2 Thessalonians 1:9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (NKJV)
“You can’t scare people into heaven”. How many times have your heard that when the topic of hell arises? “If you don’t accept Jesus out of love, then its just ‘fire insurance'”.
Are these comments Biblical, or true? I don’t think so at all. God revealed hell to us for the very purpose of warning us (scaring us) about how awful it will be. The natural response? To want to avoid it. Of course then God leads us to the solution (Jesus) and the Way we can avoid hell and get into heaven.
We are created in God’s image with emotions, logic and natural response to real danger. Think about the absurdity of this kind of thinking if it were applied to typical human experience:
- You can’t scare people into not standing on the train tracks when a train is coming. That’s just life insurance. You need to tell them how much you love them and how you want the best future for them. Telling them about how a train will run them down and crush them into a bloody mess might make them move from the tracks, but it will be for the wrong reasons.
- You can’t scare people into not destroying their life with drugs and alcohol. You just need to tell them how much they are loved, and that you want the very best for them in the future. Tell them other people really want them to choose not to do drugs. If they choose not to do drugs because you tell them the truth about addiction, health problems, crime, broken families and destroyed potential, it won’t be real – they only did it because you scared them.
Huh? Does that make any sense to you? Of course not. You might hear, “well, they chose it for the moment, but it’s for the wrong reasons, so it won’t last.”. Really? And what Scripture teaches that? Who gets to look into a persons and heart judge their motives? I’m thinking God, not me. Is there such a things as an insincere or non-authentic conversion? Sure. However, Scripture nowhere teaches that someone converted to Christ because the truth about hell scared them to it, is automatically a false conversion.
In fact, in light the sheer AMOUNT of teaching on hell in the Bible, I believe you could make a good argument that hell should be a PRIMARY topic in evangelism, and the fear of hell and front-and-center reason for conversion.
Hell is scary.
Scary enough to send you looking for Jesus.
It is altogether appropriate to scare people about things that are truly scary. I scare my kids about promiscuity, drugs, crime, dishonesty and yes, about hell. Why? Because they are all scary and real. If telling them the truth about all those things, scares them away from them and towards wholesome Godly choices, then scaring them is a good thing.
Based on today’s common opinions you often hear, answer this for me please:
- Why is scaring someone about hell, by telling them the GOD REVEALED truth about it, typically pictured as the wrong thing to do, the wrong approach to evangelism?
- Why is that someone choosing Christ, because of the thought of spending an eternity in hell, is somehow less real, less sincere, or less resulting in salvation?
- If the reality of hell drives someone to repent and beg God to save them from hell, why is that somehow NOT an appropriate Gospel message?
I hear routinely, from otherwise sincere and loving Christians, that you can’t throw hell at someone in the course of trying to witness to them because if they choose to accept Christ, they are only doing it out of an emotional reponse. Really? What do you call a response that is a result of a message of love? Last time I checked, love is an emotion. If we choose a strictly factual, intellectual approach, is the fact of hell a fact every bit as much as the fact of heaven or repentance?
So what’s my point? My point is not to limit God. He told us about heaven, and He told us about hell. He gave us emotions; He gave us intellect. He told us about Jesus and He told us about Satan. He told us about salvation and He told us about eternal punishment. Everything God has revealed to us is appropriate in trying to share the Gospel. Sometimes a message of love and hope draws a hurting soul. Sometimes a message of hellfire and punishment crumbles the prideful and arrogant. We need to appeal to all people on all levels of the human experience. Some will be “loved” into the Kingdom. Some will be “scared” in. Some will be convinced logically.
I believe it is a trick of Satan that has convinced Christians you can’t “scare someone into heaven”. It causes us to water down the truth, to be compromising (wishy-washy) and “tolerant” (timid). Folks, we’re talking about ETERNAL DESTINATIONS here. You get one shot, no second chances. We need the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If I “love” you into Christ’s arms, mission accomplished. If I scare you into running to Him, mission accomplished. If I convince you by logical argument, mission accomplished.
Let’s finish this thought with a hypothetical occurrence:
- I meet a guy later today and work the conversation around to asking him about spiritual matters
- He is a pretty proud guy – proud of who he is and what a good person he is
- He believes in “god” and thinks he’ll be “all right” when he dies because he’s been more good than bad
- Comments about heaven are met with a casual “we’ll all get there” attitude
- Comments about Jesus are answered with “you believe your way, I’ll believe mine” response
- Finally, a vivid description of hell, its finality and the reality of the awful punishment and torment gets his attention and he breaks down wanting to know how he can avoid this terrible destination
- Hell is eternal, it never stops; it never lessens; it never lets up; it never goes out; you never leave; you never get a rest, a break or a vacation… EVER (Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:42; Mark 9:43-44)
- You always remember what you lost and will always regret your decision to reject Christ (Luke 16:19-28)
- You will be thirsty, but never get a drink. You will long for relief, but it will never come. You will beg for rest, but it will never happen. Nothing you wish for will be granted. Hell is a place of tremendous physical suffering and pain that will never lessen or be relieved. (Luke 16:24)
- You will be bitter, angry, frustrated and desperate for all eternity (Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 24:51)
- Hell is a place of darkness, loneliness, frustration and desperation. You will be in pitch blackness, all alone, without God, forever and ever; with no points of reference, nothing familiar and no way to get used to it. (Matthew 8:12; Revelation 20:3)
- Hell will be the ultimate exile and rejection from God where you will never have another chance, ever, to appeal to God, see God, or accept God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
- The Gospel is shared and the man accepts Christ, relieved that he will not face the fires of hell
Well, too bad for him. You can’t be scared into hell according to common Christian wisdom today. So he’ll walk around with false confidence in his salvation only to find himself in hell anyway because his “emotional conversion based on the fear of hell” wasn’t real.
C’mon folks. Let’s end this myth about “fire insurance” and “you can’t scare someone to heaven”. Sure you can, and you should. As mature, discerning, wise and shrewd Christians, we should utilize the FULL spectrum of eternal reality when trying to reach people for Christ. People are different. They will respond to different parts of the Gospel. Some will respond to a loving appeal, others will only wake up when the fear of hell breaks through their hard heart. Still others are reached by logic and evidence.
Love ’em, scare ’em, nag ’em, lead ’em. Just get them into the arms of the Savior… and out of the flames of hell.
Lord God, Help us to realize that people are all different and respond in different ways to different parts of the Gospel. Help us to embrace everything You have revealed to us, including Hell. Help us to love people towards You, and to scare people towards You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Let’s end this myth about “fire insurance” and “you can’t scare someone to heaven”. Sure you can, and you should. As mature, discerning, wise and shrewd Christians, we should utilize the FULL spectrum of eternal reality when trying to reach people for Christ. People are different. They will respond to different parts of the Gospel. Some will respond to a loving appeal, others will only wake up when the fear of hell breaks through their hard heart. Still others are reached by logic and evidence.
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?