Campfire Scripture: Billy tea and a short, manly devotional. They go together like bacon and everything.
Book Author and Date:
The Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the former tax collector. Matthew’s humility is clearly demonstrated by his Gospel being the only one of the four which refers to him (Matthew) by his pejorative title ‘tax collector’. This Gospel could have been written anywhere between the years 50-70 A.D. The difficulty in dating and trusting the authorship forms part of a greater controversy known as ‘the synoptic problem’, for more on this see here, and here.
Matthew is the first of the four Gospels and its audience was primarily Jewish converts to Christianity, hence it bears much relevance to Jewish tradition. It contains the most references to fulfilled OT prophecy in the Gospels and there are other notable features which give it an unmistakable Jewish flavour. One example is the prerequisite knowledge of Jewish law and history which is often assumed. As with all the Gospels it is clearly written to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
Christ is about to send out the apostles to preach and heal and stuff, and he’s outlining an exhausting list of instructions to them to guide them on their way, one of which is the above verse. Pretty self explanatory.
What I Reckon:
Hell. Nasty place. The place where there is ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. There are some who attempt to deny the existence of Hell by claiming, among other things, that newer translations of the Bible use the term less and less… I’m sure they have other slightly better arguments, but this one is particularly nauseating. The fact is it only has to be referenced once as far as I’m concerned. More than that is that sin clearly has a hold on this world, and the Lord is very clearly understood throughout all of scripture as a perfectly righteous and Holy judge. The wicked will be judged and punished for eternity. If that’s not at all obvious to you, then you’re not reading the Bible.
Furthermore, skeptics commonly use the threat of hellfire as an excuse to charge Christians with fear mongering. I imagine however that if you ask them to name individual Christians who’ve used this tactic to obviously coerce sinners to repentance, they might have a hard time naming names.
I’m sure that over time there have been some individuals who, however sincere, used a tactic like this. In my opinion it’s not even as detestable as it seems at face value. It seems very natural for someone who believes hell exists, who cares about someone and wouldn’t want them to end up there, would tell them. There is nothing wrong with this. Surely it would be worse not to warn them? I think the problem arises when there is malicious intention behind the charge; when it’s merely used to guilt an individual into submission, presumably for some selfish gain.
In any case, it’s really just an excuse to tarnish the reputation of individual Christians or Christianity. Whether its warranted has no bearing on whether or not hell actually exists. It might not sound pretty, but truth is not determined by what’s pretty. The Bible is explicitly clear that sinners will perish, and will spend an eternity in judgement in hell.
The Good news of the Gospel is less good, when the alternative is less bad… make sense?
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Romans 8:1 (KJV)
No condemnation for those who repent and follow Christ.
All Campfire Scripture passages are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated.
John MacArthur, 2006, The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (1995 edition).