The Letter to the Hebrews

Bosch’s painting, “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things” summarizes the message of the Letter to the Hebrews. In the previous essay, I focused on two of the Four Last Things. In this, I wish to focus on the other two of the Four Last Things depicted in the bottom corners of the tabletop: heaven and hell.

In the scene in Heaven, we again find Christ seated, only this time it is upon his kingly throne. He is holding a book in his hand which is evidently the Book of Life. A few are playing instruments, while angels encircle the throne.

Hell on the other hand, is certainly a place of torment. We note, in addition, that Hell has some resemblance to the scenes represented in the Seven Deadly Sins. The punishment of Hell is that the sinners are tormented by the very sins which they desired while they were on earth. Demons haunt each scene in terrible way—ways difficult for us to even look upon.

The ribbon which separates the two circles on the bottom also has a verse on it, “I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be” (Deut 32:28-29). Since the painting depicts the all-seeing eye of God, this verse sits in irony. No mercy exists in hell; no opportunity for escape. That which the people wished for is in this world the people receive in a more real way.

As we have studied the Letter to the Hebrews, we have discussed the target audience of the warning passages. Is the author addressing those who only profess Christianity but do not have true saving faith? Or, is he addressing believers who are struggling to live their Christian lives by faith? Regardless, Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

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