.
And the stakes are high; the stakes are really high. It’s about your eternal soul. It’s about your eternal dwelling place. There are no more important words than words that direct us away from hell and toward the Kingdom of Heaven. And so He begins, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. The idea of leaven is permeating influence. Leaven was put in dough to cause it to rise and swell and enlarge. Beware of the permeating, fermenting influence of the Pharisees; beware of its deadly pervasive influence. He is telling them you’ve got to escape from your false religion.
The last message Jesus ever gave, the final message on Wednesday of Passion Week. Thursday He spent with His disciples in private and in preparation for and celebrating the Passover, and Friday His trials and His death. The last message He ever gave on Wednesday, He warned the whole populace that were gathered together in the temple area for His last words, He warned that crowd with basically the same words, “Beware of the Pharisees, beware of your false leaders, beware of the sons of hell who produce double sons of hell.”
Jesus, was He intolerant of sin? Yes. But He said more about false religion than He did about specific iniquities, because false religion provides a damning deception that sin does not provide. And so, as He comes in the direction of the end of His ministry, He warns them about damning religion, religion that cannot save, religion that sends you to hell. And if Judaism with its commitment to the Old Testament Scriptures and the God of the Old Testament is a damning religion, every other religion that worships any other than the true God must also be a damning religion. Stay away from religion that is hypocritical—ceremonies, rituals on the outside, corruption on the inside.
How do you do that? How does one do that? First, you need to be motivated—you need to be motivated strongly to abandon your false religion. That’s the first component of the words that lie before us. And what is going to motivate you? There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Keep reading. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light. What you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. You better escape your phony religion because God will uncover the truth. God will uncover the truth.
You see the words “covered,” “revealed,” “hidden,” “known.” No one escapes exposure. Listen, hypocrites know they are hypocrites. Oh, they can get very good and very adept at self-deception, but hypocrites know they’re hypocrites. You know whether your heart is corrupt. You know whether your salvation is real or whether it’s superficial. You know whether you have power over sin. You know whether you have righteous longings and holy aspirations. You know whether you have true joy and experiencing worship. You know whether your heart is drawn out in love to Christ and those who are Christ’s. Hypocrites know they are hypocrites, particularly if they associate with people who are not hypocrites. And they see the difference.
You had better avoid false religion, first of all, because in the end you’re going to get exposed. Hypocrites are going to be unmasked. This is something our Lord said numerous times in Matthew, Mark, Luke. Hypocrites will be unmasked. What hypocrites successfully conceal from other people, they do not conceal from God. Notice the contrast, dark and light, a metaphor for revealing what hypocrites want hidden. Hypocrites are only good at what they do if they can hide it. That to hide the reality, play the game, we’ve all heard those testimonies—some of you are living them right now. You are in severe danger because even in evangelical Christianity today, in that large kind of umbrella that we call evangelical Christianity, there’s plenty of room for false religion. A superficial speech about a relationship with Jesus Christ and no reality. But some day, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you whispered in the inner room shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. Inner rooms, interesting concept; an inner room was just that in a house. In the middle of the house they would have a room that could be locked and it had no windows. There was no access. Thieves typically dug their way into houses which were made of brick or made of mud, essentially, and they would dig through the outer walls to get the valuables they wanted to get. So there were in larger homes inner rooms where everything could be secure.
Well, whatever is going on in the inner room in the life of the hypocrite is going to be uncovered by the Lord Himself and taken to the top of the house and shouted out loud for all to hear.
I remember reading when I was a young man in my college days the biography of Oscar Wilde the noted English playwright. Oscar was a homosexual and a very perverse one in a day when that was absolutely unacceptable social behavior. Toward the end of his very storied, epic life as a literary contributor became known to the world the truth about him in very sordid and tragic ways. And it was Oscar Wilde himself who said, “The truest thing he ever said, I forgot,” he said, “but what a man hides, he will one day heard shouted from the housetop.”
And so it is in the life of every person who hides something; it will be uncovered and it will be declared. And what are the implications of that? Keep reading. Consequently, verse 4, “I say to you, my friends.” And there’s pathos in that; there’s compassion in that; there is sympathy in that; there’s tenderness in that. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 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!” Number one, God will unmask hypocrites. Number two, God will send hypocrites to hell.
That’s why I said, heaven is full of religious people, true religion. Hell will be mostly religious people, false religion. “And I say to you,” continues the sequence of truth, “My friends”—My friends, those who are still in any sense friendly to Me and listening to what I’m saying, do not be afraid of what kills you physically, do not be afraid of what men can do to you. There, just as a side note, is the heart of hypocrisy—fear of man, fear of what people will think. Many are unwilling to tell the truth about themselves because they want to be accepted in a certain group; you want to be accepted in the church, the youth group, whatever. You fear men. You’re consumed with what people think.
