Disciples and Hell
DISCIPLES AND HELL
Mark 9: 42-50
In these verses Jesus, once again, teaches us some essential lessons concerning our striving to be the kind of disciples that He wants us to be.
- They are hard lessons…lessons that many do not want to hear.
- But it is essential that we not only hear them…but that we learn them because a failure to do so could sow for us a crop that we do not want to harvest.
- Let me show you what I mean and as we cover this lets each one apply these lessons to our lives…and if we need to make changes in our attitudes, our conduct…for salvation sake let’s be willing to do so.
If you remember back up in verse 34 the disciples were busy exalting themselves and claiming to be the greatest.
- And Jesus tells them that if they want to be “first, they must be last of all, and a servant to all.”
- Jesus then takes a small child in his arms to illustrate to His disciples that that they must be willing to serve even those who seem to be the least in the kingdom.
And then in verse 38, one of the disciples of Christ, John, either by way of confession, or question, or out of arrogance, tells Jesus that “they saw a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and they tried to stop him because He was not following them…or he was not one of the 12.”
- And Jesus says, “Do not hinder the man. If he is doing a good work, if he is doing that which fights against Satan, and if he is doing it for the glory of God and by His authority, do not hinder him.”
- In fact, Jesus says that anyone who does good, “is working with us in doing what God wants done.”
Now out of all this, comes Jesus’ teachings found in verses 42-50.
- And what you are going to see here is the disciples were so busy looking at what others were doing that Jesus is going to tell them that perhaps they need to shift their focus and look at their own lives some.
And the first thing that Jesus tells them is, they need to think about what kind of influence they are on others. Look at verse 42:
“And whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
Now keep in mind here that when Jesus says this, he is still holding the little child that he took in his arms back in vs. 36.
- And Jesus, holding that child is saying “whoever…and that includes a disciple…”…by their influence…whether it is through their actions…through their language….through their conduct…through their attitude…”
- If they cause one “of these little ones…” and that phrase “little ones” in the Greek means, “least or less”.
- Jesus says, “whoever causes one of these little ones…one of these least ones…one who is innocent…one who is still growing in the Lord…one who is a babe in Christ…one who is a child of God…one of these seeming insignificant ones…to stumble.
- And the word “stumble” in the Greek means to “entrap or ensnare.”
- Who ever causes one of these little ones to become entrapped, that individual “would be better off thrown into the sea and drown.”
Did you know there are two ways for your influence to cause someone to stumble?
- Your attitude and conduct can be such that you “drive people away from Christ.”
- These disciples thought they were “the greatest” and you know how arrogance is…it always offends.
- These men even went so far as to “hinder” another who was doing a good work.
- Again, their arrogance could have driven him away.
But on the other hand someone may see your “wrong attitude and conduct” and get the impression that it is “ok” to be that way…and thus they become like you.
- It is like Jesus said in Matt. 23: 15, “You make them twice as much the son of perdition as yourself.”
- Others could have been watching the disciples and saying, “I want to be great like them.”
What ever way you influence them…whether you drive them away…or if they become a snare like you…Jesus says here that if you cause them to stumble…you deserve the most gruesome of deaths.
Brethren, Jesus is saying here, “Look at yourself. Look at your own conduct and influence…and make sure that your influence is such that it strengthens and lifts others up, instead of it causing them to stumble.
- Your absence from worship…that little curse word that you use…that little drink of beer…
- Or that little fit of anger…that little display of arrogance…that little bit of undue criticism may not be as insignificant as you think.
- It is a dangerous thing to cause someone else to stumble.
- In fact, I believe that is why He says what He does in verses 43-48.
Again, Jesus is teaching His disciples and He mentions something here in these verses that we don’t like to hear about and that is HELL.
- HELL is not a popular doctrine.
- In fact, in most religious circles it is common to dismiss hell entirely.
- Instead of someone dying and going to hell…they simply die and simply no longer exist.
- And many religious groups, they don’t dismiss it by denying its existence.
