"Hell … Either it is or it isn’t!"
32 years ago, a middle-aged woman visited our church. Back then it was 1st Baptist. It was located right next to the athletic field. I greeted her before the service started. She seemed like a nice lady.
A little later, while I was preaching, she stood up, looked at me and exploded! The focus was on her and me. “All my life”, she said, “people have been telling me that I am going to hell! My father spent his life telling me that I was going to hell! The leaders in the church are telling me that I am going to hell. The women who pray here on Wednesday have condemned me. And now you and that Bible you’re preaching are telling me that I am going to hell.”
This poor woman had had some bad, hurtful church experiences. And she brought them with her that morning. She was convinced that I had declared her hell-bound. I responded and said, “No ma’am! That’s not what the Bible says! It says, Because of Jesus everything is in line so that you don’t have to go to hell. Christ has prepared a place for you in heaven!”
She said, “That’s not what I’ve been told – and that’s not what I have been taught.” She left the church that day and I never saw her again.”
What she had been taught about hell had completely blinded her to the beauty of God’s truth – That he has made all things right through his Son.
Stories and experiences like this make an already hard doctrine even harder. Why? Because the Son who calls men to “Come to Him” for everlasting life is the same Son who says, “Depart from me forever into the lake of fire. … For instance:
Matthew 25:31 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of His angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) All the nations will be gathered before him. He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. …
(41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(46) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jesus spoke of hell as a “fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), and “weeping and gnashing teeth” (Luke 13:28), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), and “a place where the maggot worm does not die” (Mark 9:48), and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), and “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and being “cut in pieces” (Matthew 24:51).
The words Jesus used were not chosen to soften the message of hell. Cultural sensibilities and popular opinion ran head on with Christ’s immovable conviction that hell was real.
Jesus taught more on hell than any of the other writers of the New Testament. He spoke of hell three times more than He spoke of heaven.
Hell is clearly a primary topic that Christ included in His teaching.
We must ask: How did Jesus expect his audience (us) to respond, think and feel about His teaching on a literal hell?
P.S. Please consider the verses above and meditate on them. Their impact can change the course of our life for eternity.