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Listen to the 10 min audio
Read the transcript:
POPE ACCUSED OF MISLEADING STATEMENTS ABOUT HELL
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, a number of media outlets covered this story. We’re taking it from CNS News, Pope Francis saying there is no hell. Recently, Pope Francis had an interview with his long-time atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari. In this interview, Scalfari asked, “Your Holiness, in our previous meeting, you told me that our species will disappear at a certain moment and that God, out of His creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who die in sin and go to Hell to suffer for eternity.” Pope Francis replied, “They are not punished. Those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of those souls who contemplate Him, but those who do not repent and cannot, therefore, be forgiven, disappear. There is no Hell. There is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
DR. REEDER: Tom, we need to say that the Vatican — not the Pope — put out the disclaimer that the exact words were not completely accurate. What didn’t come was a “Hey, that was erroneous. The Pope affirms the historic doctrine of Heaven and Hell, the eternal condemnation of the lost in their rebellion against God and the eternal joy of those who know Him through the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ. There was no reclamation of the historic doctrine.
We’re not going to speak to the erroneous doctrine of Purgatory. We’re going to only deal with the issue of the eternality of Heaven and Hell and the reality that there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to lose and the only way you gain that Heaven and the only way you can lose that Hell — since we’re all born sinners and under the judgement of God — is through the atoning work of Christ, who has come into this world because of the love of God to save sinners.
HEAVEN IS A FREE GIFT FROM GOD IF WE ACCEPT IT
And God’s love for us is unmerited and unwanted, but it’s not, in the ultimate sense, unconditional in that God’s love for us had to meet certain conditions and that is the eradication of our sin, but God’s love for us is so glorious He didn’t tell us that we had to eradicate the consequences of our sin — His Son came and His Son eradicated the consequences of our sin by His atoning death on the cross. And He eradicates the power of sin because, by His Spirit, we are born again so we not only get a new record with our sins removed from us as far as the east is from the west through Christ’s atoning work and the righteousness of Christ that is given to us so that our sins that were credited to Him and He paid for them now are replaced by His righteousness that is credited to us.
Therefore, we’re not only forgiven and pardoned, we are accepted and declared innocent through the righteousness of Christ and then, by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again and we’re given a new heart so that not only is the penalty of sin eradicated, but we are emancipated from the power of sin. We get a new life in which we increasingly walk away from the practice of sin into the newness of obedience to Christ and then, one day, we will have the absence of the presence of sin or even the ability to sin in the glories of a new heaven and new earth.
And, Mr. Pope, with all due respect, Heaven is not an ethereal existence of contemplating God. The Bible is very clear that there is much activity in Heaven — we are not sitting in a corner in an eternal contemplative mode. There’s a new heavens, and there’s a new earth, and there’s activity, and there is serving the Lord but there will be no curse of sin and there will be no ability to sin. There will be no consequences of sin: no pain, no death. The former things have passed away.
Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” On that day, with a new body that He gives to us, He will bring us not into a refurbished heaven and earth, but a transformed heaven and earth. The new heavens and the new earth and the glories of not simply contemplating Him, but learning from Him, enjoying Him, and not only enjoying Him, but the unbroken fellowship with those made in His image into a relationship that is glorious and beyond our comprehension but will not be beyond our occupation for all eternity.
And what about his remarks on Hell? Pope Francis has now embraced, to some degree, the historically condemned doctrine of annihilation — that, at death, the unbeliever, the impenitent, do not come under the judgement of God for all eternity, but are basically dismissed from existence into oblivion of non-existence.
I have no idea what he means by the creative power of God creating new species. The Bible is very clear that God has finished creation. Six days He created and then He rested from creation. The Bible is very clear that the doctrine of Hell is the conscious punishment of the impenitent in their cosmic treason and rebellion against God for all eternity.
Tom, what in the world was Jesus doing on the cross? What was that agony of the soul in “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” What is all that that becomes meaningless gibberish if there is no Hell to shun. So, the Pope, in one simple statement of complex consequences, has dismissed the historic Apostle’s Creed, has dismissed the Biblical doctrine of Hell.
CHRIST SPOKE AND TAUGHT MUCH OF HELL
And, to the Pope, I would simply say, “You are to be the Vicar of Christ. Who is it that gave us the most information about Hell and conscious torment in all of eternity, even using the metaphors of the blackness of full isolation and the torment of fire?” Over two-thirds of the information about Hell comes directly from the mouth of Jesus, the one who would bear the Hell that was due to His people for their sins on the cross.
Two-thirds of it is given to us and the warning of what it means to come under the judgement of God and eternal condemnation and that God will hurl them into the lake of fire that is the conscious torment of the lost for all eternity. There will weeping and gnashing of teeth. That does not sound like oblivion to me — that sounds like torment. That is something that propels me to tell people to come to Jesus.
CONFUSION AND LACK OF TEACHING ON HELL CAUSES MORE SIN
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let me go back to Pope Benedict XVI, who just in 2007 said, “Jesus came to tell us that He wants us all in Heaven and that Hell, of which so little is said in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to His love.”
Harry, there’s obviously a paradigm shift that’s taking place here. Is the new attitude toward Hell going to create a callousness and a laissez-faire attitude toward sin?
DR. REEDER: And toward God, Himself. We contemplated doing a program on the blasphemy that Stephen Colbert did during Holy Week against the majesty of God and the holiness of God and then, right within the Roman Catholic church, again, this professor at Holy Cross who blasphemes Christ by trying to turn Him into a transgender androgynous existing entity.
However, the reason that people in the culture feel free to do those things and there is no restraint upon how you refer to God and how you would speak about Him, is because the church of Jesus Christ has declared itself more spiritual than Jesus in that we will not speak of the sinfulness of sin and we will not speak of the consequence of sin.
When was the last time that you heard a sermon on the Biblical doctrine of Hell? Jesus gave a number of those sermons. You go find a revival in which the doctrine of sin and the doctrine of Hell was not prominent in the preaching of God’s Word, which then set up the preeminence of the doctrines of grace to save us from our sin, and the Savior who bore our Hell and who desires us to be with Him in a new heavens and a new earth. Jesus bore the penalty of those sins, our hell, and in Jesus you can have eternal life.
Just as Hell is real, so is the new heavens and the new earth. “Where I am, there you will be with Me always.”
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.