Sunday, May 24, 2015

Whatever Happened to the Fear of Hell

Why repent of your sins if you don't fear going to hell?

There was a time when the choice between going to heaven or hell seemed to be of great concern to most folks. Pastors spoke at length about how glorious heaven will be and painted a picture of hope that would cause the heart to yearn for an eternity in heaven.

At the same time, some of these pastors provided a contrasting and horrific picture of the alternative. Hell was seen as a place of everlasting torment, separation from God, and a place that any sane person would want to avoid at all cost.

Some chose Christ, at least initially, as a kind of insurance policy. Others made an intelligent choice to choose Christ and all he represents, and at least a part of the reason was the fear of hell. The knew and appreciated that they were sinners, and that it just made sense to accept the gift of eternal life with God in heaven that Jesus was offering, rather than continue in sin and face the wrath of God.

We are getting a confusing message as to exactly what hell is

Today, the church and the culture seem to offer widely divergent theories about hell. You have some denominations that seem to be unclear that hell even exists as a real place, but rather propose that it is merely a metaphor. Others prefer hell light. Forget about fire, brimstone, and such. Rather it is merely separation from God. That may not seem very scary to a person who is already living life separated from God.

We may feel intimidated by our "modern" culture to even speak about hell. After all, it seems so unscientific, and brutal, and unfair. We don't like things that are unfair. Then, of course, it is certainly judgmental! The culture really hates all things that speak of judgment.

But hell is all of those things. When we fail to clearly explain the horrors and reality of hell to an unsaved individual, we have failed to provide them with a vital piece of information that should move them towards a decision to trust Christ.

Many don't believe there is a hell 

Some who claim to be going to heaven and many who do not, say that they don't believe in Hell. If they say they believe the Bible, they indicate that hell is a metaphor, not a real place with real consequences. Others who believe in heaven and even angels, but are not really in a relationship with Christ, somehow just believe that hell and devils are not true things. There is generally no basis for their belief.  They just believe.

Some don't believe in hell, because they feel a loving God would never send anyone to hell

This is popular idea for those who are on the edge about Christianity. They many like the idea, may even feel Jesus was the greatest man in history and appreciate His teachings. But they totally misunderstand the idea of a loving God also being Just and therefore being incapable of tolerating sin in a place that is Holy like Heaven. Sometimes this set of beliefs is just a smokescreen for not wanting to give over their life to God, and if there is no hell, not taking the step of faith is not so consequential.

Some say that they aren't afraid of hell or prefer it to heaven

The idea that hell will be more fun than heaven, or that hell is where my friends will be is another great dodge to keep from confronting the choice of following Jesus. No one in their right mind who believes that hell exists, and that it is as horrific as the Bible states, would choose that option. Imagine someone standing before the gates of Heaven and hell and choosing to walk through the gates of hell. No, the choice is not about whether to choose one or the other. The choice is about what one thinks they will have to sacrifice in order to choose heaven. What if the person standing before those gates was given a sword and told that they could walk into hell or they could kill themselves and gain heaven?

Tell your unsaved friends about the reality of hell. In fact, if you have a teaching role in the church, be certain to teach your students about that reality so they are able to tell their unsaved friends.

Are you afraid of your friends ending up in hell? Why do you think your friends are not afraid?

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