December212012

What Ever Happened to Hell?

Rob Bell doesn’t believe in Hell, and he’s written a book about it. It started in 2007 when his church, Mars Hill, put on an art exhibit. One artist included a is there a hell?quotation from Mohandas Gandhi under his art work. A visitor who apparently didn’t think Gandhi deserved to have a place in a “Christian” display, stuck a note next to it which read: “Reality check: Gandhi’s in hell.”

Bell was struck. “Really?” he recalls thinking. “Gandhi’s in hell? He is? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without a doubt? And that somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?”

So begins Bell’s controversial new best seller, “Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal. “Every person who ever lived” could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Bell believes that theological rigidity, or what he calls the faith of exclusion, is a dangerous thing. He believes that a place of eternal torment is irreconcilable with the God of love.[1]

Could a God of love send people to hell? There’s an old joke that muses, “The difference between Universalists and Unitarians is that Universalists believe that God is too good to damn them, whereas Unitarians believe that they’re too good to be damned.
why is there a hell?
Is God too good to damn us? Are we too good to be damned? The second I know to be false without any need of refutation, but the first? You may not like what I’m going to suggest next; God is too good NOT to damn us! So says Habakkuk 1:13. His goodness is so good that it cannot allow a sliver of sin in his presence, nor can he allow sin to go unpunished. How could perfect goodness wink at Hitler’s holocaust or high five a brutal rapist into heaven? Goodness is incompatible with injustice.

But isn’t an eternal hell going a bit too far? That’s what Chrystal Lewis believes. She says, “Torturing someone for eternity is not ‘justice.’ Neither is banishing them from God’s presence forever… in true justice, the punishment fits the crime. The punishment for a human moral infraction could never logically be eternal because we are not capable of committing eternal sins.”[2]

I always find it amusing that it is us limited, finite, sinful human beings who are attempting to define for the Almighty how He, the infinite, all wise, all knowing God should act! It is as though we know better than God does! Paul’s response to this is the benediction of Romans 11: 33-34; “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
Take a Chance on Hell
Who came up with the hair brained idea that we can’t commit an eternal infraction? Let’s take murder for example. Will the demented Gunman of the Connecticut Massacre of twenty innocent children ever be able to change what he’s done? Not in time, nor ever! Will he ever be able to atone for it? Will it ever be forgotten? Will it haunt him past this life into eternity? If the parents of those twenty children stand before the Great Judgment Seat, and God is presiding, do you think they will accuse the man? Even in eternity, his sins are not forgotten! They can never be paid for! They can never be undone. Those children are never coming back. Not now, and not ever!

What is true of the heinous crime of murder is also true of theft, lies, adultery and every other sin. They are never to be forgotten, because in reality, it is not so much that we’ve sinned against one another. It is precisely because we have sinned against an eternal God, with an eternal memory and eternal justice that there must be an eternal price paid for our sins!

Jesus constantly warned of going to an eternal hell. Once in Luke 12:3-4 he cautioned, “And I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

Jesus never soft-pedaled the concept of hell. Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else in the New Testament. If we take Jesus seriously, we will need to take hell seriously.

At the recent Pastors School, the workshop leader to asked how many of the pastors had ever preached a sermon on hell. Nobody had. “I think it’s something people want to avoid,” he said. “I understand why. It’s a difficult topic.” The soft sell on hell reflects an increasingly market-conscious approach. “When you’re trying to market Jesus, sometimes …difficult doctrines are left by the wayside.[3]

But make no mistake about it, without wrath, there is no grace. If there is no hell, then there is no need for a Savior, then Jesus died for nothing, and we might as well turn out the lights and shut the door, because while we’ve given it our best shot, we’ve missed the truth by a country mile! It turns out that If you don’t believe in hell, you’re unknowingly on your way there!
The Two Ways
During His Olivet discourse about the last days, Jesus foresees the judgment of the nations “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41).

Those are some of the most ominous words ever “depart from me, you cursed into everlasting fire!” The Bible teaches the reality of Hell. It is the most serious offense in the universe to reject God and His plan to save you; redemption of the world through the death of His dear Son Jesus! If you reject God and His plan, you have no place in His kingdom. And that is what Hell is all about. You stubbornly chose your way over His. And that is why our faith requires urgency and results in vitality! You want to restore vital Christianity? Start believing in the reality of hell!



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