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Posts tagged ‘punishment’

Discipline that Works: The Ages and Stages Approach

SOURCE:  Prepared by Judith Graham, Extension human development specialist/University of Maine

“Ages and stages” discipline is based on normal changes in your child’s growth and behavior. Children’s behavior changes just like their bodies change—in predictable patterns.

Stages of growth build one upon another, like the circles in a “slinky” toy. Each child grows according to his or her own genetic “time plan,” moving forward toward maturity. As they grow, children switch back and forth between “comfortable” ages or stages and “uncomfortable” ages.

The comfortable stages come when they take in all they’ve learned—all the new and old pieces seem to fit together well. Uncomfortable stages are times of rapid growth and change. Change, for most of us, causes stress and anxiety—discomfort. A child in a time of discomfort may have trouble coping with day-to-day life, may seem extra-sensitive or may argue more.

However, some children are naturally more relaxed. They are easier to discipline, even if they’re at an “uncomfortable” stage.

Other children may be more difficult. They may have more stress at a certain stage of growth.

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is about guiding children in ways that support their development of self-control. It is respectful, accepting and comforting. It enhances self-worth. Punishment is used to hurt. It focuses on the child rather than on the act or behavior.

Discipline is ongoing. It is the way you talk to your child, the way you treat your child, the way you live. It is how you help your children respond to the day-to-day events in their lives.

Examples of discipline for very young children include child-proofing cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom to keep children safe or putting fragile items out of reach.

For school-age children, making sure they have a good snack after school is an example of discipline that helps both them and you cope better with end-of-the-day fatigue.

Base Discipline on Your Child’s Development

Children change very quickly, especially in the years before they start school. Discipline that works at one stage may not work at another. A child of 2-1/2 is very different from a 3-year-old. At 2-1/2, many children are in an “uncomfortable” stage. They can be very aggressive one minute and withdrawn the next. A key to disciplining a 2-1/2-year-old is to use routines and avoid giving the child choices. By the age of 3, however, many children have reached a much more “comfortable” stage. Discipline at this stage can be much easier and relaxed.

Yet by 3-1/2 years the child may enter another “uncomfortable” time. He or she may have difficulty with changes.

The more you know about normal developmental changes, the more you’ll be able to guide children well. Knowing more about what they are going through also takes some stress off you as a parent.

Roadblocks to Good Discipline

The six biggest roadblocks to effective discipline are

  1. confusing discipline with punishment. Discipline helps children develop self-control and self-esteem. It teaches right from wrong. Punishment might restrain a child temporarily, but it does not teach alternative behavior. Punishment can even damage the parent-child relationship by reducing a child’s trust in the parent.
  2. believing that what works at one time will work all the time. You need to change the way you discipline your children to keep pace with their natural growth. Different ages and stages, as well as different children, require different techniques.
  3. thinking that when you have difficulty disciplining a child, you are a “bad” parent. Don’t put yourself down if you don’t get the results you want. Think it through and try again.
  4. believing your children “should” behave a certain way at a certain time. Children are unique and special. They develop at their own speed, in their own way.
  5. believing you must “win” every battle. It is important to “pick your battles.” Don’t fight over unimportant issues.
  6. parents disagreeing in front of a child about discipline. Solve serious disagreements in private.

The Effect of Negative Behavior Correction

If you treat your children with the same respect and kindness you offer a close friend, they will learn positive behaviors. Negative methods of behavior correction such as sarcasm, hurtful teasing, verbal abuse, humiliation and physical punishment do not help children learn positive ways of acting. Rather, they create angry children who do not feel very good about themselves.

Tips for Effective Discipline

Punishment is not a recommended way to teach children self-control. Here are some tips to help you discipline in an effective manner and avoid punishing actions.

  1. Set reasonable limits. Setting reasonable limits offers realistic guidelines for children and helps them to feel secure. When you set limits, stick to them and be consistent. If you don’t stick to your limits, you will only confuse children and they may misbehave more.
  2. Use consequences. Letting children learn from experiences can be very effective if done properly. Parents can tell children ahead of time what the consequences of exceeding limits will be. Remember that consequences give children a choice, and parents must be willing to accept the child’s decision.

Consequences can be natural or logical. Natural consequences let children learn the natural order of the world. For example, “If you don’t eat, you will be hungry.” Logical consequences are consequences that are arranged by the parents. For example, “If you don’t put your dirty clothes in the hamper, you won’t have clean clothes to wear to school.”

Consequences are used to teach responsibility and decision-making. The situation itself provides the lesson and helps to develop a sense of accountability.

  1. Take corrective action as soon as possible. It is important to correct misbehavior soon after it occurs. Carry out the logical consequences you’ve established for your child. If you don’t, what are you really teaching your child?
  2. Stay calm. Anger can “turn off” or “tune out” your child. It may make the corrective action ineffective. It may also create unneeded power plays.

Any kind of punishment done calmly is more effective than that done in anger.

  1. Provide a short time to “cool down.” In the past, this has been referred to as a “timeout.” The intent is to give both you and your child time to cool down and control any anger you may be experiencing. Remember that this cool-down time should be relatively brief. It is not a punishment. Maintaining or regaining respect and comfort are two important parts of cooling down, for both adults and children. Follow up with the child about his or her behavior.
  2. Set an example. Discipline is best taught by example.

