Sons of Hell

December 10, 2021

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves (Matthew 23:15).

A proselyte is someone who comes to a religious group from paganism or another religion, denomination, or sect. There were two types of proselytes among the Jews in the days of Jesus:
    • A ‘proselyte of righteousness’ - a Gentile who wholly and fully embraced the Jewish religion, was baptized, circumcised (if a male), and conformed to all the rites of the Mosaic Law and institutions.
    • A ‘proselyte of the gate’ - a Gentile who approved of the Jewish religion, renounced pagan superstitions, and conformed to some of the rites of the Jews, but was not circumcised or baptized. These were called ‘proselytes of the gate’ because they were not allowed to come into the courtyard of the Jewish men or women at the Temple. They had to stay within the gates of the courtyard of the Gentiles. They were called ‘God-fearers’ in the Bible because they worshiped Jehovah God but had not become Jews by religion.

The words of Jesus reveal the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees who would travel great distances and go to great lengths to convert Gentiles to the Jewish faith but had little regard for the true Jews in their own land. He also revealed that these Jewish converts were twice as much a 'son of hell' as they were. This is a Hebraism - a common phrase or idiom used by the Jews in the Bible to express a thought or practice that was uniquely Jewish.

What was a ‘son of hell’? He was a person who was characteristically demonic or damned. Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees ‘sons of hell’ because of their spiritual hypocrisy in turning people away from God, in condemning souls to hell through their elevation of Mosaic Law over personal faith in God, and for rejecting and condemning Jesus as the Messiah of God. Someone who was twice as much a son of hell was a Gentile convert to Judaism. He was already condemned to hell because he was a godless Gentile. He was condemned even more because he was converted to a godless Judaism.

By virtue of the covenant of God to Abraham, the Jews were given the responsibility to be ‘gatekeepers’ to the Kingdom of God for the nations. To Abraham God said: By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son - blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Genesis 22:16-18). But Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees, you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in (Matthew 23:13).

“Lord God, may we never be guilty of shutting the door of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who asks a reason for the hope that is within us. May we lead all people to Jesus and not to our ‘particular religion’. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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