But what our Lord is simply saying is not so much that although that is truism, what He is saying the worst case scenario for most people is to die, and so we fear death, and in the ancient world people killed other people, perhaps in a more random way than people do today. Certainly more people die today in wars because of the expansive killing power of weaponry, and perhaps more of them die in natural disasters because of the massive population. But in the ancient times, life was hard and people died and people took lives and people feared for that. And so He says, “Don’t fear them because all they can do is kill you, and after that they can’t do anything else.” That is to say, they cannot determine your eternal destiny. Here’s who to fear, fear the one who after he has killed you has the authority to cast you into hell. Who’s that? It’s not Satan. It is not Satan. Oh I understand that Hebrews says that Satan has the power of death in a general sense, but though Satan has the power of death in a general sense, he can take no life except under the sovereign allowance and purpose of God. Fear the one who after he has killed you has authority to cast you into hell. That can’t be Satan; Satan doesn’t have authority to cast anyone into hell. Satan himself will be cast into hell. The Lake of Fire, which is the current hell, and the final form being the Lake of Fire is the place prepared for the devil and his angels—it is God who casts Satan and all fallen angels and all impenitent, unbelieving sinners into hell. This is God who is in view here. Don’t fear man; fear God. Fear the One who has the right to send you to hell forever. I mean, it’s natural for us to fear somebody taking our lives. We take great precautions today, security precautions so somebody doesn’t come into our world, into our room, into our house and take our life—we understand all of that. Much, much more important to fear the one that you can’t lock out. Fear the one that you can’t restrain, the one who can both take your life and send you forever to hell.
Some think that this means the grave, the grave because there’s no eternal punishment. Now there are some who believe in annihilation or soul sleep—there’s no conscious, eternal punishment; you go out of existence, or you virtually go out of existence falling forever asleep. That...that’s what this is talking about. It’s simply talking about the grave. That is not possible. That makes nonsense out of the context. Because men can put you in the grave, why would it be more important to fear God if all God was going to do was the same thing men could do? The soul will never die—your soul is immortal; your soul is eternal. But it is God who can rip it out of the body and catapult it forever into eternal hell to be joined later by a resurrection body to feel the full power of the pain of eternal torment. Fear the one who can send you to hell forever.
Just a few things about hell since we’re talking about that. Gehenna is the word, ge-ennan (valley of Hinnom, the land of Hinnom, the ground of Hinnom on the south and west of Jerusalem). It’s a very interesting piece of real estate. Just a little bit of background: originally where the Jews set up the perverse worship of idols. It was called Tophet in the Old Testament. The Jews worshiped idols there, just south and west of Jerusalem. Tophet means “place of spitting, spitting out” or “abhorrence.” It came to mean a place of burning. One of the things they did in Tophet, in the valley of Hinnom, in worshiping idols, was worship the god Molech, and Molech required the death of a child. In order to placate Molech, you took your baby and put your baby on the fire and incinerated your baby to appease this otherwise angry god who would bring calamity into your life. One writer says, “It would seem that in the top of this place there was a deep hole in which much wood was piled and the wood was ignited by a stream of brimstone, according to Isaiah 30. The wicked kings, for example, Ahaz and Manasseh actually made their children pass through this terrible fire as offerings to the gruesome idol Molech. Others copied their wicked example. Jeremiah 32 talks about that. And Jeremiah predicted that the divine judgment would strike Tophet, that God would visit the terrible wickedness that occurred in Ge-ennan with such mass destruction that the place would become known as the Valley of Slaughter. God-fearing King Josiah defied this idolatrous high place and stopped its abominations, fulfilling that prophecy. Josiah destroyed that place as a place of idol worship. Here’s the interesting footnote—turned it into the city dump. Jerusalem’s garbage was taken out there for centuries so that it always smoldered and it always burned at all times, and it became a perfect image of hell—ever burning fire, abomination, judgment, slaughter, wretchedness, wickedness so Ge-ennan in the Greek became Gehenna, which became hell.
Our Lord had much to say about hell—talked about it as a place of unceasing fire, torment, burning, smoke, weeping, wailing, grinding torture, blackness, isolation. “Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Fear Him who can send you there forever.