Using Effective Discipline

Implementing effective discipline is not always easy and takes some practice. Don’t get discouraged! Remember, if you don’t get the results you want, think the situation through and try again.

Discipline is a positive experience that helps children learn to set and follow behavioral limits and develop self-control.

Discipline that Works: The Ages and Stages Approach

Age Development of Emotions                 Tips

 

Infancy Stable, well-balanced periods occur around 4, 16, 28, 40 and 52 weeks. Periods of imbalance occur often around 8, 20, 32 and 44 weeks.    No discipline needed. 

 

18 Months Acts on impulse. Is insistent, demanding. Not much trouble with own emotions, but has trouble with other people’s. Wants own demands met here and now. Not very adaptable or cuddly. Easily frustrated; attention span extremely short. Loves the outdoors and carriage/stroller rides. 

 

 Doesn’t easily obey direct  commands. Get attention by  doing something child likes  and wants to share. THINGS  TO TRY: Pick up and put child  where wanted. Distraction. 

 

21 Months More demanding and less adaptable. Dependent. Has strong needs and demands, but cannot communicate them. May resist being touched. 

 

  Need for great patience and   wise assessment of        capabilities; discipline is not     the important thing at this  age. Arrange to just get smoothly through the day.      THINGS TO TRY: Most  successful are physical;  rearrange the setting to  avoid problems. Talking to  them usually doesn’t work. 

 

2 Years Less demanding. More adaptable. Tends to be quiet and calm. Willing to cuddle and accept affection. 

 

 Take advantage of child’s  rituals, especially at  bedtimes; use security items  the child likes (thumb,  blanket, etc.). THINGS TO  TRY: Distract them or change  the scene. 

 

2 1/2 Years Great imbalance. Moves between extremes of aggression and withdrawal. Bossy, rigid, selfish, possessive, jealous.     Likes sameness, repetition, predictability; changes are very  hard, even minor ones; toys, etc. all have a “proper place.” 

 

  Age of opposite extremes.    THINGS TO TRY: Avoid   giving choices. Avoid   questions that can be  answered by no. Use  routines. Talk and work fast  so child will be doing what is  wanted before she or he has  time to think and rebel.  Anticipate difficult times or  situations and avoid if  possible; do not expect your  child to wait for things or to  share easily. 

 

3 Years Often time of emotional calm. May be happy, contented much of the time. Gets along well with others. Likes others and wants to please them. 

 

  THINGS TO TRY:  Enthusiasm,  good-will and  common  sense. 

 

3 1/2 Years Difficult age. Is uncertain, unsettled, insecure, yet is stubborn, demanding, unwilling or unable to give in or adapt. Tends to be fearful, unhappy. Child’s big emotional struggle is with his/her mother (she is the only worthy opponent); enjoys talking/conversation; time of great motor uncertainty and fluctuating fine motor capabilities. At this age, children are much better with almost anyone other than the principal caregiver. 

 

 Difficulty making changes.  May be good in long periods  of play, but very poor at  changing from one activity to  another. THINGS TO TRY:  Simplify changes as much as  possible. Avoid head-on  clashes. Let him know he is  great — the best child ever;  emotions may be very  fragile; may express fears or  anxieties about the dark and  animals — support these but  do not encourage; use an  imaginary companion to help  get things done; heavy use  of positive phrases: “let’s,”  “how about,” and “maybe  you could.” Give in when  things aren’t important.  Change subject or distract by  bringing in something nice so  child forgets to object. 

 

4 Years Energetic, out-of-bounds. May go to extremes to test self against others. Often enjoys own impish, humorous ways. May be selfish, rough, impatient, loud. Loves adventure. Socially silly and larger-than-life manners may annoy adults. 

 

Delights in upsetting adults. THINGS TO TRY: Ignore profanity, boasting, super-silly way of talking, if possible; enjoy her silliness and participate; usually likes and respects boundaries and limits; bargaining works well; surprises are good motivators; whispering very effective; praise and compliments work wonders as does the simple art of conversation. Make few rules, but enforce these strictly. 

 

5 Years Tends to be calm, quiet, well-balanced. Pulls in and usually tries only what he knows he can do, so is comfortably well-adjusted. Friendly, loving, appreciative, wants to please and do the right thing; wants and means to be good; not yet able to admit to wrongdoing and as much as he tries, does not always tell the truth. 

 

Let them know what is and is not reasonable to expect. Many things parents consider bad are often simplyimmaturities. THINGS TO TRY: Prevention is much better than punishment. If you punish, do so calmly. Child’s wish to be good and do the right thing is strong. With luck, there should be relatively little need for punishment. 

 

5 1/2 to     6 Years Highly emotional. Not in good balance. Loves one minute, hates the next. Much confusion and trouble between self and others. May demand, rebel, argue, fight. When in good mood, is cheerful, energetic, enthusiastic. Needs much praise, but behavior often merits criticism. This only makes behavior worse. Not able yet to tell the difference between mine and yours. 

 

Age of extreme imbalance. May be very rude, resistant, defiant. Thrives on head-on clashes. Punish if absolutely necessary, but calmly. THINGS TO TRY: Patience and skill. Ignore refusal or be impersonal when child answers commands with “I won’t.” Praise — it may not be easy to find something to praise but try hard; avoid resistance and head-on collisions; sidestep issues if possible; bargain; give in on occasion. 