- They dismiss it by teaching and preaching that “no one is going to go there.”
If there is no hell, my question is, “Why do we need a Savior?”
- Why do we need a Savior if there is nothing to be saved from?
And let me tell you another thing that we do with the concept of Hell…we joke about it.
- We see cartoons…or we tell jokes: “A politician died and went to hell…”
- Jesus never minimized hell…and He never made it a laughing matter.
- I am concerned that we have so minimized it and trivialized it that people are not afraid to go there…or at least they don’t think it is so bad to be separated from God.
Look at what Jesus says about it. Look at verse 45: Notice the word that Jesus uses for “Hell.”
- The word that Jesus uses for “Hell” here in this passage is the Greek word “Gehenna.”
- You may even have “Gehenna” in your foot notes.
- “Gehenna” is derived from the Hebrew, “Ge” which means valley…and Hinnom which was a Hebrew name.
- So “Gehenna” means “Valley of Hinnom.”
Now, the Jews understood the significance of the “Valley of Hinnom.”
- “Hinnom” was the valley outside of Jerusalem where the evil kings of Israel, influenced by pagan practices, actually sacrificed their own children to a god named Molech. (2 Kin. 23: 10)
- Because of this wickedness and the judgment God would send on the people the prophet Jeremiah said the valley would be known as the “Valley of Slaughter.”
- When King Josiah led a reform, he determined that this valley which contained the blood of their children was too detestable for any other use…so he turned it into Jerusalem’s garbage heap.
- It was a place where refuse, and waste materials were dumped…and where animal carcasses were left to rot.
- It was a place where maggots…and worms…and insects thrived.
- Constantly fires would be set so disease could be controlled…and smoke from the burning debris rose day and night.
- It was a repulsive place.
But the Valley of Hinnom was a little different than the Gehenna that Jesus speaks of here.
- In the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem sometimes the fires went out…and the worms or maggots would die.
- But not so with the Gehenna that Jesus is talking about because in verse 48 he says very clearly that the Hell He is speaking of is a place where the “worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.”
You see, when Jesus quotes from Isaiah 66 and verse 24 here, He is making Gehenna more than just a trash heap outside of Jerusalem.
- He is making it a place where God deals with his enemies….where God deals with those who have “transgressed against Him.”
- He is making it a place of eternal retribution.
- It is an eternal trash heap.
And what Jesus is saying is, in spite of the fact that so many want to dismiss Hell and say it does not exist…it is real.
- And Jesus is saying that this is no joking matter
- And Jesus says, “You do not want to go there!”
In fact, He says, whatever it takes…even if it takes radical action…do all you can to stay out of that place. Let’s read it. Vs. 43.
“And 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, “And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Hell is not worth it.
- Here in this passage Jesus mentions your hand, your foot, and your eyes.
- What ever it is that you are doing…
- What ever it is that you are seeing…
- Where ever it is that you are going…
- If it is going to send you to hell, it is not worth it.
In fact, hell is so bad that Jesus doesn’t advise the 5 year plan to get rid of whatever it is that is condemning you to hell.
- He doesn’t advise the slow, cautious, careful, long term approach to dealing with sin in your life.
- “Well, I will stop tomorrow.”
- “Or I will stop someday. I have plenty of time.”
- Jesus doesn’t advise that.
He says, “cut it off…cast it out!”
- Get rid of it and get rid of it now!
- Don’t mess around with this…this is not a game…this is serious business.
- Tomorrow may never come.
- You never know when your life will end and you will be called to judgment.
- If you are doing some things you shouldn’t…
- If you are taking those drugs…smoking that dope…having immoral sex…drinking that alcohol…telling those lies…spreading that gossip…
- If you are being prejudiced…arrogant…greedy…hateful…mean…vengeful.
- If you are seeing some things you shouldn’t…
- If you are watching those ugly movies…reading that pornography…watching your neighbor’s wife…
- If you are going places you shouldn’t…
- If you are going to that bar…to that club…to that party…to that casino…to his house or her house…
- Stop it now…quit it…get rid of it.