There’s a third reason for fearing God. Number one, He will unmask all hypocrites. Number two, He will send them all to hell. Number three, He knows everything; no one escapes. How many times have you heard these verses quoted? “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents and yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered, do not fear, you are of more value than many sparrows.” How many times have you heard those read as verses of encouragement? Oh, God knows every time a sparrow falls, or better in the Greek, every time a sparrow hops, so perhaps even better, every time a sparrow dies, borrowing from Matthew 5. In that context, of course, it’s talking about God’s protection and God’s encouragement and God’s care. But here it’s a very different situation. Every sparrow sold God knows about. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t fear. You’re of more value than sparrows. In a sense, that’s encouraging. But the warning is about this—God knows every single detail about your life. Yes, He knows when sparrows hop; yes, He knows when they fall; He knows when they die. He knows the hair of your head, and I understand the average is 150 thousand, because if it is, He knows it. It’s not that He counts. It exists; He knows it. He knows every tiny detail, and He knows who is His. And He knows who is not. God’s knowledge is complete; nothing escapes His infinite omniscience. That is frightening news to the hypocrite. That is wonderful news to the true believer.
You’re not going to fool Him. So our Lord is saying to this crowd, massive crowd, a very religious, devout people: “You better escape your false religion.” He’s not talking to mass murderers and pedophiles. He’s talking to moral, upstanding, religious people. You better escape your false, hypocritical religion because , number one, God will uncover the truth. Number two, He will sentence you to hell. And number three, He knows who you are. And He knows those that are His and those that are not.
How do you escape? How do you escape? Verse 8, “I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess Him also before the angels of God; but he before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” It has to do with whether or not you have made a true, open, public confession of Jesus Christ.
It greatly disturbed me recently when John McCain was being interviewed on a couple of occasions. And when he was asked about his faith, which is usually a synonym for hypocrisy and false religion, he was asked about his faith and he would not answer because it was a very private thing. Really? “Everyone who confesses Me before”...What?...“men.” What is the right answer when someone says to a politician or to anybody else, “Tell me about your faith.” It is to say this, “I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and the only Lord and the only Savior, and the only Redeemer.” It’s not a private thing. That’s hypocrisy in most cases, and I don’t know the heart of any of these people. I’m just drawing off what I’m hearing. You know that part of the text. You know the gospel, Romans 10:9 and 10, right? If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confessed with your mouth Jesus as Lord, you’re...What?...you’re saved if that confession is real. If you want to escape hell, you must confess Jesus Christ as Lord. No confession of Christ, no heaven, no heaven. Even devout, orthodox Jews are on the way to hell along with everybody else who rejects Jesus Christ. A Christless Judaism is no different than Islam. A Christless Judaism is no different than Buddhism. It’s not different than atheism. It’s no different than any other form of unbelief.
Jesus said in John 5:23, “If you honor Me, you honor the Father, you honor the Father, you honor Me.” It’s a package deal. You will never be confessed by God as one of His own before the angels until you have acknowledged Jesus as your Lord.
Now this long message continues and I want you to move to the thirteenth chapter for just a kind of a wrap up. We know this is the same event because it begins in verse 1, “Now on the same occasion,” this is the same day in the same place, Jesus giving the same message. “On the same day there were some present in this crowd who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”
Now this is sort of like the Jerusalem Gazette, I guess—this massive crowd, lots going on when Jesus is teaching. There’s a lot of back and forth, and on this same occasion this is kind of the clincher to this great message—somebody brings up a recent event. And what it was is described here; and by the way, this is all we know about it. Some Galileans came down to the temple, which was the only place you offered sacrifices, went in and were offering their sacrifices. Pilate, who was the governor of Judea from 26 to 36 through the life of the Lord for about ten years there, who was a vicious, corrupt, egotistical guy who mostly irritated and infuriated the Jews, he ended up tragically losing his position, being exiled and committing suicide. But Pilate went in to the temple, this tells us, where they were offering their sacrifices, these Galileans, and his soldiers in behalf of Pilate and slaughtered them so that their own blood got mixed with the sacrificial blood. I mean this is a dramatic, dramatic scene. What precipitated this? One could imagine easily, these were Galileans who were known to be anti-Roman, insurrectionists—basically Pilate’s primary responsibility, along with all the Roman procurators and Roman governors, was military. They were the commander in chief of the Roman military presence. So somebody like Pilate, or any other position—man, in that position in any of the other countries conquered by Rome—would be primarily in that position because they had ascended the ladder of military achievement. So he’s first and foremost beyond anything—he’s a soldier. Secondly, he would have administrative ability as well, which would move him up the ranks, and being a soldier as you would well know. He also was responsible for the collection of Roman taxes, so he had a little bit of economic responsibility. But primarily he was a man who had spilled blood all his life and he knew you control people by making sure you have power in military presence. Whatever was going on with these Galileans, whoever they were, whatever they had done, Pilate had determined that they needed to be executed and they needed to be executed in a way that would be so vivid and so public and so unforgettable that it would send a message right through the nation.