 

6 1/2 Years Behavior quiets down for a few months. Usually relates strongly and warmly to adults close to them. Brief periods of being happy with themselves. Money is becoming of real interest both as an allowance and as a reward. Eager for more possessions. 

 

THINGS TO TRY: Small rewards for little chores or even eating a good meal. Give them “chances” to get a request done. Consenting and bargaining also work well. 

 

7 Years Quiet, rather negative emotions. May be serious, self-absorbed, moody, worrisome,    or suspicious. Very sensitive to others’ emotions. May feel disliked by others and that they are critical or poking fun.Procrastinates, has a short memory, and is easily distracted; often completely tunes out the outside world. 

 

Obedience problem may be because child is sidetracked. THINGS TO TRY: To have a simple chore done,tell child in advance. Be sure they heard the directions. Remind the child before he or she forgets and does something else. 

 

8 Years                                                                            Vigorous, dramatic, curious, impatient, demanding. Not as moody as 7, but still sensitive. Very demanding of parents, especially mother; strongly influenced by her wishes and desires; wants time, attention, affection and approval; beginning to think abstractly; interested in and concerned about own possessions. Easily disappointed if people don’t behave as wished.       Can be quite critical of others and self. Argumentative. 

 

  Easily disappointed if what an adult says or does isn’t   what the child wants. THINGS TO TRY: Give commands in   ways acceptable to the child.  Money is a good motivator, as are time, attention and approval.

 

9 Years Quieter than at 8. Seems to be independent, responsible, dependable, cooperative. May sometimes be temperamental, but is basically reasonable. May be age of considerable rebellion against authority;   tend to go to   extremes; will take criticism fairly well if carefully phrased;    great interest in fairness; group standards may be more important than parental standards. Demanding of others,   but likely to be as critical of self as of others. Very involved with self and may not hear when spoken to. May appear  absent-minded or indifferent. Shows anger at parents, but is  also proud of them, is loyal to family, friends. May show concern for others. 

 

   Interests are beginning to spread beyond home and   family. May resist feelings of being a little child and of  being told what to do.     THINGS TO TRY: Save direct commands for big important matters. 

 

10 Years Emotionally direct, simple, clear-cut, usually well-balanced, yet still childlike. Less anxious and demanding than at 9. Most often good-natured and pleased with life. But may show sharp, violent temper. Can be very affectionate. Not a worrying age, yet a few earlier fears remain. Enjoys own humor, which may not be very funny to others. Happy age.   Tricks or specific and special  ways of approaching a child are no longer particularly useful; involve the child’s ability to distinguish good   from bad, right from wrong, truth from untruth; best   technique is to know what is reasonable to expect.

 

Source: Ames, L.B. (1992).  Raising Good Kids: A Developmental Approach to Discipline. Rosemont, NJ: Modern Learning Press.

SUFFERING: Not God’s Wrath, But A Loving and Holy Tool

SOURCE:  Jeremy Lelek

How the Mercy of God Flourishes in Suffering

Reality, to a large degree, is constructed subjectively through the processes of the mind.  ”Facts” are perceived, variables of that perception shape an interpretation, and these interpretations ultimately serve to shape a person’s experiential reality.  By no means does this diminish the fact that objective, absolute truth exists, but it is important to recognize that this process of perception, interpretation, and conclusion has a significant impact on the way people experience life.  Understanding this can have a profound impact on helping people walk through difficult seasons of suffering.

A fascinating example of this is seen in the book of Mark:

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.  And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace be still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:37-41).

The disciples and Jesus were engulfed in an objectively shared experience, but subjectively, they each experienced this moment very differently.  The disciples were fearful and panicky while Jesus was relaxed to the point of sleep.  For the disciples, their perception seems pretty accurate:  “We’re in a raging storm, and in danger of going under.”  But their interpretation of the situation completely enslaved them to fear and dread.  From reading the account, their interpretation must have been something along these lines, “We’re in a horrible storm, and we’re going to die!”  Their seeming admonishment of Jesus reflects this, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38).  On the other hand, Jesus responded to the situation with complete power and authority.

What was the missing variable in the disciples’ interpretation of the situation?  It was faith.  Jesus rebuked them for this asking, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?” (v. 40).   The Creator of the cosmos sat in physical form with them on the boat, in the storm, but their lack of faith in him caused them to miss the amazing providential moment of mercy that was unfolding right before their eyes.  Jesus was there, and safety was imminent.

How does this translate into helping others who are going through difficulty and suffering?  Let’s consider two implications:

The Variable of the Gospel Forces a Reinterpretation of EVERYTHING

Typical responses to suffering tend to foster contempt for and doubt in God.  It is not unusual for me to hear statements (from Christians who are suffering) like:  “Why is God punishing me?”  “What did I do to deserve this from God?” Why is God abandoning me?”  “If God is such a good God, why is he allowing such evil in my life?”   “I am very angry with God.”  These responses expose a profound distortion in the flow of one’s perceptions, interpretations, and conclusions.  While the perception that life is difficult, even grueling demands enormous compassion from the counselor, the leap from this to the “God-is-against-me” type thinking demands extensive consideration.  For example, like the disciples, these responses assume God is either asleep or apathetic to the situation.

