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What Luther Says

Yes, Hell Is Real ('If Only We Would Let It Touch Our Heart')

Hell is real.

The prophets know it.

Jesus knows it.

The Apostles know it.

The saints who have died before us know it.

The sinners who have died before us in their sins without Christ's free gift of salvation now know it.

You know it. I know it. The Word of God confirms it.

Yet, believe it or not, some Christians refuse to know it!

In light of the previous post, I wanted to take a look at some of the things Martin Luther had to say about the doctrine of hell as printed in my copy of What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology For The Active Christian.

"In view of what Scripture reveals concerning Hell and what the conscience even of natural man more than suspects, it is not surprising that men have always vehemently resented this teaching. In his exposition of Psalm 90:7 (published in 1541) Luther refers to this opposition." Ewald M. Plass 
It does seem incredible and unworthy of God's wisdom and goodness that, in addition to all the discomforts in this life, one must also fear eternal death, and do so because God is angry with men, who are miserable enough as it is. Such thoughts reason cannot approve without engaging in blasphemy. Therefore Epicurus advises: Become either insane or incredulous, and thus rid yourself of this feeling of wrath and sin when you find yourself in the throes of miseries and death. Oh, what frivolous advice! For suppose you are unable to be incredulous and you fear that what you now disdain you might, after this life, experience to be true? Or suppose you are unable to become insane, so that it is impossible for you not to give thought to this impending peril? Therefore man, as he is by nature, cannot do otherwise than become obsessed with fear and be indignant at the thought that after death God, of whom one must be afraid, still rules over us. We are reminded of what Cicero has Velleius say: Thus he imposes on our necks a timeless tyrant.

We need to remember that "God is a Consuming Fire" (Hebrews 12:29) and so this chief and unbearable punishment is one that God will inflict with His mere appearance, that is, with the revelation of His wrath (Psalm 34:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).

"MORE TERRIBLE still will be the lot of those on whom the light of the Gospel once shown in vain. Of these Luther speaks in a sermon preached in his home in 1533 on Matthew 22:1-14." Ewald M. Plass 
This is the terrible judgment that is bound to come upon unbelieving Christians: their hands and feet shall be tied, and they shall be cast into outermost darkness, that is, they must eternally lie captive with the devil in hell-fire. For their hands and feet are tied, so that they will not be able to free themselves by doing works. Besides, they must lie in darkness, cut off from God's light, that is, from all comfort, in eternal torment, anguish, and sadness, so that they will nevermore see one spark of light. This is terrible misery, if only we would let it touch our heart: to lie captive in this way in hell and torment forever, with nothing but wailing and gnashing of teeth. The gnashing of teeth is caused by frost and the wailing by heat. So the teachers of old have explained these expressions., although the Lord thereby indicates all imaginable torments; for heat and frost are the two greatest plagues on earth. Christ says in effect: You will suffer more than words can tell and thoughts can grasp.

To put it another way, Luther once remarked that "the torment of hell is fear, terror, horror, fleeing, and despairing."

In other words, it's the very opposite of eternal life in heaven.

"OF THE FATE of those who would not listen to the voice of God in this life the Reformer speaks in a sermon of November 10, 1532, on 1 Corinthians 15:25-30." Ewald M. Plass 
Because they do not want to hear God, they must do without Him. Instead, they must eternally be the devil's own in hell, suffer all anguish, pain, trouble, and misery, burn forever, nor have one little drop of water to refresh themselves for a moment. And no light besides, not a ray of it. Nor will they possess as much as a thread; but they will be bereft of both God and all His grace and gifts, which the blessed will enjoy. In addition, they will be bereft of all they once had on earth.

This is the stark reality, my dear friends. The Word of God is crystal clear about this.

Now, does that sound anything at all like the "Love Wins" brand of Christianity being taught by Rob Bell that proudly proclaims that there is no hell, and all because the traditional notion of a hell doesn't fit with the idea that "God Is Love" like people like him want it to?

What they fail to realize is everything Luther already observed and wrote for us! See, he even pointed out that the torments of hell are purely punitive, not corrective, because they are rooted in the wrath of God, not in His love.

"YET the punishments of hell will not be an end in themselves. For by them God's inviolable holiness, justice, and omnipotence will be vindicated, Luther explains in his consolatory writing to the ailing Elector Frederick the Wise (1520)." Ewald M. Plass 
Since God is a just Judge, we must love and laud His justice and thus rejoice in God even when He miserably destroys the wicked in body and soul; for in all this His high and inexpressible justice shines forth. And so even hell, no less than heaven, is full of God and the highest Good. For the justice of God is God Himself; and God is the highest Good. Therefore even as His mercy, so His justice or judgment must be loved, praised, and glorified above all things.

The footnote says that Luther often expressed that thought too.

Of course, he wasn't the only Lutheran to do so.

"The repentance of the damned in hell may be sincere and comprehensive a thousand times over, but then it is too late! ... Where faith and belief have been thrown out, unbelief and superstition are rife and rampant. When the Word of God in Law and Gospel has been declared insufficient for the would be enlightenment of a twentieth century, there spiritualism, real and imitated, is hailed as a solution and salvation. The old sound doctrine, the written Word of God, is the one and only safe norm and rule of doctrine and life. Moses and the Prophets were accessible to the brothers, they were read in all the synagogs on the Sabbath-day; let the brothers seek for the truth there, nothing more would be needed. If the brothers at that time, if the people of our time, will not heed Moses and the Prophets, if they will not obey the Word and heed its lessons and warnings, as well as its admonitions and promises, then there is no more hope. The Word is a lamp unto the feet of every searcher of truth, Psalms 119, 105. Note: Hell is not a figment of a diseased imagination, but hell is real! Its torments are terrible: A consuming and yet never destroying flame; thirst that cannot be alleviated by so much as a tiny drop of water; the ability to see the bliss of the saints in heaven, but no possibility of ever becoming partakers of that happiness; no deliverance or salvation from hell’s tortures, all hope forever gone." 
*- Paul Kretzmann, "Popular Commentary of The Bible"

In a Lutheran layman's terms, yes, hell is real so don't think you will somehow escape the hand of God and His righteous judgment if you seek to eliminate the very means He uses to execute that judgment upon unrepentant sinners.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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