Recently, Ray Comfort was a guest speaker at the Southern Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference and spoke on what is our greatest sin as a people.
When was the last time you heard a sermon about hell? Can you even remember? Honestly, I can’t. What about the last time you heard someone mention hell? Now that, I remember vividly.
I was involved with a huge Christmas musical at my church last year that attracts thousands of people. While in a ballet rehearsal to prepare for the angel dance that comes right before the Nativity, a friend of mine said, “We need to get this together because there are going to be people that see this show and do not know Jesus. They are going to hell and this might be what saves them.”
I was completely taken aback. My friend had spoken offhand, and yet what she said impacts me to this day. It is so easy to live comfortably in our Christian bubbles without thinking about those who are not saved. But the truth is hell is real and those who do not accept Jesus will spend eternity there (John 14:6).
In a blog post titled “7 Truths about Hell,” author and pastor J. D. Greear says that hell is a confusing notion to wrap our heads around. He even admits that when he was a young Christian and learned about hell, he was so disturbed that he nearly lost his faith. But, he says, hell is in the Bible so Christians need to wrestle with the concept to fully understand God.
It is time to start talking about hell. But first, we need to get our facts straight. Here are five misconceptions that you may have about hell.
1. Seeing God face-to-face is a warm and fuzzy experience.
Greear writes that people believe seeing God would be a “warm and fuzzy” experience but they are wrong. The Bible says that God is so holy and perfect that if anyone would see God face to face, he would die (Exodus 33:20). God’s own prophet Isaiah fell to ground in fear when he saw God on his throne because he believed he would die (Isaiah 6:5)
Though we do not like the idea of eternal suffering in hell, Greear argues that it exists for a reason.
“God tells us about hell to demonstrate to us the magnitude of his holiness. Hell is what hell is because the holiness of God is what it is. Hell is not one degree hotter than our sin demands that it be,” he says.
2. Jesus didn’t talk about hell.
There are some who believe hell is not relevant because Jesus is “meek and mild” and only about love and compassion. They say that God only talked about hell in the Old Testament and transformed in the New Testament with the birth of Jesus. But this is simply not true.
Greear points out that Jesus did talk about hell, and he talked about it more than anyone else in the Bible.
“In fact,” he writes, “if you count up the verses, Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven.”
3. Hell is a great blemish of God’s love.
Now that we know Jesus did talk about hell, the question becomes why he talked about it so much. Greear answers, “Because he wanted us to see what he was going to endure on the cross on our behalf.”
Jesus was crucified and endured both physical and mental pain. He was separated from God during his crucifixion, and in doing so, took “the hell of our sin into his body.”
“People often feel that hell is some great blemish on God’s love,” Greear said. “The Bible presents it as the opposite. Hell magnifies for us the love of God by showing us how far God went, and how much he went through, to save us.”
4. God sends people to hell.
Yes, those who do not accept Jesus will go to hell. But Greear says this is not God sending people to hell. They send themselves by rejecting Christ.
God has offered you the light of love, friendship and creation, Greear says. “But when you tell God you don’t want him as the Lord and center of your life, eventually you get your wish, and with God go all of his gifts.”
5. It’s enough for God to take us out of hell.
Some people accept Christ because they are scared of hell. This is not enough. Greear says, “It’s not enough for God to take us out of hell; he must take hell out of us.”
He means our hearts must be changed by loving and trusting God.
“If you accept Jesus just to ‘get out of hell,’ then you’d hate being in heaven, because only those who love and trust God will enjoy heaven,” Greear says. “If you don’t love the Father, then living in the Father’s house feels like slavery. It would be like forcing you to marry someone you didn’t want to marry. The only way you’ll enjoy heaven is when you learn to love and trust God.”
How are we to live our lives as Christians knowing the reality of hell? Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has the answer.
“…hell is horrifying,” he writes. “God deems it so. Our response to such horror should not be denial, but the fervent evangelism of the nations.”