The interpretation is not simply that life is difficult, but that since it is difficult, God doesn’t care, or even worse, is working against them.  This myopic translation of reality completely expunges the “Gospel-at-work” dynamic from the person’s experience of suffering.  If we help them bring the Gospel variable into the scene, the nature of God, from careless and cruel, is transformed into the realization that He is actually amazing and merciful.  The person with the “God-is-against-me” mentality is going to have a very difficult time responding to suffering with humility and trust unless the light of truth is shed upon their experience in such a way that His mercy is meaningfully revealed.

The truth of the matter is that during moments or seasons of suffering, and particularly in the context of sinful responses to suffering, the Gospel is perpetually at work.  When accusations against God are being catapulted from the heart, waging war against Him, and when anger and doubt are the predominant themes as it concerns one’s attitude towards God, the finished work of the Cross is stunningly active.  Rather than being condemned for such responses, God ascribes to the one sinning the very righteousness of Jesus.  God actually treats the suffering saint (with a sinful attitude) as though he or she is responding with perfect obedience to and faith in God.  God examines all the doubt, anger, fear, and hostility directed at Him through the prism of the Gospel, and treats the individual as though he or she were responding with the very perfection of Jesus.  In essence, in our weakness and sinful responses, we act like the disciples in the boat, but are viewed by God as though we were responding with the perfection of Jesus. Even further, Jesus took upon himself our guilt as though He were the one responding without faith in a loving Father.

This realization of the Gospel in the midst of suffering forces a reinterpretation of the God of the Bible.  Suffering is no longer viewed as His divine lightening bolt intended to punish or curse the afflicted, but is understood as a divine context that is intended to radiate the glory of His love and mercy.  As this reality crystallizes in the heart, people’s view of God changes.  Where their Gospel-void interpretation once influenced their conclusion of God as the arbiter of pain as a means to justice, they now understand their pain as a means to understand His infinite grace resulting in the freedom to genuinely conclude He is truly a God that is good.  They realize His mercy flourishing through suffering in that they were desperate in their weakness for the imputed righteousness of Christ, and that God was eager to offer it as a means to magnify His infinite love for them as they endure life in a fallen world.  As such, the variable of the Gospel completely reinterprets the entire scene of the narrative elevating God as a compassionate Father of His own.  Furthermore, he is realized as a Person who demands absolute honor and obedience compelling the believer to repentance where sin has abounded in his or her response to suffering.

The Gospel is Committed to Actualizing Christ-Like Responses in Real-Time

Not only is the Gospel at work by imparting the righteousness of Jesus to the believer, the message of the Gospel is also about actually changing human hearts.  If we were to put this in modern, western terminology, the Gospel is about conforming believers to the image of Christ, therefore empowering them towards true psychological health; this psychological health not being conceptualized through a Western view of psychological health and research, but understood and determined by the very nature of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was emotionally, mentally, and spiritually perfect.  Therefore, he responded to suffering perfectly.  As believers are conformed to His image, these aspects of human nature are being radically healed and transformed.  Consider the words of James, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:24).  Here, James is touching the same theme as Jesus did with His disciples in the boat:  faith.  Suffering has a purpose, and that purpose is to create people of faith who are complete and lacking in nothing.  It is a means of healing by conforming people to the image of Jesus.  Basically, it is the trial that He uses as His instrument to equip believers in responding with a faith reflective of Jesus.

Can you imagine what life would be like if you or those you serve faced marital struggles, depression, anxiety, or illness with the faith of Christ?  It feels nearly inconceivable as to how this would change the experience we call life.  But this is God’s commitment to His own, and it is through suffering that He is mercifully accomplishing His work of healing and transformation in the hearts of believers.  Therefore, suffering should not be viewed as the wrath of God upon His children, but as the tool He uses to create beings who relate perfectly to Him in glory and honor.  It is a means to help Christians learn to live with their minds set on the things of the Spirit; something Paul taught would bring life and peace (Romans 8:6).

Suffering:  A Delicate Reality

As I write this blog, I recognize it barely touches the complexities of human suffering.  Therefore, as you consider what is written, avoid making these things into formulaic, emotionally insensitive methods for counseling.  The Gospel is rich, and effective for change.  However, we as counselors must always be eager to weep with those who weep, and resist any tendencies of scripting the process of redemption for those we serve.  Human change operates on the divine timetable of a sovereign God, and we must submit to His will as we walk with others.  Biblical truth brings freedom, but we must speak this truth in love with a keen sensitivity to the exterior and interior struggles that influence confusion about God and the human experience.  Even more, we understand that it is God who will bring ultimate understanding, freedom, and peace in the time He has allotted.  May we always humbly walk in light of this reality.

The Truth About Hell

SOURCE:  Grace To You/John MacArthur

More than 150,000 people die every day. That’s 4.5 million each month, a number that exceeds the population of Los Angeles. Add to that the number of dead throughout human history—it’s a staggering figure. Tragically, many of those people died without knowing Christ. What fate awaits them? Do they really Rest In Peace, or do they find a different reality beyond the grave?

Sadly, those who reject God and His way of salvation don’t find rest when they die. They enter into eternal hell where there’s no peace for the wicked. That’s a grim, terrible reality, and it’s what the Bible teaches.

The real conflict over the biblical doctrine of hell is essentially an issue of authority. What the Bible affirms about hell forces you to believe or disbelieve, to accept or reject. It’s back to the same question that confronts everyone: Do you believe the Bible, or do you not? At the end of the day, the answer determines the fate of every person who ever lived.