Now remember, they would assume, the Jews would, if they remembered 1 Kings chapter 1, that when you got into the temple that you were sort of, you know, off limits. You remember Adonijah ran to the altar and grabbed the horns of the altar like this was safe haven. Pilate didn’t care where they were. He was telling the Jews there’s no safe haven; you cannot escape from me. I will find you and I will slice you and dice you wherever you go. That place may be sacred to you; it is not sacred to me. And by the way, he despised the Jews, who also despised him. And there are a lot of historic reasons for that.
And then we go with that in mind to verse 2, and there there’s an implied question there, Why did this happen? Why did this happen? “He answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? Do you think this happened to them because they were worse sinners than everybody else from God’s perspective? Why did God allow this to happen to them?” This was the typical theology. You know, if you get an illness, or you’re blind (like John 9), or you get killed, it’s because you’re worse than somebody else who didn’t get killed. Remember Job’s friends? The reason you’re suffering is because of your sin. That’s the reason you suffer, because that’s why everybody suffers. So the more you suffer the worse you are. Suffering is in direct relationship to sin, and these people got slaughtered because they were worse than everybody else. Is that what you think? Is that what you think? You think that’s the way the world goes? You think that’s the way life happens? You think the people recently in Asia who were drowned were worse than the people who weren’t drowned? You think that? That’s sort of the typical logic. That was their theology. Is that why that happened to them?
Verse 3, “I tell you, no.” And then Jesus picks up on it. Verse 4, “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?” This is another one of Pilate’s projects to build an aqueduct from the Pool of Siloam to provide water for Jerusalem. He was always worried about water coming to Jerusalem; that was a huge issue. Herod had built an absolutely incredible aqueduct, bringing water from the north, falling for miles and miles and miles at a three-degree level, and it was built with such perfection that the water continually flowed down. You still see remnants of it in Caesarea. But Pilate was into water projects; Herod was into buildings. Pilate was into water projects apparently—and in the construction of some water project connected to the Pool of Siloam. A tower that was built, some superstructure to build this thing, collapsed and eighteen people were killed. And so the question then comes, “Do you think they were worse than all the people in Jerusalem who are still alive? Do you think that’s how things work? Do you think that’s why calamities come because some people are worse than other people?” And our Lord’s answer again, verse 5, “I tell you, no”—no. That’s not the point. Here’s the point; go back to verse 3. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Verse 5, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Here’s the essence of the gospel. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or you’re going to go to hell. Repent of your sin or you’re going to perish. That’s the gospel.
Death comes without warning. Death comes to anybody and everybody. It will come to you and you can’t control when it comes to you. Everybody’s going to die, that’s the message. That’s the point.
When I was first asked by the media in 9/11, What’s going on here from God’s perspective?, I said, “Pretty simple; you’re going to die and you have no control over when. And you better repent so that you don’t perish in hell, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—only hope. Escape your false religion. Repent of your sin; believe in Christ. Simple message.
And then He closed this whole long section that same day with a parable in verse 6. He began telling them this parable. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in a vineyard, came looking for fruit on it, didn’t find any. Said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And He answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” End of sermon. Wow! End of sermon? Yeah. What is it about; what’s he saying?
He’s saying everybody’s living on borrowed time. Every fruitless life, every life with no spiritual reality, every life producing nothing for God is living on borrowed time. Most universal gift of common grace is time, time to repent, time to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. All...all sinners live on borrowed time. Genesis 6:2, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” “Now,” Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, “is the day of salvation.” Here’s an illustration of that. A vineyard producing nothing, absolutely nothing, the Lord says, “Cut it down!” It’s useless. Why should it even take up the ground space, suck up the water from productive vines? And the keeper pleads, “Just give me one more year and I’ll work on it. And if it doesn’t produce, cut it down—it’s borrowed time.”
“Examine yourselves,” 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “whether you be in the faith.” Hell is real. And in my next session with you, you’re going to find out from a man who went there to tell about it.
Our Father, we again are grateful for every Word, but especially we are enriched by the teaching of the Lord Jesus because it shows us the truth in the context of a life lived in the world. Remind us that when Jesus met with the most religious people, He didn’t talk about a common heaven. He warned them about the hell ahead of them and that they were living on borrowed time. It is appointed unto men once to die, after this the judgment. May we escape any hypocritical religion, confess Jesus as Lord, and repent and be flooded with the reality of the promise and the hope of escaping hell and enjoying the glories of heaven. We ask that You would do a great work in hearts for Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.