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Monday, October 31, 2005

You Need Hell

So a FoxNews story reports that more Americans believe in the existence of heaven than hell. Why does this not surprise me? Here's the question I'd like to hear answered. Of those Americans who believe in the existence of hell, how many of them think the chances are high that they'll go there?

I'm not a bible-thumping, asp-wielding, tent-revivaling, hellfire & brimstone preacher. But I do believe in the existence of hell. And so did Jesus. Read the Gospels. No one in the whole Bible talks more about hell and damnation that Jesus Christ. In fact, most of what we know about hell comes from the lips of the Savior.

I'm on a Christian radio talk show every Sunday night from 9-11 p.m. here in Pittsburgh. And last night, we had a caller who argued the case that Jesus was uber-tolerant and would never hurt a flea. And I told the woman, Gabrielle (ironically), that it was very evident that she had not actually read the recorded accounts of the life of Jesus. Her understanding of Jesus is like the one I described in this earlier post. The hippy peacenik Jesus, a little high on weed. "They call me mellow yellow." The Greenpeace Vegan Jesus. The Precious Moments figurine, a.k.a. the child of god(dess). Gabby, the caller, doesn't want Jesus. She wants Phil Donahue.

I'm not glad there is a hell. But there is. And it is foolish to believe - counter to the very words of Jesus Christ - that no one goes there. The preacher who never talks about hell is incompetent and should be challenged. I don't mention hell often and I don't like mentioning it when I do. Sometimes I do not enjoy preaching God's Word. But it is His Word I am called to deliver. Not my own. Not what my congregation would like to hear.

I'll wager that most people in America think, if there is a heaven, that they'll go there. Sadly, I doubt that very much. Jesus is not vague in Matthew 7 when He says that the gate to heaven is narrow and few will find it while the gate to destruction is wide and many are on their way.

And that's one reason why I have very mixed feelings about Halloween. My son will go begging for candy like all his neighbors tonight. And I will stand at the door giving Butterfingers to the little princesses, and Scream guys, and imps, and the teenager wearing the white t-shirt that simply says "Official Halloween Costume" on the front. But anything that makes light of the devil or hell is dangerous in my opinion. I wouldn't make jokes about cancer to a woman about to die with tumors pillaging her body. And I don't think we should laugh at devildom when the majority of human beings are going to be damned.

In any case, that's why we preach the gospel, right?

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Carl said...

Excellent post, Scott! May I copy
it and give it out to the "Trick or

texasbunch said...

I enjoyed your post, I was in the process of surfing blog explosion when I came across it!

Just Wandering said...

How can you believe in one without the other? Just doesn't make rational sense. Wishful thinking I guess.

disgruntled world citizen said...

Every time I hear John Lennon's song "Imagine" I become a bit sad. That first line "Imagine there's no Heaven..." what a horrible thought. If there is a Hell, and I believer there is, there must be a Heaven.

Nice post. Thanks.

Bob Waters said...

Steve Hein used to put hell into perspective for us when he suggested that, ultimately, what Jesus will say to those on His left hand on Judgment Day will be essentially what Burger King says to us now: "Have it your way."

Our way, as opposed to God's, is
hell. I think of it as the place where a gracious God gives those who want no part of Him their wish.

C.S. Lewis has some interesting thoughts on this. Perhaps there are no flames. Perhaps the gnashing of teeth simply comes from an eternal freedom from God, and being left alone for all eternity with our own agendas, to indulge ourselves as we please.

Vargas said...

There is no such thing as hell. Hell, as talked about in the Bible is symbolic of the grave and nothing else. The concept of hell and hellfire as a doctrine is a pagan belief that was grafted onto Christianity after Christ's death. The Bible says that "the wages sin pays is death." After one has died the sins he committed in his former life are paid for and there is no need for eternal damnation in hell.

I don't believe in any hippy-drippy- love-all-and-no-war Jesus either but the idea that God is so cruel and hateful as to follow after evil pagan gods, torturing and tormenting people in some hellish place is unscriptural.

Matthew said...

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is "a consuming fire"--Deut. 4:24, Hebrews 12:29, etc. He is a God who will destroy his enemies ("Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."--Matthew 10:28). Sure, the place of ultimate punishment will be an awful place, where the process of death will presumably be painful (many Jews at the time of Christ believed it would last for an entire year!). But once dead, what need does God or his followers have for the continued torture of unbelievers ("because anyone who has died has been freed from sin"--Romans 6:7)? And how does anyone truly separated from God continue to exist in any way whatever? Isn't God omnipresent (therefore those separated from him--from reality itself--cannot exist)? The problems with the traditional view of hell are too numerous; the Bible speaks too clearly--death is death, end of story. So as far as I can find in the Bible, Vargas is at least partially right. Besides, God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden so they wouldn't live forever (Genesis 3:22), in which case their punishment would possibly have looked quite different.

But the point that true infinite love cannot be complete without absolute punishment is well taken. That's a point CS Lewis made quite eloquently, and it's why the Bible is so full of the notion that God will destroy evildoers ("'Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,' says the LORD Almighty."--Malachi 4:3). The God who is love could not be full or pure if he did not have the power and the will to demolish everything in his way. So, yes, absolute love means absolute punishment and destruction of evil.

Bob Waters said...

Vargas, have you ever read the New Testament?

It never ceases to amaze me to hear folks such as you, on no ground other than those of sentimentality, declare so much of Scripture to be unscriptural!

Worms don't go out, Vargas. Fire isn't quenched. You don't get to decide which parts of scripture are "symbolic" on the basis of what you want to be the case. Just doesn't work.

Me said...

So where does hell exist, since you think it is literal.

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