The Bible is the only authority source that tells the truth about death, hell, and eternity. The Bible has the final word on that subject—and on every subject—because it is a revealed book. It has come from God, from the spiritual realm, and has the answers about where all of us will spend eternity one day.

So, what does the Bible teach about hell?

Hell Is

Far from legend, myth, metaphor, or allegory, the Bible presents hell as a real place where wicked people suffer the wrath of God. Consider these vivid portraits of hell from three different New Testament writers:

Then the King will say to those on His left, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”…These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:4146)

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. (Mark 9:43)

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Scripture presents a terrifyingly clear case for a literal hell. It’s a place where God punishes unbelievers for all eternity. Contrary to what some so-called evangelicals are teaching, hell is not a state of mind or a hard life on this earth. Your state of mind can change; your circumstances can improve. Hell never changes, never improves. Hell is not chastisement; it’s everlasting, insufferable punishment at the hands of an angry God.

According to the revelation Jesus gave to the apostle John, the fate of every unbeliever is to,

…drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger. And he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night. (Revelation 14:10-11)

Jesus and Hell

Though every New Testament author acknowledges the doctrine of hell, Jesus has the most to say about it. The existence of hell wasn’t something He questioned, debated, or defended, and He certainly didn’t apologize for it. He assumed the reality of hell just as much as He did the resurrection (John 5:28-29). Jesus viewed hell as a real place, acertainty, and so should you. in fact, He’s the model on how you should think about hell.

When Jesus talked about hell, His purpose was always to warn, not to raise questions or plant doubts. Consider the graphic words He used to portray hell—they clearly aren’t meant to provide comfort, but to frighten.

According to Jesus, hell is a place of outer darkness (Matthew 22:13) where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). Hell is a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:4250) of unquenchable fires (Mark 9:48-49). Hell is a place of spiritual and bodily destruction (Matthew 10:28) where there are endless torments (Luke 16:23-24). Hell is most certainly a place, a horrific place where agonizing conditions exist.

No Way Out

Have you ever been stuck somewhere in a situation beyond your control—an airplane, an elevator, a jail cell? In times like those we usually have a reasonable hope of rescue or escape.

Remember the mine that collapsed last year in Chile? Thirty-three miners were trapped thousands of feet below ground. It took sixty-nine days, but all of them were rescued from their underground tomb.

We love stories like that—against unthinkable odds, finding a surprise exit route or the execution of a successful rescue in the eleventh hour. But that’s not possible when it comes to hell. God built the prison of hell, and there are no doors or windows. God is hell’s jailer, and there is no key. There are no escape routes, and no one is powerful enough to rescue anyone out of His hand. That’s why Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Hell offers no means of escape, rescue, or relief—no way out, ever. The occupants of hell are sealed in their damnation (Rev. 22:11). Friends and family can’t help; God won’t help. The time for mercy has passed.

As one who knows exactly what awaits the wicked, Jesus told the story of a rich man who was tormented in hell:

And the rich man 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.”

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. 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.” (Luke 16:24-26)

Dante seemed to understand that message. His imaginary inscription over hell’s entrance, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” rightly pictured hell as a place where mercy and hope are left at the door. But some reject that view, believing against Scripture’s testimony that God gives people a second chance. Some still say there’s a postmortem opportunity to believe the gospel, repent, and be saved. That may sound appealing (especially to sinners), but it doesn’t come from the Bible.

Others hold to a form of universalism that holds out the false hope that hell is not the final destination for sinners. In their view, God’s redeeming work doesn’t stop at death. God will eventually reconcile every creature to Himself—yes, even those in hell. As British evangelist John Blanchard put it,

All the ways to hell are one-way streets. The idea that those who go there will eventually be released and join the rest of humanity in heaven has not a shred of biblical evidence to support it.

Children are sometimes told fictional adventure stories with the delightful ending: “And they all lived happily ever after.” We call that kind of story a fairy tale. Universalism is exactly that. (John Blanchard, “Whatever Happened to Hell?”)

In the face of such clear, undeniable evidence about hell from the pages of Scripture, it seems absurd that professed evangelicals would challenge the existence, nature, or eternality of hell. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Satan continues his efforts to make sin less offensive, heaven less appealing, hell less horrific, and the gospel less urgent.

Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s devices. The Word of God leaves no doubt about the existence or nature of hell. With clarity and authority, God has told us everything we need to know about hell, and how to avoid it through the merits of Christ.

God offers: Heaven or Hell; The Choice is Ours

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 NIV

The hero of heaven is God. Angels don’t worship mansions or glittering avenues. Neither gates nor jewels prompt the hosts to sing . . . God does. His majesty stirs the pen of heaven’s poets and the awe of her citizens.

They enjoy an eternity-long answer to David’s prayer: “One thing I ask of the LORD . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Ps. 27:4). What else warrants a look? Inhabitants of heaven forever marvel at the sins God forgives, the promises he keeps, the plan he executes. He’s not the grand marshal of the parade; he is the parade. He’s not the main event; he’s the only event. His Broadway features a single stage and star: himself. He hosts the only production and invites every living soul to attend.

He, at this very moment, issues invitations by the millions. He whispers through the kindness of a grandparent, shouts through the tempest of a tsunami. Through the funeral he cautions, “Life is fragile.” Through a sickness he reminds, “Days are numbered.” God may speak through nature or nurture, majesty or mishap. But through all and to all he invites: “Come, enjoy me forever.”