- It would be better for you to go limping into heaven…than leaping into hell.
And brethren, this isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to cut off your hand or you foot or cast out your eye.
- We are pretty attached to those things.
And that is the way it is with some of the things we do…and see…and places we go.
- We can get pretty attached to them.
- They can be habit forming.
- We may have been doing them for so long…that it is like an addiction.
- To stop it may be like cutting off your hand…
- Or to stop watching it, or looking at it may be like “casting out your eye.”
- Or to stop “going there” may be like cutting off your foot.
But brethren, Jesus is saying, “There is something much worse than giving those things up, and that is going to hell.”
- It may hurt like the dickens to get rid of those things.
- But it is better for you to hurt for a while here…than to suffer eternally in hell.
Jesus says that Hell is real.
- And Jesus doesn’t minimize hell.
- And as far as Jesus is concerned, hell is not a joking matter… it isn’t funny.
But now look at verses 49-50. These two verses are two of the most difficult in scripture…especially vs. 49.
- One of the reasons that this verse is so difficult is because in some versions the words “and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt” have been added.
- The Greek text actually reads: “For everyone with fire shall be salted.”
- What does that mean?
There are a number of ways in which this verse can be taken…it is hard to know.
- But see the word “fire”.
- Fire in the context of this passage may refer back to the “fires of hell” that Jesus has just spoken of.
And when he speaks of salt here…salt was used by these people as a preservative…or to seal a covenant.
- And what Jesus may be saying here, is that, “Everyone who refuses to cut off their hand…or cast out their eye…?
- Everyone who refuses to get rid of that which will cause them to go into hell…
- Those individuals will be preserved for fire…they have a “promise of hell.”
It may be that when Jesus speaks of “fire” in verse 49 he is speaking of “trials…tests…hard choices.”
- Hard choices like those that must be made by disciples in deciding whether or not to cut of a hand…or cast out an eye.
- Whether or not to get rid of some things in their lives.
- And those tests…those hard choices when made…preserve us.
- That is a possibility. It is hard to know exactly what Jesus is saying in this verse.
And vs. 50 is not that easy either. But there are some things we do know in verse 50. Look at what Jesus says. He says:
“Salt is good.”
- Salt was used to preserve…to slow down the decaying process….to season…
- It was used in sacrifices to symbolize God’s approval of a covenant relationship.
- It had value…worth.
- It is good.
But it could also become worthless. Jesus says, “But if salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?
- Salt can lose its “goodness” and once that “goodness” is gone it is impossible to regain.
Then Jesus says: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
- In other words…have “goodness” in yourselves, and be at peace with one another…and don’t let anything take that away.
Now, why does Jesus say this? Why does He tell His disciple to have “goodness in themselves and to be at peace with one another?”
“Goodness” is not what these disciples had within themselves.
- They had arrogance…and pride…and jealousy…and self…in themselves.
- And they were arguing over who was the greatest….
- And they were trying to stop another who was doing “good.”
- Instead of being at peace with one another…they were in conflict with one another.
And Jesus seems to be saying here, “Just as salt is good…you be good.”
And don’t lose that goodness.
And instead of conflict and strife…be at peace with one another.
These disciples tried so hard to stop a man from doing good.
- And the whole time they themselves had some things in their own lives that they needed to stop.
- They needed to “get rid” of some arrogance…some pride…some jealousy…some wrong attitudes and thinking.
Do some of us need to do the same thing?
Are we sometimes critical of others…do we sometimes try to stop others…all the while failing to look at ourselves?
- Yes we are to resist Satan…
- And yes we are to expose the “unfruitful deeds of darkness.”
- And yes, we sometimes must “take special note of those who do not obey the instructions of the Lord.”
But are we to do those things and ignore our own lives…lives that may be worse than those we are critical of?
Look at your life as a disciple of Christ…look at your influence…look at your actions…
- What you do…where you go…what you see?
- And if these things are not what they should be…will you change them for your sake.
Because failure to do so could make the difference between heaven and hell.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023