Are you a child of Hell?
One would hope not, but it’s a serious question worth asking.
Our Lord Jesus, in preaching to the Jews condemned the Jewish scribes and Pharisees, saying, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13, 15; ESV)
As Jesus surveyed the Pharisees he recognized that they were religious, and that they were zealous for that religion. They went to great lengths to promulgate their religion, but in the end, it would not matter. The religion they were teaching was only going to send them to hell.
This should make us take note. Religion, Jesus was saying, does not,in and of itself, guarantee a place in heaven. Jesus would never have agreed with the doctrine, taught by some, that all religions are getting us to the same place, just by different paths. Too many believe that it does not matter what you believe; to them, all faiths are equal in their effectiveness.
Jesus taught the road to heaven was more exclusionary than that. (cf. Matthew 7:13-14) “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” said Jesus, “No man comes to the Father apart from me.” (John 14:6)
When Jesus looked at the very religious Pharisees, He did not see people on their way to heaven. What they were doing was not sufficient for salvation. Much earlier in His earthly ministry, Jesus had warned His followers, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
The Pharisees had several problems identified by Jesus, not the least of which was their rejection of Him as the anointed of God. They refused to believe that Jesus was the messiahand in that rejection, they shut themselves away from God’s grace.
A religion that points men away from Jesus is pointing men away from their only hope of salvation. (cf. Acts 4:12) If you reject Jesus, you are in effect, embracing hell.
This was not the only problem the Pharisees had. Jesus also habitually condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Though much of what they taught came from God’s word, the Pharisees refused to apply it personally to themselves. Thus, Jesus said of them, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23:2-3; ESV)
A religion that does not actually affect one’s behavior is a worthless religion. Jesus did not want his followers to be hearers of the word without also being doers of the same. (cf. James 1:22-25) If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that believe needs to actually touch your behavior. If you know the truth, and can teach people the truth, but you yourself never obey the truth, you are not a child of heaven.
Finally, Jesus condemned the scribes and the Pharisees for adding their own opinion to the word of God. He cited Isaiah and applied it to the religious leaders of the day, stating that their worship of God was vain, because they were adding to God’s word. (cf. Matthew 15:9) God warned His people not to do this. (cf. Proverbs 30:5-6) But the Pharisees did it anyway, creating customs and titles and dogmas, and adding it all to the Law, making their teachings equal to God’s teachings.
Even so today, believers in Christ are warned not to change the Gospel. If a man does not abide in the doctrine Christ gave, but runs ahead of that doctrine, adding to it, that man has lost his relationship with God. (cf. 2 John 9) Likewise, we are told that if anyone starts changing the Gospel being preached, then what they are preaching is no longer the Gospel, and that person is accursed, or, in other words, a child of hell. (cf. Galatians 1:6-9)
Far too many feel comfortable moving beyond what God has proscribed, assuming that their own additions, adjustments and ideas will still be pleasing to God. But if our worship, our faith and our behaviors are in accordance with our own desires, rather than the desires of God, we are not on the path to the Father, but are instead following in the footsteps of the devil. And when we convert people to such a path, we are not making them children of God, we are making them children of hell.
All of this should give each of us pause, and motivate us to serious self reflection. There are many denominations, and many contradictory things being taught as doctrine in this world. But not all religion is good. Any religion which points away from Christ is naturally problematic and evil. But even if a religion claims Christ and the Bible, if it is a form religion that is willing to change God’s word, it is not a saving religion. A religion that adds to what God has taught men, inserting human wisdom into the divine text, is one that is following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, and Jesus warned us where their path was taking them.It’s a path we don’t want to be on.