Hell Needs to Make a Come Back

So I finally get to the “Fire and Brimstone” bit! This is because I got into a conversation with a woman recently about what happened after death and that got me thinking. She was not a Christian but seemed to have some belief that there was a life after death, and her view was that if there is a Hell that’s where she wanted to be – as she put it “with all her mates”.

That is a statement I have heard many times over the years, but I was probably a bit more surprised to hear it now than I would have been in the past. This is because Hell has had a fairly low profile in recent times, especially from the pulpit, and I think this is one of the factors contributing to the general lack of passion for evangelism in church congregations.

It’s all about the nature of God really. A distorted view of the Love of God has resulted many church members being functional universalists i.e. because God is so loving that He lets everybody into heaven. This results from a dumbing down of God’s characteristics of Holiness and Justice. The Holiness of God means that He cannot coexist with sinners like me and His Justice demands that my frequent breaches of His laws requires a penalty.

As against this, God’s Love is supremely demonstrated by the sending of Jesus to the Cross where he took sin on himself in an act of excruciating agony thus opening the way for sinners to enter into a relationship with God. In that demonstration of the Love of God Jesus satisfied the Justice of God.

That’s where the concept of Hell is relevant. It’s a topic people even many Christians don’t want to talk about. As one commented on radio recently, she “Didn’t like the flavour of the word”. The problem is however that Jesus talked about it many times, either directly or metaphorically by use of expressions such as “The Lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15) and as a place where men will weep and gnash their teeth.

So if Jesus talked about it, and God inspired writers to put it in the Bible how can we ignore it even though we would prefer to do so? The more so because Jesus made it clear that there is a serious danger involved for all of us if we choose to refuse to repent of our disobedience to God, i.e. our sins.

And that takes us back to the Cross and God’s Love. The Bible tells us that if a person receives the benefits of the Cross, that is Jesus takes on himself the punishment they deserve for their sins, then the barrier to walking into God’s presence is removed and their name is written in the ‘Book of Life”. But if someone refuses to accept God’s offer of Love through Jesus then their name is not written in the Book of Life and the “Lake of Fire” is their destiny (Revelation 20:12-15).

The lack of passion for evangelism of the majority of Christians is actually breach of the second great commandment (Matthew 19:19) and a lack of ‘love for our neighbour’. For if we truly loved our lost neighbour, work colleague, sport’s partner etc. we would be desperate to ensure that they might learn about God’s love and accept His gift and so avoid the horror of the Hell Jesus warned about. However, the softening of the Biblical teaching on this doctrine means, that Christians don’t take the horror of Hell seriously, for the concept has been so dumbed down.

Just think about what is Hell for a moment. Of course we don’t properly know except to say that it is a form of eternal existence experienced by those who refuse God’s offer of Love through Jesus, a horrible self-inflicted existence where ‘God is not’ and ‘His Love is not’.

So it’s important to think! Jesus took the plight of those on the “Broad” road that leads to destruction so seriously that he went to the Cross that we might be diverted onto the ‘Narrow Road’ that leads to Life! (Matthew 7:13,14) That’s how seriously!

Tragically, large numbers of western Christians, with a Christianity-Lite faith, don’t share Jesus seriousness and correspondingly there is no urgency for evangelistic activity especially where it is costly (which it will increasingly be), for as Tom Frame says-

“the culturally compliant strain of Christianity promoted in Australia does not. oblige (people) to embrace lifestyle choices that might involve discomfort.”

The concept of Hell as something to be avoided at all costs should not be watered down such that it loses the horror Jesus ascribed to it by a concentration on God’s Love without giving equal weight to God’s Holiness and Justice.

So Hell needs to make a comeback in Christian thinking, to be emphasised as the awful destiny of the millions of the lost. This so that more Christians start loving their lost neighbours and get out and make the proclamation of Christ and his saving love their priority, not just the work of the Minister and a few enthusiasts! This so people we are called to love are warned, as Jesus warned, about their peril and change their path to the ‘Narrow’ road that leads to eternal life, to the City of God, to the place of exquisite and eternal Joy where

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying
or pain,for the old order of things has passed

Revelation 21:4

‘Hell needs to make a comeback’ in Christian thinking so that we become more passionate about loving the Lost so that they move from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of God.

May it be so!

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