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Hell, the Occult, and the Demonic

Sermon Series:

The Church Never Preaches On...

Ryan Kimmel
Ryan Kimmel

Lead Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Matthew 25:41-46


Today is the day that the Lord has made. So let us rejoice and be glad in it, and everyone said, "Amen." Today, some of you are going to hear things about Jesus Christ that you've probably never heard. Some of you are going to feel a lot different than the one that's so accepted by our culture.

In this series, we've been looking at topics that "quote-unquote the church never preaches on," and if you're just joining us, we polled our congregation and they submitted these topics and voted on the top six. Today, we are looking at my least favorite of all the topics, which is this one: hell.

So if this is your first Sunday here, welcome. Would you please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 25?

This is one of those passages where I just kind of want to scream to our world: "Yes, Jesus Christ actually said this. Yes, Jesus actually taught this."

In this passage, we're going to read and get a future epic picture of Jesus himself. It's a vision that Jesus gives to us of himself at the end of days when he returns and sits on the throne as the judge of all the earth. He gathers the nations and separates them into two groups: one that will go to inherit the kingdom of God and go to heaven, and another group that will have the complete opposite.

Now, the first group that Jesus speaks to, he says this: "When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me."

And that group responds to Jesus, and I love their honesty, they say, "When did we ever do that?"

And then Jesus famously responds with these words: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to the least of these, you did it also unto me." It's beautiful.

But then he turns to the other group, and with a similar but opposite conversation, we see Jesus end that interaction much differently.

Would you please hear the word of the Lord? This is the section we'll look at this morning, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, verses 41 to 46. Again, just to clarify, Jesus is speaking in third person here about his future self.

Matthew 25:41-46

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. Naked and you did not clothe me. Sick and in prison, but you did not visit me."

Then they also will answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?"

Then he will answer them, saying, "Truly I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

This is God's very sobering word for us here this morning. Let's pray and continue.

Father in heaven above, Lord, by the power and presence of your Holy Spirit, please give us much understanding today. And with that, a holy fear as we look at the most terrifying subject of hell. And yet, in the midst of this, would you give us reverence for you?

Would you give us comfort in the gospel? Would you help us to understand the truth that for those of us in Christ, it is not hell, but heaven that awaits? We pray these things for your glory, for our joy, and for the good of our neighbor. And everyone said, "Amen."

So if you were with us last week, you know we spoke on heaven. Today, we are looking at the opposite of that. With this passage here today, let me give you one thought to consider:

Main Idea: hell is the ultimate horror, reminding us that our actions really do matter.

As we look at this passage today, here's what we're going to do. We're going to look at two things coming out of our passage, and then we're going to spend some time, like we did last week, looking at some FAQs that came in with this question and this topic when it was submitted.

The first thing: hell is the ultimate horror because the punishment is eternal.

The second thing: hell is the ultimate horror because the judge is Jesus Christ.

Speaking in third person, Jesus says this: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire."

See, I truly think that one of the things that makes hell so terrifying is that it is Jesus Christ as the judge who sends us there. Did you understand that? Did you know that?

Have you read your Bibles to see this? See, I wonder if there was some level of solace for people as they entered into hell, looking at Jesus with tears in his eyes, sad about what's happening. Friends, that's not the picture the Bible paints.

That's not our Lord and Savior. He presides over the sending of people to hell. Jesus is the King who sits on the throne, and for me, this makes it all the more horrifying.

I think our culture loves this picture of Jesus in a tie-dye shirt that says, "Be kind." We love that Jesus, but that's not the Jesus of Scriptures.

The Jesus of Scriptures is the Jesus who sits on the throne as the King of creation who rules and reigns. Yes, he reigns in love, the perfect and most prime example of love, but he also does it in justice and authority.

We want to make God the Father the bad guy from the Old Testament who's mean and angry, but the New Testament is about God's Son who's all loving and kind and welcomes everybody.

The Bible doesn't pit the Father and the Son against each other. Rather, we see Jesus make it abundantly clear that he's not just the Savior. Jesus himself says that he's the final judge.

