By Gary L. Coles
Arnie was suddenly awakened by a terrifying wail. As the fog of sleep began to lift from his mind, he immediately became aware of his surroundings. The first thing he noticed was he was wringing wet with perspiration. He could never remember being as hot as he was now. In fact, the heat had a smothering effect. The intense heat made each breath an act of agony. He also became aware of a parched throat and swollen tongue. At that moment he would have given a million dollars for drink of water.
He then began to notice screams of anguish. There were people all around him. Millions and millions of people. Perhaps, even billions. What was going on? Where was he? Suddenly he knew. But it couldn’t be. He had always laughed at anyone whoever spoke of Hell. He must be dreaming. That’s it. It’s just a dream. But something deep down inside told him otherwise. Pain and remorse began to envelop him. This was not a dream. This was for real, and even worse, it was for all eternity. Suddenly, he heard a blood curdling scream. A scream of terror and panic. A scream that came from Arnie’s throat.
Although the illustration is fictitious, the Bible indicates that it will be the ultimate fate of most people. How about you? Do you really believe Hell exists? Many in the church say they believe in Hell while their actions indicate otherwise. It is quite obvious that those Christians who refuse to regularly attend the worship services, study their Bibles with any degree of consistency, maintain a life of moral integrity, or display an attitude of love and compassion to others do not really believe in hell. If they did, their lives would reflect it.
One encouraging sign is that more Americans seem to believe that there is some type of Hell. According to a 1991 Gallup Pole, 60 percent of Americans believe in hell, up from 54 percent in 1965. The down side is that most Americans do not believe in the hell that is described in the Bible.
Recently, I ran across an interesting quotation made by Augustine DiNoia, a theologian for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The popular image of hell has next to nothing to do with the doctrine of it. Not only is it flame-free, but people who go there do so by choice. God isn’t some vindictive judge sending humans to a place of punishment. If that were the case, he would be a monster.”
The March 25, 1991 issue of U.S. News and World Report devoted several pages to the subject of hell. A few important quotations are listed below:
Kenneth S. Kantzer, a former Christianity Today editor confessed, “he hadn’t preached a sermon on hell in more than three decades.”
Martin Marty, University of Chicago professor said, “Hell had disappeared and no one noticed . . . If people really believed in hell, they wouldn’t be watching basketball or even the TV preachers. They’d be out rescuing people.”
C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying, “Hell was not made for man.”
Mary Krus, pastor of Dumbarton Methodist church in Washington, D.C. said, “My congregation would be stunned to hear a sermon on hell.”
Avery Dulles, professor of theology at Fordham University in New York said, “It’s quite possible that no one will really go there.”
The Justice of Hell
Is God a monster? Is condemning a person to hell for eternity unfair? To answer these questions, there are a few things we need to consider. If you were God, what would you do with all of the wicked disobedient people of the world? Keep in mind that you have done everything possible to deter these people from their destructive path. You even sent your only son to die an unimaginable death on the cross. Yet, these people stubbornly refused to live a Godly life. Do you give them a second chance via a thousand years and then give them time off for good behavior? When I begin to consider all of the possibilities, there is one thing I am certain of: I have no desire to be in God’s place!
If God failed to punish the wicked and disobedient of the world he could no longer claim to be a just and fair God. In Psalms 89:14 we can read, “righteousness and justice are the foundation of Thy throne; Loving- kindness and truth go before Thee.” It is impossible for God to be anything but just and fair.
God’s ultimate desire is for every-one to be spared the pain and anguish of hell. “. . . not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, the next verse speaks of God destroying the earth and its works. Matthew 7:13,14 in-forms us that the majority of people will find themselves on the broad way leading to destruction. The Bible does not portray God as an evil sadistic monster just waiting to torch his people. God is represented as a Being who cannot coexist with sin and will eternally punish any of his people who spurn and reject his offer for salvation. Is that unfair?
Hell is Eternal (Matt. 25:46)
Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14)
Extreme Anguish (Matt. 13:42)
The Second Death (Rev. 20:14)
Eternal Separation from God (Matt. 25:41)
Loathsome Inhabitants (Rev. 21:8)
Hell is for Real
The preceding illustration gives a brief overview of what the Bible says about hell. If you believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible, you must also believe in hell. Hell is for real! It does exist!
It is unfortunate that many people live a life that reflects a complete disbelief in hell including some Christians.
How many of us would turn an oven up to the maximum temperature, and then place our head in the oven. We would all admit, anyone doing this would be considered abnormal. Yet, there are many today, including Christians, who are doing the same with their soul. It is quite evident that many Christians lack any fear of hell. One of the reasons for this has been the neglect of preachers and teachers to speak of this topic. It is time for preachers and teachers to let their listeners know what God has said on this vitally important topic. God chose to inform us of hell through his written word. God wanted us to be so frightened of hell that we would do anything to avoid it. Unfortunately, many of us banish any thought of hell from our minds. We would rather consider more pleasant thoughts. We feel as if we have plenty of time to bring our lives into conformity with God’s will. However, James tells us that life is like a vapor that appears for a little while and then disappears. Life is uncertain. A person should take not chances with his soul.
The choice is yours. What will it be? If you awaken and find yourself in hell you will have no one to blame but yourself.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 22, p. 6-7
November 21, 1996