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Matthew 5:27-30

May 31, 2011

In verse 29, we get Matthew’s second reference to hell. The interesting thing is that hell is said to be a place that one can enter bodily. Of course, this doesn’t demolish the idea that the souls of the unsaved go to hell to suffer eternally when they die, because there is also a “resurrection of contempt/damnation/judgment” (Daniel 12:2 and John 5:29) or “second resurrection” (implied in Revelation 20:5-6) for the bodies, apparently, of the unsaved. Therefore, the souls could get there first and the bodies could come after the judgment; see Revelation 20:12-14.

That scenario would require that the judgment of Revelation 20 was more like an appeal judgment, since the unsaved has already been enduring hell for centuries. It is helpful to remember that Revelation is a very figurative book, though. Also, John’s “resurrection of judgment” does not necessarily refer to eternal punishment, and Daniel’s “everlasting contempt” does not necessarily mean punishment.

The most instructive thing, however, about Matthew 5’s statements about hell may be that one’s bodily condemnation to or salvation from hell depends on his or her works. (Here, of course, Jesus is talking specifically about lusting after women, but Mark 10:12 might imply that this same warning applies to lusting after men.) Instead of saying that works will save, however, it says that not being guilty of some sins will lead to salvation from bodily punishment in hell. This could mean that those who don’t believe in Jesus will still experience hell by their souls. Although other means of salvation, such as “justification by faith,” are not excluded here, the lack of any mention of another means is instructive.

This warning is probably not related to lust. I’m not sure how cutting off a body part would improve what is just an attitude in the first place. The warning in Matthew appears to be a carry-over from Mark 9:43-47, where the warning is not necessarily applied to any specific sin, either. I suppose that the warning could apply to actual adultery, though, especially since the theme of adultery is continued by the next two verses.

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