Jesus makes this clear in John chapter 5, verses 22 to 23. Jesus says, "For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father." Jesus is the one who both saves us and offers us salvation, but for those who reject it, he is also the judge who sends people to hell.

Look at the second part of verse 41. Again, this is Jesus speaking: "Away from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Hell was not made for you. Hell was created for those angelic beings who, while in the presence of God, rejected God. That's who hell was prepared for.

It's a place of judgment and punishment and torment, where angel and human alike will both go to suffer for their rejection of God. Jesus is the righteous judge who stands before you and all creation, exposing your works and the actions of your life, revealing to you and to others, and to the Lord, whether you were following him or following something else.

Jesus will examine not just the actions, but the motives of our lives, to see if we chose salvation or if we chose stuff, if we chose Christ or if we chose comfort.

You say you're a Christian, you say that I'm your Lord and Savior, you say that you follow me, but what about your life shows that you were like me in any possible way? If I can't see one thing in your life reminiscent of what Jesus is saying, then how am I to believe you're following me? This is a dangerous thing for us, especially 21st-century American Christians.

We think salvation is that thing we receive, and then we just go on our merry way. Salvation is that thing that we receive, and then we walk in the ways of our Savior, following him all the days of our life.

But I want to be clear on something here. It is not our actions that save us; it's who we place our faith in.

Christ is the one that saves us. Our actions do not save us, but they do reveal what's on the inside. This is what Jesus is getting at when he says, "Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it unto me."

Are you serving Jesus in everything that you do? If we follow Jesus, we'll not just live like him, but Christ himself says, "If we love him, we will obey him." Living like Jesus and obeying Jesus isn't what saves us, but it shows we know where we're going, know who's getting us there, and we're following him every step of the way.

If you're sitting there and thinking to yourself, "Alright, pastor, I guess I better start feeding the poor or I'll get sent to hell," that's not the right response, and that attitude is going to get you nowhere. If that's your attitude, Christ will say, "You didn't feed the poor to care for them, you didn't feed the poor to honor me, you fed the poor to save yourself." And that's really what Christ is always rooting out.

Why do we do the things that we do?

Jesus is concerned that our actions aren't about trying to save ourselves, but are done out of love and joy, in response to what Jesus has already done fully and completely for us.

So no, the response is not, "I better sign up for the prison ministry then." Maybe some of you are called to do that. But the number one response is to repent of your sins, accept what Jesus has done for you on the cross, and follow him, wherever that leads you and whatever that calls you to do.

What Jesus is saying to the group on the left and the right is not a checklist to make sure that you've checked all the boxes so that you can go to heaven. He's simply trying to expose whether you lived your life in the ways of Christ or not, and if you didn't live your life in the ways of Christ, then how can you say you're following him?

My friends, the response is we better repent of our sins and accept what Christ has done because when you see what Christ did for you so generously, that makes you all the more generous. When you truly experience the love of God, someone who's really touched by the love of God, there's no way they don't share that with others. But make no mistake, this is because of what Jesus first does in our lives. Jesus says, "As you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."

Jesus is showing us and exposing before us and the entire world whether we are living for Him or for ourselves. Hell is God saying, "If you truly reject me, if you truly don't want me part of your life, then I'll give you what you want. I'll give you existence apart from me and apart from my grace." Hell is the full experience of the lies that our culture is telling so many of us and that so many of you are buying into. So let me share some of these lies, and let's see if you are buying into them.

Here's some of the lies our culture is saying to us: "Only you can make yourself happy." Here's another lie: "You do you." Here's another lie: "Be what you want and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." I know that we think those are all really cool statements that will probably get a lot of likes on social media, but if we took half a second to think deeper than what a meme is showing to us, then you'll see what all those statements have in common. These are all veiled ways that our culture is simply saying to you, "All that you need is inside of you. You don't need God. You don't need anyone else."

I'll tell you what, that lie of self-sufficiency is really attractive to American Christians. We really love the American dream, that we can work and earn and provide our own way and we don't need anyone else. I'll tell you what, that mentality makes it really hard to accept the gospel. You could do nothing on your own. God had to literally step into the creation He made in order to save you. You are so helpless that God had to get up off His throne, come from heaven to earth to do for you what you couldn't do for yourselves. This is why we worship Him. Because He gave up everything to save us. And we are such greedy people.