Yet many people have no desire to do so. They don’t want anything to do with God. He speaks; they cover their ears. He commands; they scoff. They don’t want him telling them how to live. They mock what he says about marriage, money, sex, or the value of human life. They regard his son as a joke and the cross as utter folly.1 They spend their lives telling God to leave them alone. And at the moment of their final breath, he honors their request: “Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23 NCV). This verse escorts us to the most somber of Christian realities: hell.

No topic stirs greater resistance. Who wants to think about eternal punishment? We prefer to casualize the issue, making jokes about its residents or turning the noun into a flippant adjective. “That was a hell of a steak.” Odd that we don’t do the same with lesser tragedies. You never hear “My golf game has gone to prison.” Or “This is an AIDS of a traffic jam.” Seems a conspiracy is afoot to minimize hell.

Some prefer to sanitize the subject, dismissing it as a moral impossibility.

“I do not myself feel that any person,” defied atheist Bertrand Russell, “who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”2 Or, as is more commonly believed, “A loving God would not send people to hell.” Religious leaders increasingly agree. Martin Marty, a church historian at the University of Chicago Divinity School, canvassed one hundred years of some scholarly journals for entries on hell. He didn’t find one. “Hell,” he observed, “disappeared and no one noticed.”3

Easy to understand why. Hell is a hideous topic. Any person who discusses it glibly or proclaims it gleefully has failed to ponder it deeply. Scripture writers dip pens in gloomy ink to describe its nature. They speak of the “blackest darkness” (Jude 13), “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12).

A glimpse into the pit won’t brighten your day, but it will enlighten your understanding of Jesus. He didn’t avoid the discussion. Quite the contrary. He planted a one-word caution sign between you and hell’s path: perish. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus spoke of hell often. Thirteen percent of his teachings refer to eternal judgment and hell.4 Two-thirds of his parables relate to resurrection and judgment.5 Jesus wasn’t cruel or capricious, but he was blunt. His candor stuns.

He speaks in tangible terms. “Fear Him,” he warns, “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28 NKJV). He quotes Hades’s rich man pleading for Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue” (Luke 16:24 NKJV). Words such as body, finger, and tongue presuppose a physical state in which a throat longs for water and a person begs for relief—physical relief.

The apostles said that Judas Iscariot had gone “to his own place” (Acts 1:25 NASB). The Greek word for place is topos, which means geographical location.6Jesus describes heaven with the same noun: “In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 NKJV). Hell, like heaven, is a location, not a state of mind, not a metaphysical dimension of floating spirits, but an actual place populated by physical beings.

Woeful, this thought. God has quarantined a precinct in his vast universe as the depository of the hard-hearted.

Exactly where is hell? Jesus gives one chilling clue: “outside.” “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness” (Matt. 22:13). Outside of what? Outside of the boundaries of heaven, for one thing. Abraham, in paradise, told the rich man, in torment, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26 NKJV). No heaven-to-hell field trips. No hell-to-heaven holiday breaks. Hell is to heaven what the edge of our universe is to earth: outside the range of a commute.

Hell is also outside the realm of conclusion. Oh, that hell’s punishment would end, that God would schedule an execution date. New Testament language leads some godly scholars to believe he will:

Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28 NKJV)

Whoever believes in him shall not perish. (John 3:16)

Destroy. Perish. Don’t such words imply an end to suffering? I wish I could say they do. There is no point on which I’d more gladly be wrong than the eternal duration of hell. If God, on the last day, extinguishes the wicked, I’ll celebrate my misreading of his words. Yet annihilation seems inconsistent with Scripture. God sobers his warnings with eternal language. Consider John’s description of the wicked in Revelation 14:11: “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (ESV). How could the euthanized soul “have no rest, day or night”?

Jesus parallels hell with Gehenna, a rubbish dump outside the southwestern walls of Jerusalem, infamous for its unending smoldering and decay. He employs Gehenna as a word picture of hell, the place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48 ESV). A deathless worm and quenchless fire—however symbolic these phrases may be—smack of ongoing consumption of something. Jesus speaks of sinners being “thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). How can a nonexistent person weep or gnash teeth?

Jesus describes the length of heaven and hell with the same adjective: eternal. “They will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46 RSV). Hell lasts as long as heaven. It may have a back door or graduation day, but I haven’t found it.

Much perishes in hell. Hope perishes. Happiness perishes. But the body and soul of the God-deniers continue outside. Outside of heaven, outside of hope, and outside of God’s goodness.

None of us have seen such a blessingless world. Even the vilest precincts of humanity know the grace of God. People who want nothing of God still enjoy his benefits. Adolf Hitler witnessed the wonder of the Alps. Saddam Hussein enjoyed the blushing sunrise of the desert. The dictator, child molester, serial rapist, and drug peddler—all enjoy the common grace of God’s goodness. They hear children laugh, smell dinner cooking, and tap their toes to the rhythm of a good song. They deny God yet enjoy his benevolence.

But these privileges are confiscated at the gateway to hell. Scofflaws will be “shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9). Hell knows none of heaven’s kindnesses, no overflow of divine perks. The only laughter the unrepentant hear is evil; the only desires they know are selfish. As the Scottish professor James Denney describes it, God-rejecters “pass into a night on which no morning dawns.”7 Hell is society at its worst.

