Tag Archives: preaching hell

Happy about Hell?

I recently read a series of posts and discussion where the initial author was lightly challenging the idea that hell was only a temporary time of discomfort for those apart from the Lord.  A couple of people wrote to encourage the author and made statements about hell being a Scriptural concept.  Then a woman wrote and gave this challenge, “Those who believe that hell is an eternal place of punishment are happy that some people are going there.  They want people to go there.”

Well, aside from that being a categorically incorrect and extremely judgmental statement, it certainly didn’t help the discussion.  When challenged, the woman backed away from what she said by simply asserting that we didn’t understand and she wouldn’t discuss it with us any further.

I think I do understand.  Some preachers do seem to enjoy the idea that people who don’t fit with their way of thinking will be in hell.  They suggest that justice will be served best by the torments of hell and there are some who deserve that justice.  They think they are honoring God by their definition of and stand for His justice.

There’s a little story about a preacher who wrote and published a booklet called, “Come to Jesus.”  The booklet was an effective outreach tool and was well received.  But sometime later the preacher found himself in a heated debate with another teacher and became very angry.  He wrote another booklet refuting the other man’s ideas and the tone was very strong and unkind.  The booklet was finished except for the title when he took it to be read by his publisher.  The publisher was shocked at the tone of the book.  When the author asked him what he thought might be an appropriate title, the publisher said, “I think you should call it: ‘Go to Hell! By the author of ‘Come to Jesus.’”

The Scripture does teach about an eternal separation from God suffered by those who refused the gift of salvation in Jesus.  But I, for one, do not enjoy the thought of anyone remaining in that condition or place.  There are people close to me who never trusted Jesus, people I love and have loved.  For their sakes, if for no other reason, I cannot teach joyfully the truth of hell.  We don’t have to want people to go to hell in order to believe the teaching.  Nor should we—not anyone—not ever.

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Filed under Legalism, Relationship, Theology and mystery

More than Fire Insurance

We used to say that some people only accepted Jesus as “fire insurance,” the way to get out of hell.  They didn’t really want anything else He offered.

But escape from hell is not the only benefit of the cross.  In fact, escape from hell isn’t really the message of the cross at all.  The message of the cross is new life in Jesus.

We all have smoke detectors in our homes now.  What’s the job of the smoke detector?  It’s to tell you to get out of your house because there’s a fire.  It’s a warning device that may deliver you from a terrible death.  But I, like many others, have the strange fear that the smoke detector will go off in the night and we will all have to run outside in our pj’s to stand in the freezing cold.  I suppose we could stand close enough to the burning house to stay warm. 🙂

The point is that the smoke detector doesn’t protect us from any other danger.  We could freeze to death, but at least we wouldn’t burn.  We may have to live in our car or walk without shoes to the neighbor’s or try to get a motel without our credit cards.  The smoke detector doesn’t care.  It did its job.

Jesus is not a smoke detector.  Jesus offers us life abundant.  We were already dead in our sins, already separated from God, already on our way to eternal hell.  Jesus came with a message of life.  He offers forgiveness for sin, freedom from guilt, victory over evil in our lives, hope for a wonderful future, community with His people, and love and acceptance from His heart.  Coming to Jesus is about so much more than escape from hell.

Isn’t it interesting that those who talk about hell the most offer the least victory and hope in Jesus?  By focusing on hell, they rob their people of hope and freedom.  They don’t tell them how to live in Christ and enjoy a real relationship with Him.  They don’t tell them about resting in the Lord.  So, their people struggle against sin and fear and guilt—and try to keep others under the law with them.

What do you think?

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Filed under Church, grace, Theology and mystery