These lies are things that our culture and a generation are buying, hook, line, and sinker. And we think that we can do everything ourselves, that everything we need is inside of us. And the gospel says, "Yes, you're made in the image of God, but something is drastically broken, and you need God's love to come in and make it whole again." But if you want this, if you want to accept those lies, if you want to live your life apart from God, then in the end, you'll get what you want when you hear these words: "Depart from me." The horror of hell starts when you hear those words from the very One who has offered you life, offered you love, offered you salvation, offered you acceptance into the kingdom, offered you heaven, but you chose something else.

I'm here to tell you, all roads lead to the throne of Christ. And you either continue through Him as Savior unto Heaven, or you will move away from Him as the judge as you go into hell. And I can't imagine something so sad as what Christ describes here in this passage. And it's not just sad, it's utterly terrifying that the very One who saved you, who offered you salvation and you rejected it, is the very One who then sends you to hell.

The ultimate horror. Hell is the ultimate horror because the judge is Jesus Christ. And the second thing: hell is the ultimate horror because the punishment is eternal. Look at verse 46. Jesus says, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Key word here is "eternal." Hell is eternal punishment. And hear me, my friends, this is not because God is some sadist or he's just about malicious torture of his enemies.

Hell is the righteous punishment for our sins. I just want to confess something here for a second. I don't want to minimize the struggle some people have with this question. Some people come to this and ask, "How could a loving God send people to hell?" I don't want to minimize that question. I just want to tell you, I never struggled with that question. Because I look at our American justice system, and just because people go to prison doesn't mean we hate them. I never struggled with that aspect of the question.

On the flip, there was a part of that question that I wrestled with for a long, long time. It haunted me for a long time, and it was this: "Why would God send us to eternal punishment for temporal sins?" That was the question that made me lose sleep at night. That's what felt like the injustice to me. Meaning, here's another way to put it: "Why is damnation for infinity, for eternity, for sins that we simply committed in this momentary life?" That question plagued me, haunted me, made me question if God was good. Here's what I'd say to you: we know the answer to that question.

You know how this works. It works the same way in our justice system. The length of punishment is not contingent upon the length of time it took to commit the crime. If you're very proficient at robbing a bank and you can rob a bank in ten minutes, does that mean that your prison sentence is only ten minutes long? No. We understand how this works. We know that the prison sentence is contingent upon the seriousness of the crime, not the length of time it took to commit it. If you don't think your sins are worthy of eternal punishment, tantamount to burning alive forever, now whether or not it's literal flames or if Jesus is just speaking in ways that we would understand, either way, hell is horrendous and worse than you can imagine.

Even if it's tantamount to burning alive forever, if you don't think your sins deserve this, then that shows how little you think your sins actually are, rather than understanding how grievous they are, how much your actions actually matter. Or to put it another way, if you don't think your sins are worthy of eternal punishment, then you've just confessed that you are living according to your own standard, not God's standard. Part of the reason we think so little of our sins is because we think so little of God. We love to talk about the love of God, but we need to think about the holiness of God.

It's what far too many Christians don't think about enough: the holiness of God. The only time we see an attribute of God repeated three times in a row is when the scriptures cry, "Holy, holy, holy." We need to think about the holiness of God. I don't want to make something as horrific as hell into something very simple, but you may have heard me say this before because it helps us to begin to understand this. It's fairly simple. When we sin against an eternally holy God, the right and just punishment is eternal punishment. It's a simple equation against God's eternal holiness. So here's what I want you to do. Rather than thinking right now God is unjust for sending people to hell, here's what I want you to do: seriously imagine how holy God must be that to sin against him results in the right, just, and proper punishment being eternal flames.

How holy must God be for that to not be unjust, but the just and right response to sinning against Him? If this is inconceivable to you, then I wonder what God you've been worshiping. More than likely a God made in the American image or your own image. God is so immensely holy, it is terrifying.

