March 21, 2011

Black Darkness? Really?

"… for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." Jude 13-15

Last week we said that purveyors of false gospels are heartless, spineless, fearless, loveless, and fruitless. Today we add to that list the word hopeless. For that is what Jude says about the future prospects of these men and women. “Black darkness” is reserved for them … a darkness that can be felt, apart from the gracious presence of God, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. And, says Jude, these men will squirm in that torment “forever.” There is no escaping the lake of fire. And, whatever our sins, that is good reason to repent … today! Hell is forever.

But sometimes, when we talk about hell, or the lake of fire, or the “black darkness” as Jude calls it … it can seem a little harsh. For instance, someone may read the book of Jude and say to themselves: ‘OK, Jude. I understand why you’re uptight about false teachers. We want to get the Bible right. We want to get the gospel right. So we should be careful, no doubt. But “black darkness”? Just because a guy got his theology a little crossed up? Doesn’t that seem a little bit harsh? I mean, we’re all probably a little bit confused about some things.’

But remember what Jude says in verse 15. The Lord is not so angry because somebody didn’t quite get all his i’s dotted. No! The problem with false doctrine is that it defames God. It speaks “harsh things” against Him. That is why it is so damnable. False teaching distorts God, and makes Him out to be less – far less – than He actually is.

For instance, when someone begins claiming that the Bible is filled with mistakes, and that the miracles are simply myths, they are saying two things. One, that God is really not powerful enough to raise people, bodily from the dead, or to part the Red Sea, or what-have-you. And two that this same God is either incompetent or dishonest … because He allowed the Bible to be written with so many mistruths inside! So you could see why God would be irritated by such bold and blasphemous claims!

Or when someone comes along and says that we must be saved by faith in Jesus, plus some other set of works – be they penance, confession, baptism, or whatever it may be … what that person is really saying is that Jesus is not enough. But can you imagine looking God in the eye and saying that? ‘God, you know I like Jesus quite a lot. But His finished work on the cross was clearly inadequate. In fact, when He cried out “it is finished”, He surely didn’t mean what He said. For “it” wasn’t finished until I came along and added my two cents.’ That’s blasphemy, is it not?

And when someone pronounces that Jesus Christ was ‘just a man’ or ‘just a good teacher’, the sacrilege grows. So that, again, we might ask what God might say to such a person who is so bold-faced as to determine, two thousand years after the fact, that they know better who Jesus was than Jesus Himself! Indeed, to call God a mere man is, I think, very near the height of arrogance; the height of the “harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

And that is why God cannot tolerate false doctrine! It’s not that He is enraged if your understanding of the end times is a little off track; or if your view of baptism is askew. Those things are important. And it is sin if we misinterpret the Bible. And all sin is punishable by fire, apart from the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. But false teachers go several steps farther than the person who is just a little bit confused about a few less obvious biblical points. False teachers take the very plain teachings of the Bible and distort them in such a way that God Himself comes out distorted. They make Him less than He is. They make Him out to be a liar. And they undermine and eschew the very good news about Jesus that might have saved them! And that is why God is so angry.

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