“Hell ought to drive us not to find misplaced hopes for the lost, but to the only hope for us, and for the whole world, the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Read Original Article Here
Hell is not a topic most Christians like to address. Why talk about hell when you could talk about something much more positive like heaven or living a good life. It seems that many senior pastors have taken on this same notion, of skipping over hell in their sermons and articles. Brian Jones, Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley, has written an article on Pastors.com called The Fatal Mistake of Senior Pastors Who Don’t Like Preaching about Hell.
Jones comments that while we should expect an inclusive agenda at our public schools, it has no place in our churches. He states,
“Too often we want to appear more moral than God. Too often in outreach-focused churches we feel the need to acquiesce to the avalanche of pluralistic pressure to back off of this key doctrine. However, I tell Senior Pastors that I coach that if you really love people, at some point you’ll completely tell them the truth, even if you risk having them walk out your church doors.“
Have you taken a similar risk with family members, friends, teachers, or co-workers? When it comes to telling the whole truth, sometimes we are hesitant with those we don’t know well or those we don’t want to offend. But if we wait long enough, there’s a chance we may not get to take that risk at all. Jones explains,
“As important as being compassionate and inclusive are in the context of a growing church, the overriding virtue that should be held up is faithfulness – both to scripture and the God who breathed it.”
Kindness, generosity, and compassion are virtues that every Christian should show to others. However, if that’s all we’re going to do—pile on grace upon grace without any truth—then we will have accomplished absolutely nothing for the gospel. Christianity is about so much more than morality and kindness. It’s about sharing the truth of life and death, through the grace of Jesus Christ. Truth and grace go together and should not be separated.
Crosswalk.com blogger Paul Tautges expounds, “Because hell is real, and hell is as awful as awful can be, we dare not neglect it, or fear another person’s response to its teaching more than we fear the God who created it for the devil and his angels.”
Yet, there are some Christians who may think grace is all we need to share because hell isn’t real…that we can believe what we want in the Bible and skip over the parts we don’t like. Pastors are not immune this false doctrine either. Jones recalls,
“Two years after leaving graduate school I came to the realization that I really didn’t believe in hell anymore. I was too smart to believe in hell. …Like so many church leaders I’ve met over the years, I bought into the lie that I could serve the God of the Bible but not believe in the entire Bible.”
“During a long retreat at a local monastery I performed an exhaustive word study of the phrase ‘false doctrine’ in the New Testament. When I was finished the Holy Spirit did a number on me. ….I came to the conclusion that I was a liar, as I should have. I dropped to my knees in tears. I repented before God of my duplicity. …That Sunday I stood before my congregation and wept, asking for their forgiveness. It was a turning point in my calling before God.”
There is nothing more humbling than admitting that you were wrong, in front of a group of people who respect you and look up to you. As Christians we have to be willing to come alongside our pastors, to forgive when wrong choices are made, to love through times of struggle and confusion, and to hold our pastors accountable when changes are not made or when repentance is not enough to stay in leadership. While church leaders are held accountable by their church, they are also accountable to God for the truth that they preach. Jones exhorts,
“Over and over again, we are warned that church leaders must hold to the deep truths of the faith. Hell is one of those deep truths, albeit unpopular. Over and over again, we are warned not to be drawn away by unsound doctrine. With pain in his voice that came from years of heading off church train wrecks, Paul pleaded in his final words to Timothy to preach the word, every last bit of it, regardless of how unpopular it became. I’m pretty sure that exhortation still stands.”
Does your senior pastor preach this truth? If you haven’t heard your pastor preach on the topic of hell, ask why. It’s important that we encourage our pastors rather than put them down when we don’t agree with them, but hell is a topic that cannot be left unaddressed by churches. If your church refuses to preach on the topic of hell or thinks that hell is not important, then you may need to evaluate your church membership.
For further reading, see “4 Things about Hell Christians Really Need to Understand,” “5 Things We Believe about Hell that are Not in the Bible,” and “Why Our Christian Mission Must Include the Reality of Hell.”
To read Brian Jones’ full article, please visit Pastors.com.