Have you heard about a place called hell?
- It is a place of intense and ferocious fire that never consumes its victims.
- It is a bottomless pit – blazing with fire.
- It is a place where worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
- Imagine a lake of fire.
- In this place, they say, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- And it is going to go on and on and on and on and on – forever.
Yet, in our anger we tell people to “go to hell.” In our judgment we make them guilty and sentence them to hell. In our preaching and teaching we are more concerned about debating about it than we are weeping and urgently proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
We do not talk about it anymore because some say it is unnecessary – it only scares people. Some of those in the forefront of church leadership say it is not a place. They say it is happening now all around us – suffering, pain, sickness and death. Still others could care less. It’s the pastor’s job. I am too shy. They will tease me. I could be fired. I don’t want others to look at me differently. We make all the excuses in the world. Yet, people need the Lord, and without him, they are going to end up in hell.
So, the question is do we really believe that hell is a real place?
Penn Jillette, an atheist said the following in a YouTube video:
If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, uh, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward – how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming to hit you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that. Check out the video here.
In his book “Why Revival Tarries” Leonard Ravenhill tells a story of a preacher and a man sentenced to death. The preacher is doing business as usual as he read from “The Consolations of Religion,” but the man is troubled by what he heard and to that he said to the preacher:
Sir, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!
Hi Walter. Leonard Ravenhill was the mentor for Steve Hill. Steve credits Leonard’s mentoring for the Brownsville Revival which began after Leonard’s death.
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I know hell is real for the word of God tells me..and like you stated in your post, people need to hear about JESUS and His love. Yes we must tell people about hell because it’s real..we also must tell them about a heaven where Jesus is…One thing about witnessing I have found and that is scaring people does and never will work. Jesus never once used scared methods to get people to come to Him. And we should never do it either but many do.
If you try to convey this version of hell and in the same breath say God is love, an unconverted listener is likely to remain unconverted. In my mind, the question is “who do you hate enough to proselytize.” People are fleeing churches and Christians in droves due to proselytizing. What they need to see is real people living IN Christ in such a way that they WANT to know more, rather than shielding themselves from unwanted salesmanship. And, if this is a loving God’s solution to those who don’t understand as well as those who reject, then I’m doomed, because I can’t trust Him or equate this with LOVE. And is the fear of hell the faith God desires? The faith Jesus died for? And what of “perfect love casts out fear?” I’m not attacking you, Walter. I have much respect for you. But this doctrine is a stumbling block to me personally. If this, of many possible interpretations, is the accurate representation of Hell, then I’m done, and done for. Blessings! Diane
Wow! Thank you Diane for your comment… I do not take comments on my blog personally; neither do I try to get into a fight over them. Here is why, I am not perfect and I don’t have all the answers. So, it’s okay, your comment, whether in agreement or not, is very much welcomed. I hope you find some time to read this very long response. I humbly submit these…
First of all, you are right: The concept of a loving God sending people to hell is very difficult for anyone to wrap their brain around. Both believers and unbelievers struggle with this concept. I can see why an unbeliever will reject the message.
Clearly my post is not a message to unbelievers. It is actually to believers. And the goal is not to proselytize unbeliever. The goal is to get believers to share their faith – which is consistent with Matthew 28 – go you into the entire world.
I personally do not necessarily believe in preaching a – what you might call a – “turn or burn” – “Frankenstein” kind of message. I believe that – “it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.” However, that kindness leading to repentance can come through many different ways. It could be through a simple testimony, by curiosity – simply watching the life a of a true follower of Christ. It could be by a simple sermon, a tragedy, a miraculous healing and yet a fiery message about heaven and hell. God is God he can use dreams, visions, anything to bring one to saving grace.
Diane, my point in the post is that the great commission has become the great omission. The church is called; I am called to share my faith with unbelievers. But sometimes we take it so lightly. And yes, I believe what the bible says about hell. It is real. Jesus uses Gehanna as the most descriptive picture of what we call hell. Actually, eleven of the twelve uses of the word “Gehenna” in the New Testament were spoken by him. When he taught, Jesus used this imagery of horrible loss to describe the consequences of living a self-absorbed life.
Those who persist in their own prideful ways and reject God’s forgiveness and purpose for their lives are destined for self-destruction. “They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46, TNIV) This hardly seems fair from our finite viewpoint. You see – the love of God does not rule out the justice of God. Here is the thing Diane, We all agree that justice is a good thing and people should face the consequences of their decisions. But we say, isn’t hell a bit overboard? Why would God allow people to experience such a terrible thing?
But here is the thing – choosing to live your life apart from God is a destitute existence. The important thing to recognize is that we are not the only ones unsettled by the thought of hell. God doesn’t want anyone to experience life or eternity apart from him. Addressing a rebellious Israel through the prophet Ezekiel, God says: “Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32, TNIV) God has given us that choice. And God has made a way. He donned human flesh and hung on a cross, offering forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God to all who trust him. Jesus experienced the consequences of our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. And he rose from the grave to conquer death and offer us life. As the familiar verse says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, TNIV)
God bless my sister… I can only submit and stay true to what I believe…
Thank you for your kind answer, Walter. I’ve sought God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ, but His purpose for me is still unknown, as is awareness of His presence, or peace with His JUSTICE. I responded to your post as an unbeliever. I hope many find faith through all of the means you listed, and through those you have stirred up in the faith by your post. Blessings, Walter!!! Thanks again for your response. Diane
Very convincing message that we must continue to talk of Jesus and God to the unbelievers. God bless and thank you for your message of faith.
all praise to the Lord… thank you much for reading and giving me a feedback… blessing on you!
Hell, whether real or not, sounds horrible and I just know I don’t want to go there…so that means constantly reaffirming my faith in Jesus, as He is the only way to that better place we all dream of someday seeing. Praise the LORD!
A very impassioned post WB, ”liked it” :)…also – Leonard Ravenhill, was one hard core preacher.
Thank you Rod… thank you much!
Excellent, Walter! It’s so ironic too; I was just thinking about this subject and this video today! I was thinking how strange it is that an atheist like Penn has more insight and more power to convict than most Christian leaders. Sad!