This is why we see the prophet Isaiah, when he enters into the presence of God, say, "Woe is me, I have come to ruin." Because if sinning against God results in the proper punishment being held forever, being burned alive forever, while also being forever consciously aware of what's happening, and that's the proper and right response, and it's in response to God's holiness, I wonder if we've spent enough time considering the holiness of God. It's hard to understand. I know it is. Believe me, it is. This notion of God being so holy that the right and proper punishment is eternity in hell, the notion that God would send people into banishment from His presence into eternal conscious torment forever, I understand why some people come to that point and say, "I'm off the train. That seems too archaic. I can't believe in a God like that." I kind of understand from a human standpoint. But let me remind you what we said in the beginning: Hell is the ultimate horror, reminding us that our actions really do matter.

I don't mean matter in just some relative way or some momentary way or some inspirational way that won't last. Your actions actually matter in a spiritual and eternally significant way. You are actually that important. What you do is that important. Don't think so little of yourself. What you do has eternal consequence.

You know, it's at this point in the sermon where typically I would probably interject some sort of light-hearted anecdotal story or something to that effect, just to lighten the mood. But I know Peace Church, and you're ready to go deeper, right? If sinning against God results in eternal damnation and that reveals how holy God is, then what does this mean for the six hours

that Jesus Christ was on the cross paying for the sins for those who placed their faith in Him? What happened on the cross that was so powerful that it was able to cover an eternity worth of sins? Because it wasn't just the cross. It was who was on the cross and what happened. The Son of God was rejected by God the Father in some way, and the Trinity began to feel a rupture. The punishment was so incredible, the price that was paid so high, and the person paying for it so pure, it was God Himself paying for this, that it was able to cover an eternity of punishment for sins.

This is the gravity, magnitude, and wonder of Good Friday, of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This is why we worship Jesus for who He is and what He's done. This is why we place our faith in Him, because there's no one else who was able to do this. He was the only one, because He was fully God and because he was fully man. Fully God made him able to pay for all the sins. Fully human made him able to pay for human sins.

This is why we worship him. This is why we bow before our Savior, who is no longer on the cross but now sits on the throne, because he is the King. But my friends, now is not yet time of condemnation. Now is the time of salvation. But judgment is coming. So save yourself from it by placing your faith in Christ, who now with open arms is calling you into His kingdom. Repent of your sins. Place your faith in the hands of the only one who is able to save you. And His name is King Jesus.

When you do, you'll be welcomed into the kingdom. Judgment is coming. You think God will allow all this wickedness to continue forever? It will be brought to an end. Judgment is coming, and the only way to stand ready is to stand in the salvation offered to you through Christ Jesus, who offers it to you now. So receive the grace, receive the salvation that you most certainly do not deserve, and understand what Jesus has done for you. Or, you can continue to reject God. You can receive the fact that Jesus has paid for your sins, or you can choose to pay for your sins yourself. If you choose to pay for your sins yourself, then it will literally take an eternity for that to happen. Do you know what I mean by eternity? I mean never-ending. For however long you are in hell, for however many trillions of years, there is still more time left than what's behind you. That's how grievous your sins are. That's how amazing Jesus is, that he was able to cover that by his death on the cross. So receive the grace that is offered to you through your faithful Savior who calls you. Or you can continue to reject Him, and at the end you will get what you've been asking for all along. Hell is the ultimate reminder. Hell is the ultimate horror, reminding us that our actions really do matter.

This is dark stuff. I understand. I understand this is hard. This is hard. I will be completely honest with you. I slept very little last night. This is the stuff that haunts preachers. This is the stuff that should haunt you. We are a culture that says we long for justice. This is the ultimate justice happening. When people submitted their suggestions for hell, many times people said it with questions about the occult and some of the demonic things happening around us. What I want to do is spend a few moments with the time we have looking at some FAQs, and whatever we don't get to, I'll have the guys over at our podcast "That's a Good Question" answer the rest. Here's a couple of the questions that came in. What is the occult, and how dangerous is it?

Simply put, the occult is a banner term that encapsulates different ways that people participate in it. It's not one specific thing or one specific sect. The word "occult" comes from the Latin word meaning concealment or to conceal. We've taken that and connected it with this weird mysticism that people engage in to try to practice with or participate in spiritually concealed things, which is why it's so often connected with darkness. A popular-level inception of this would be things like tarot cards, Ouija boards, or palm readings. The occult is incredibly dangerous. Before I became a Christian, unfortunately, I dipped my toes in some of these things.