More tragically, hell is individuals at their worst. It surfaces and amplifies the ugliest traits in people. Cravings will go unchecked. Worriers will fret and never find peace. Thieves will steal and never have enough. Drunks always craving, gluttons always demanding. None will be satisfied. Remember: “Their worm does not die” (Mark 9:48 ESV). As one writer put it, “Not only will the unbeliever be in hell, but hell will be in him too.”8

Death freezes the moral compass. People will remain in the fashion they enter. Revelation 22:11 seems to emphasize hell’s unrepentant evil: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy” (RSV). The God-less remain ungodly.

Hell is not a correctional facility or reform school. Its members hear no admonishing parents, candid sermons, or Spirit of God, no voice of God, no voice of God’s people. Spend a lifetime telling God to be quiet, and he’ll do just that. God honors our request for silence.

Hell is the chosen home of insurrectionists, the Alcatraz of malcontents. Hell is reserved, not for those souls who seek God yet struggle, but for those who defy God and rebel. For those who say about Jesus, “We don’t want this man to be our king” (Luke 19:14). So in history’s highest expression of fairness, God honors their preference. “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezek. 33:11). It is not his will that any should perish, but the fact that some do highlights God’s justice. God must punish sin. “Nothing impure will ever enter [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). God, inherently holy, must exclude evil from his new universe. God, eternally gracious, never forces his will. He urges mutineers to stay on board but never ties them to the mast. C. S. Lewis wrote, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”9 How could a loving God send sinners to hell? He doesn’t. They volunteer.

Once there, they don’t want to leave. The hearts of damned fools never soften; their minds never change. “Men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (Rev. 16:9 NKJV). Contrary to the idea that hell prompts remorse, it doesn’t. It intensifies blasphemy.

Remember the rich man in torment? He could see heaven but didn’t request a transfer. He wanted Lazarus to descend to him. Why not ask if he could join Lazarus? The rich man complained of thirst, not of injustice. He wanted water for the body, not water for the soul. Even the longing for God is a gift from God, and where there is no more of God’s goodness, there is no longing for him. Though every knee shall bow before God and every tongue confess his preeminence (Rom. 14:11), the hard-hearted will do so stubbornly and without worship. There will be no atheists in hell (Phil. 2:10–11), but there will be no God-seekers either.

But still we wonder, is the punishment fair? Such a penalty seems inconsistent with a God of love—overkill. A sinner’s rebellion doesn’t warrant an eternity of suffering, does it? Isn’t God overreacting?

A man once accused me of the same. Some years ago, when my daughters were small, we encountered an impatient shopper at a convenience store. My three girls were selecting pastries from the doughnut shelf. They weren’t moving quickly enough for him, so he leaned over their shoulders and barked, “You kids hurry up. You’re taking too long.” I, an aisle away, overheard the derision and approached him. “Sir, those are my daughters. They didn’t deserve those words. You need to apologize to them.”

He minimized the offense. “I didn’t do anything that bad.”

My response? That verdict was not his to render. Those were my daughters he had hurt. Who was he to challenge my reaction? Who are we to challenge God’s? Only he knows the full story, the number of invitations the stubborn-hearted have refused and the slander they’ve spewed.

Accuse God of unfairness? He has wrapped caution tape on hell’s porch and posted a million and one red flags outside the entrance. To descend its stairs, you’d have to cover your ears, blindfold your eyes, and, most of all, ignore the epic sacrifice of history: Christ, in God’s hell on humanity’s cross, crying out to the blackened sky, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). You’ll more easily capture the Pacific in a jar than describe that sacrifice in words. But a description might read like this: God, who hates sin, unleashed his wrath on his sin-filled son. Christ, who never sinned, endured the awful forsakenness of hell. The supreme surprise of hell is this: Christ went there so you won’t have to. Yet hell could not contain him. He arose, not just from the dead, but from the depths. “Through death He [destroyed] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14 NKJV).

Christ emerged from Satan’s domain with this declaration: “I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18 NKJV). He is the warden of eternity. The door he shuts, no one opens. The door he opens, no one shuts (Rev. 3:7).

Thanks to Christ, this earth can be the nearest you come to hell.

But apart from Christ, this earth is the nearest you’ll come to heaven.

A friend told me about the final hours of her aunt. The woman lived her life with no fear of God or respect for his Word. She was an atheist. Even in her final days, she refused to permit anyone to speak of God or eternity. Only her Maker knows her last thoughts and eternal destiny, but her family heard her final words. Hours from death, scarcely conscious of her surroundings, she opened her eyes. Addressing a face visible only to her, she defied, “You don’t know me? You don’t know me?”

Was she hearing the pronouncement of Christ: “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt. 7:23 ESV)?

Contrast her words with those of a Christ-follower. The dying man made no secret of his faith or longing for heaven. Two days before he succumbed to cancer, he awoke from a deep sleep and told his wife, “I’m living in two realities. I’m not allowed to tell you. There are others in this room.” And on the day he died, he opened his eyes and asked, “Am I special? Why, that I should be allowed to see all this?”

Facing death with fear or faith, dread or joy. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish . . . ” God makes the offer. We make the choice.


