Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
Hell is getting a bad rap. Okay, not hell itself, but the topic; or more specifically, whether or not it should be routinely discussed, studied or used in presenting the Gospel. Why do I say that?
Because it has become almost considered down right rude and archaic to 1) tell a sinner they are headed to hell at any moment, 2) discuss the reality of hell in the Church today. It’s considered bad selling; “scaring people” or promoting a “negative” Gospel rather than a “positive” one. Satan has succeeded in reducing hell to silly imagery, desensitized vocabulary and snicker-producing ideas:
- Fire & brimstone (typically meant to describe and “old fashioned” type of preacher
- Hell is where Satan and the demons party with the sinners
- Satan has a red suit, pointy tail, horns and pitchfork
- Satan and demons are routinely banished and defeated by mortal men constantly in Hollywood movies giving us a very unBiblical view of what they really are
- Phrases like “what the hell” and “go to hell” desensitizes people about the reality of hell and causes them to think very casually about it
- Hell is an old fashioned religious idea
- Hell can’t be real because a loving God wouldn’t send people there
- If hell is real, it’s ridiculous to think God would send you there for all eternity
- Only the really bad people go to hell; that’s not me
- Hell is not real, its just a state of unhappiness, or is merely a euphemism for evil
- Hell is the complete annihilation of “evil” people
And on and on. Satan has done a masterful job at causing people (including Christians) to see anything but the hard core truth about hell.
It’s considered laughable by the world to present hell as real.
It’s considered a poor selling technique or “harsh” by the Church.
That’s a pretty tough thing to say, but how many churches, evangelistic outreaches or teachers present WITH EQUAL BALANCE the realities of hell? Modern Christianity is dominated by a “Jesus will improve your life mentality”; a “Madison Avenue, accentuate the benefits, downplay the costs” sales & marketing type of Gospel.
At this point comes the most common comment I hear… “Oh, so you’re supposed to SCARE people to heaven, huh?”; “You don’t get people saved by offering them fire insurance!”; or “people want to hear about love not hell!”. An objective observer would rightly conclude that the Gospel today is “Jesus loves you and will make everything better”. Now don’t get me wrong, that of course is completely true especially from an eternal perspective. The problem with that mentality is that it has turned the Gospel into a man-made effort to persuade or “sell” people on Jesus based solely on “features and benefits”. Sales 101.
The Bible doesn’t present a Gospel that is Sales 101
(features & benefits; downplay the cost).
The Gospel of Scripture is Truth 101
(the reality of hell; the solution of Jesus Christ)
But that is for another lesson this week. We are going to study about hell all this week. On Friday I am going to have in my devotional a project I have been working on for a couple of weeks – a “Brent Riggs translation” of the Jonathan Edwards classic message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. As you can guess, yes, it’s about hell. It is one of the most famous on the subject and produced the most extensive and intensive revival in American history. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Now, just in case you fall into that category of people who think lessons on hell, or a Gospel presentation that includes hell, is not useful, productive or Biblical, let me give you a taste of what we will cover this week:
- What does the Bible have to say about hell?
- It has eternal fire and torment
- You will remember and regret your chance to obey God
- You will thirst but never drink
- You will be in misery and pain
- You will always be angry, frustrated and desparate
- You will be alone
- You will feel the full weight of God’s anger
- You will never, ever, ever leave
- Myths, heresies and false teaching about hell
- It is not temporary
- It is not annihilation
- It is not a bunch of “bad” people enjoying their sinful ways for all eternity
- It is not the demon hangout or playground
- It is not simply a description of evil
- Satan is not the ruler of hell
- Yes, a loving God will send you there
- Hell and the Gospel
- Why it is avoided today
- What is the effect of leaving hell out of the message
- The “Jesus will improve your life” Gospel
- Should it be included in evangelism
- How should it be communicated to sinners
- How should it be taught to Believers
- Why it is not “fire insurance
- Hell, one second away
I want to give you reasons each day to help you realize that sharing the wrath of God is just as important as sharing the love of God. You see, we believe that warning about hell is a scare tactic that produces emotional, false converts to Christ. Let me propose that more false converts exist because of the “Jesus will improve your life” Gospel, than will ever exist by “scaring” someone about hell.
Why? Because when life gets tough, Christians who were converted because Jesus was supposed to fix everything, bail out. The deal falls through. They were sold a product that doesn’t work. But people who clearly and unmistakably came to Christ because they understood the consequences of rejecting Him, do not bail out when the storms hit. Does that mean that scary “hell talk” is the only real way to share the Gospel? NO, NO, NO and NO again!
We aren’t responsible for the results of the Message… God is!
Our responsbility is to deliver the Message, the whole Message.
We are responsible to deliver the Joe Friday “just the facts, ma’am”, balanced courtroom version of the Truth… “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. We are to give a balanced, honest and full disclosure of what Jesus is all about: eternal life and blessing; or eternal death and the wrath of God.
We are not SALESMEN!
We are AMBASSADORS!
We’re not selling a product, we are delivering a message. God has determined what that message is, and it is not up to us to re-work it into something a little easier to swallow. Heaven or hell. Life or death. Jesus or Satan. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
I’ve touched on several issues, concepts and points very lightly in this introduction today to give you a hint about what we will study this week. If you are a person who thinks that a study about hell is “unloving” or simply unpleasant and therefore to be avoided, I hope you will prayerfully reconsider. There is a lost and dying world all around you. Any lost person can die at ANY SECOND and be instantly in the flames of eternal hell. If that was true about you and you didn’t know it, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you?
Holy God, Hell is not a pleasant subject but it is most certainly reality. Thank you for saving us from hell by giving Your only Beloved Son. Open our eyes about the importance and need to speak the truth in love to those who are but one second from the eternal torment of hell. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you know about hell? When is the last time you warned a sinner about hell? Do you think it is necessary? Do you think that “using hell” when presenting the Gospel is “fire insurance”? Do you think people who are “scared” into accepting Christ aren’t genuine? Is the answer to just share “the love of Jesus” and leave “fire and brimstone” out of it?
Application: Measure, contemplate and even write down your current beliefs and attitudes about hell. Go through this study this week and see if any of them change in any way. I propose to show you that sharing the truth about hell is just as important as sharing the truth about heaven and God’s love.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?