The occult is a tool that demonic powers use to make people think that they are enlightened, or getting insight into the concealed parts of nature, or making people think they have some level of control over spirits. But I'll remind you what the Bible says about this in Corinthians chapter 11, verses 14 and 15, that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so it's no surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. People who are practicing the occult think they're experiencing good things or some sort of enlightenment or they're getting a window into something that's true. But here's what I'll tell you: the occult is about concealed darkness, but we are people of the gospel, which is about revealing light.

The second question is, "How prevalent is New Age spiritualism or paganism?" From 2011 to 2021, we saw an over fourfold increase in the number of people in the U.S. who identify as pagans. Pagans are people who practice the occult with a specific angle of trying to access the spiritual through nature. That's kind of what you think of when we think of pagans. In the last couple of years, National Geographic, New York Times, NBC News, and others have done pieces on the rise or comeback of witchcraft and paganism in America. What people are doing with paganism and witchcraft is looking to the past and saying the predecessors of paganism and witchcraft were actually on to something. Many of them were killed for practicing such dark things, but people are looking back and saying they were on to something.

They take a modern understanding of science and blend it with these ancient practices of occult pagans and witches. They try to combine modern understanding of science with this ancient mysticism, saying they were in tune with the rhythm of nature or connecting it to things like the magnetic fields of the earth, giving a gateway into the spiritual. See how there's this blend of science and spiritism? It's very appealing. For people who practice this, it makes the ancient pagans and witches into martyrs, because many of them were killed for what they practiced, turning them into martyrs for what they were doing, saying they were on to something. It's a form of spiritualism that rejects the authority of God, while boasting in an enlightenment through modern science and delving into the mystery and wonder of the spiritual. I understand why it's attractive, but it's simply demonic.

The Bible acknowledged and predicted this would happen. First Timothy 4 says, "Now the Spirit (meaning the Holy Spirit) expressly says that in later times, some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons." First Corinthians makes it clear that pagan rituals are not scientific; they're demonic. "What pagan sacrifice (or you could say what pagans practice), they offer to demons and not to God."

One more question: "What power do demons have?" They have limited power. Only God is all-powerful. Before talking about how much power they have, which is hard to quantify in human terms, let's talk about how much power we allow them to have. That's what's going on here. Paganism and spirituality open us up to the power of the demonic. I want to say that demons have as much power as we allow, but let me say this: if you're a Christian walking in step with the Holy Spirit, demons have no power over you. But they can afflict or torment you. They cannot possess you, but they can tempt and terrorize you. Scripture gives us the antidote for this: James chapter 4 verse 7 says, "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Notice we don't just resist the devil and he flees. There's a massive qualifier: we are to submit to God, then resist the devil and he will flee.

I wish our culture was as interested in the things of God as in the things of the devil. And yet through all of this, when people give their hearts to such dark things, we see the heart of God, that even in the midst of a people who rejected him, God so loved the world that he sent his son to do for us what we couldn't do for ourselves, to save us from the darkness we willingly give ourselves to. Christ came to pave the way for salvation, saving us from the full wrath of God rightly due to us because of our sins, a judgment that is coming to give us what we don't deserve: heaven, a seat at God's table. Christ died so we could have life, walk in the light, not darkness, not to play with demons but to walk with the Holy Spirit. So for the glory of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, let's stand and worship.

Would you bow your heads? Prepare your heart for worship, considering that you deserve hell but Christ has come to intervene so you could have life to the full, life eternal. That alone should call you to worship. On top of this, we are also saved from the judgment we are rightly due.

Father, we come before you thankful for the opportunity to gather in the midst of brothers and sisters in Jesus. We come before you, our victorious King, who does sit on the throne, ruling in love and righteousness. We thank you for doing for us what we couldn't do for ourselves, winning the victory over Satan, sin, and death, and giving us a seat at your table. So, Father, pour out your Spirit so we can worship you in the name of Jesus by the power of the Spirit. And everyone said, Amen. And everyone said, Amen. Church, let's worship together.

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