The Destination of the Wicked

imagesWe ask two important questions at this point? First, who are the wicked? Second, where is the final destination of the wicked?

In the context of Matthew 11-13, the wicked reject Jesus. Conversely, the righteous receive Jesus.

The wicked do not repent their sin (Matt. 11:20-24). But the righteous turn from their sin.  

As the pathway soil, the wicked do not trust Jesus (Matt. 13:18). But the righteous trust Jesus.

As the stony soil, the wicked are false disciples (Matt. 13:20-21). They stop following Jesus because of trials and troubles. The righteous are true disciples. They endure in Christ.

As the thorny soil, the wicked are short-term disciples (Matt. 13:22). They fall away because of worldly cares and the love of money. The righteous are long-term disciples. They put Jesus first in their lives.

In the Parable of the Weeds, the wicked are the sons of the evil one who oppose the rule of God in this world (Matt. 13:38). The righteous are those who bow down to the rule of God.

The wicked cause others to sin and break God’s law (Matt. 13:41-42). But the righteous love the law of the Lord.

Notice that Jesus’ definition of the wicked has nothing to do with how nice you are, how moral you are, or how good you are. Rather, Jesus’ definition of the wicked has everything to do with how you reject Jesus, how you fall away from Jesus, how you oppose the rule of Jesus, and how you keep sinning against Jesus.

Where then is the final destination of the wicked? Jesus says that hell is the final destination of the wicked.

I read a story about a man in Manila who took a vacation in Davao. There, he waits for his wife to come the next day. He sends her an email. But he typed the wrong email ad. It was the email ad of a pastor’s wife, whose husband died the day before. The pastor’s wife read his email and fainted.

His email message says, “Having fun, but it sure is hot down here. I can’t wait for your arrival here soon.”

Matthew writes about hell in various ways.

1. Hell is a furnace of fire.The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:50).The “furnace of fire” is literally, “the oven of fire” (kaminon tou puros), which symbolically, refers to hell. Jesus said that hell is a place—“in that place” (ESV), translating the adverb, ekei, “there, in that place” (Gingrich). This place, Jesus said, is a place of fire—“furnace of fire.” The emphasis of the phrase, “furnace of fire,” is not on the furnace but on the fire of the furnace.[1] The accent is on the agonizing torment of hell.

Some churches teach no suffering in hell. Instead, the wicked shall be annihilated on judgment day. But Jesus teaches the reality of torment in hell.

2. Hell fire is unquenchable. He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire(Matt. 3:12). The word, “unquenchable,” from asbestos, means, “inextinguishable” (Gingrich)—a fire that no one can put out [Louw-Nida]) (Matt. 3:12).

3. Hell is the place of fiery judgment (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 18:9).   “It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [gehenna] fire” (Matt. 18:9). The word, “hell” is from gehenna, which refers to an actual place called, “Gehenna,” or the “Valley of Hinnom” (Josh. 15:8), located southwest of Jerusalem. In the Valley of Hinnom, children were once offered to the god, Molech (2 Ki. 23:10; Jer. 7:31). Much later, they burned garbage in the same place. The burning of garbage in Gehenna made it a symbol of eternal fire and divine judgment.[2] Jeremiah prophesied divine judgment there (Jer. 7:32; 19:6).[3]Gehenna is the place of fiery suffering for the wicked.

In the book of Revelation, hell is called, the “lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 20:14-15). Have you been to a sulfur spring?

There is a place in Murcia, Negros Occidental, called Mambucal Resort, a place of sulfur springs. People can literally remove the feathers of a chicken there. They can boil their eggs there. It is so hot you could see the vapor going up.

Hell is a place of burning sulfur.

4. Hell is also the place of eternal suffering (Matt. 10:28). But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Destruction does not mean annihilation here. That the place of destruction is “in hell,” indicates that there is no annihilation on the day of judgment. The Jews believed that sinners will be cast into burning flames as eternal punishment (1 En. 103:8). Jesus does not deny this Jewish belief, but affirms it. He affirmed the throwing of the body in hell (Matt. 5:22, 27-30). It thus indicates eternal suffering in hell, instead of extermination into nothingness. That there will also be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell affirms eternal destruction there, not total destruction (Matt. 22:13).

5. Hell is darkness. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12).

Have you been in a dark place where you see nothing? There is no light in hell. You cannot see anything there.

Hell is not merely physical darkness, but spiritual darkness as the opposite of the light of Christ (Matt. 4:15-16). Jesus said that many Gentiles will come from east and west and join the banquet table with Abraham in the kingdom. But the “sons of the kingdom,” meaning, the Jews who reject Jesus, “will be cast into outer darkness.”[4]

The outer darkness is the place located just outside the brightly lighted banquet hall. The outer darkness, therefore, is where unbelievers are cast away from the bright light of the banquet hall of Christ.

Hell then is the place of the absence of the light of Christ. Hell is the place of exclusion from the presence of God.

6. Hell is the place of everlasting fire. Jesus said, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting [aionios] fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41). The word, “eternal,” from aionios, means, “without beginning or end” [Gingrich]). The fires of hell have no end.

[1] The genitive in the phrase, “furnace of fire,” is most likely a genitive of quality (attributive genitive), wherein the noun, “fire” gives a quality to the noun, “furnace,” thus, “fiery furnace” (ESV).

[2] Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 117.

[3] Morris, Matthew, 115 n92.

[4] The Jews believed that darkness is the dwelling place of sinners; and the worms, their bed (1 En. 46:6; 63:6; Pss. Sol. 14:6; 15:11; cf. Mk. 9:43-44). Sinners will enter into darkness, chains, and a burning flame (1 En. 103:8). Jesus affirmed this belief by saying that unbelievers shall be bound hand and foot and cast into “outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13).


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