1.  1 Cor. 1:18
2.  Robert Jeffress, Hell? Yes! . . . and Other Outrageous Truths You Can Still Believe (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2004), 71–72.
3.  Martin Marty, Newsweek, March 27, 1989, quoted in John Blanchard,Whatever Happened to Hell? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 15–16.
4.  Jeffress, Hell? Yes! 73.
5.  Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 105.
6.  W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Original Greek Words with Their Precise Meanings for English Readers (McClean: VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), 867.
7.  James Denney, Studies in Theology (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904), 255, quoted in Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 31.
8.  Thomas Vincent, Christ’s Certain and Sudden Appearance to Judgment,quoted in Eryl Davies, The Wrath of God Evangelical Press of Wales, 50, quoted in Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 145.
9.  C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: MacMillan, 1962), 127, quoted in Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 152.

HELL: Beyond The Worst Imagined Suffering

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by R C Sproul

We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.

Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.

There is no biblical concept more grim or terror-invoking than the idea of hell. It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.

Almost all the biblical teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. It is this doctrine, perhaps more than any other, that strains even the Christian’s loyalty to the teaching of Christ. Modern Christians have pushed the limits of minimizing hell in an effort to sidestep or soften Jesus’ own teaching. The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These graphic images of eternal punishment provoke the question, should we take these descriptions literally or are they merely symbols?

I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. It is probably that the sinner in hell would prefer a literal lake of fire as his eternal abode to the reality of hell represented in the lake of fire image. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.

A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.

No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.”

Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.

[Excerpted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.]


 

The Horror of Hell

Source:   Tom Ascol

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell.” So wrote the agnostic British philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1967. The idea of eternal punishment for sin, he further notes, is “a doctrine that put cruelty in the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture.”

His views are at least more consistent than religious philosopher John Hick, who refers to hell as a “grim fantasy” that is not only “morally revolting” but also “a serious perversion of the Christian Gospel.” Worse yet is theologian Clark Pinnock who, despite still regarding himself as an evangelical, dismisses hell with a rhetorical question: “How can one imagine for a moment that the God who gave His Son to die for sinners because of His great love for them would install a torture chamber somewhere in the new creation in order to subject those who reject Him to everlasting pain?”

So, what should we think of hell? Is the idea of it really responsible for all the cruelty and torture in the world? Is the doctrine of hell incompatible with the way of Jesus Christ? Hardly. In fact, the most prolific teacher of hell in the Bible is Jesus, and He spoke more about it than He did about heaven. In Matthew 25:41–46 He teaches us four truths about hell that should cause us to grieve over the prospect of anyone experiencing its horrors.

First, hell is a state of separation from God. On the day of judgment, Jesus will say to all unbelievers, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (v. 41). This is the same sort of language that Jesus uses elsewhere to describe the final judgment of unbelievers (see 7:23).

To be separated from God is to be separated from anything and everything good. That is hard to conceive because even the most miserable person enjoys some of God’s blessings. We breathe His air, are nourished by food that He supplies, and experience many other aspects of His common grace.

On earth even atheists enjoy the benefits of God’s goodness. But in hell, these blessings will be nonexistent. Those consigned there will remember God’s goodness, and will even have some awareness of the unending pleasures of heaven, but they will have no access to them.

This does not mean that God will be completely absent from hell. He is and will remain omnipresent (Ps. 139:7–8). To be separated from the Lord and cast into hell does not mean that a person will finally be free of God. That person will remain eternally accountable to Him. He will remain Lord over the person’s existence. But in hell, a person will be forever separated from God in His kindness, mercy, grace, and goodness. He will be consigned to deal with Him in His holy wrath.

Secondly, hell is a state of association. Jesus says that the eternal fire of hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). People were made for God. Hell was made for the Devil. Yet people who die in their sin, without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will spend eternity in hell with the one being who is most unlike God. It is a tragic irony that many who do not believe in the Devil in this life will wind up spending eternity being tormented with him in hell.

The third truth is that it is a state of punishment. Jesus describes it as “fire” (v. 41) and a place of “punishment” (v. 46). Hell is a place of retribution where justice is served through the payment for crimes.

The punishment must fit the crime. The misery and torment of hell point to the wickedness and seriousness of sin. Those who protest the biblical doctrine of hell as being excessive betray their inadequate comprehension of the sinfulness of sin. For sinners to be consigned to anything less than the horrors of eternal punishment would be a miscarriage of justice.

And that brings us to the fourth truth — hell is an everlasting state. Though some would like to shorten the duration of this state, Jesus’ words are very clear. He uses the same adjective to describe both punishment and life in verse 46. If hell is not eternal, neither is the new heaven and earth.

How can God exact infinite punishment for a finite sin? First, because the person against whom all sin is committed is infinite. Crimes against the infinitely holy, infinitely kind, infinitely good, and infinitely supreme Ruler of the world deserve unending punishment. In addition to that, those condemned to hell will go on sinning for eternity. There is no repentance in hell. So the punishment will continue as long as the sinning does.

The dreadfulness of hell deepens our grateful praise for the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. Hell is what we deserve. And hell is what He experienced on the cross in our place.

Believing the truth about hell also motivates us to persuade people to be reconciled to God. By God’s grace those of us who are trusting Christ have been rescued from this horrible destiny. How can we love people and refuse to speak plainly to them about the realities of eternal damnation and God’s gracious provision of salvation?

Clearer visions of hell will give us greater love for both God and people.

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