Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Truth About Heaven and Hell

Something that's been on my mind a lot lately is @#!*% . I recently finished Love Wins by Rob Bell and Erasing  Hell  by Francis Chan, two books that hold completely different views on eternity. Bell is a dogmatic universalist; he thinks people will get unlimited second chances in the afterlife to choose to follow Jesus. He essentially believes that eventually everyone will be in heaven. Chan believes that people have no second chance after death; if we follow Jesus on earth, we spend eternity with Him, but if we don't follow Him, we spend eternity in @#!*% .

A sensitive issue nowadays, @#!*% is sometimes downplayed in church. On the other hand, some preachers try too hard to "scare the @#!*% out of people", as I like to say. I have found it uncomfortable to tell lost people they will go to @#!*% if they don't follow Christ. It sounds so one-sided, so mean. I can't help but think of it from the lost person's perspective. Accepting that your fate is in @#!*%  isn't the easiest pill to swallow. But then I remember that Jesus Himself preached often about @#!*% .

Look with me at some passages. Matthew 25 is our first destination. Verses 31-46 recount the story of the Sheep and the Goats. The first three verses say, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." Note that the sheep (God's children; His flock) are separated from the goats (the lost). Separated is the key word. In the following verses, Jesus tells the sheep, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world...", and He tells the goats, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Now skip to the last three verses. After hearing their sentence to the eternal lake, the goats were incredulous, obviously expecting heaven, not @#!*% . But "He [Jesus] will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." From this passage, Jesus clearly believes that His children will spend eternity with Him, and He expects the lost to spend eternity separated from Him.

The second thing we'll look at a few parables. Matthew 24:45-51 is a parable about a wicked and lazy servant. Once the master of the servant discovered his laziness, he cut him to pieces and assigned him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The servant represents the lost, and the master represents Jesus.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, is our next stop. Ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom late one night. All ten had lamps, but only five were wise and brought extra oil to keep their lamps burning all night. The five who were ill-prepared ran out of fuel and had to go purchase more oil. "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’" We see these five who were unprepared shunned and locked outside of the wedding party. I certainly don't want to end up like an unprepared virgin, missing out on the everlasting wedding party between Christ and the church!

The last parable is the Parable of the Talents. Found in Matthew 25:14-30, this well known parable is about a man going on a journey, but before he leaves he entrusts his servants with his property. I'm going to skip straight to the point I want to make here: the third servant was lazy and wicked and did not serve his master well. As a result, the master said, "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." We once again see a picture of someone who refuses to serve his Master and the result is separation from Him and an eternity in hell.

In Love Wins, Bell shared his belief and hope that hell wouldn't last forever. Instead of adopting the traditional belief that a man will spend eternity in either hell or heaven, he instead believes all people will go to heaven, but until they make the decision to spend eternity with God, they spend time in a place called hell, or hades. However, I find no proof of this anywhere in Scripture. For this to be true, Jesus would have to have said so. Nowhere in Scripture do I find anyone saying that hell is only temporary, so I won't spend time finding Scripture to counter the false belief. Nor do I find any Scripture that says everyone will be in heaven with Jesus. I find the absolute contrary, actually, and I will discuss this topic.

In addition to the Sheep and the Goats parable, which clearly shows separation between the Christians and the lost, many Scriptures, especially the New Testament letters, support the idea that only Christians will make it into heaven. First and foremost are the middle chapters of Romans. One of my favorite verses, Romans 8:9, says, "...if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Relate this verse back to the Sheep and the Goats and my point is already proven: only those inhabited by the Spirit of Christ (a.k.a., Christians) will enter into heaven. But I want to share a few other verses that support this truth even more. Romans 8:6 says, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." Again, we see a picture of "Spirit = life" and "flesh = death." Galatians 5:19-21 says, "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Ephesians 1:13b-14a says, "When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance..." Once more we see that the Spirit seems to be the reason we will one day inherit the kingdom. Ephesians 5:5 says, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." This verse says that God has to be your Number One- or else you will be in hell forever, burning in a lake of fire. 1 Peter 1:3-4 talks about Christians' inheritance in heaven, an inheritance that "can never perish, spoil, or fade..."

And let's not forget what Jesus said in John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." The only way to be set free is by Jesus. No other way leads to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus told His disciples, "...I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." No one comes to the father except through Christ. And how do you know if Christ has set you free? By the Spirit of Christ, by whom Christians are marked with a seal. The Holy Spirit is our deposit guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven (Eph. 1:13b-14a). And "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Surely by now you see that:

1. Heaven and hell are both permanent after-life destinations.
2. Hell is the final destination, a place of endless torture and punishment for those who didn't choose Christ.
3. Only Christians will inherit heaven, the kingdom of God.
4. The only way to be a Christian is to have Christ's Spirit living in you.
5. Everyone who isn't a Christian will spend eternity in hell.

I hope this has been a sobering yet encouraging post for you. I hope you are encouraged to be bold in your faith. Don't be ashamed or afraid and most certainly do not feel guilty about telling people about Christ. If Jesus Himself fearlessly preached about hell, we should imitate Him. Hell is a core part of the Gospel. If hell didn't exist, and we all would end up in heaven eventually, then Jesus died for nothing. So please don't be afraid to tell your lost friend that if he doesn't choose Jesus, he will go to hell. Of course, there are different ways to deliver this message to different types of people. Not everyone takes "hey, you're going to hell!" very easily. As I said earlier, it isn't the easiest pill to swallow. So tell them with grace, wisdom, and love. Don't preach hate. That's the last thing anyone needs. Hell is real, and it's the final destination for any unsaved person. Take it upon yourself to enter heaven with as many converts as possible. If I truly am a Christian, then nothing should matter more to me than evangelism. How could we, as Christians, sit back, withholding the Good News, and let people go to hell? What kind of Christ-like love is that! Don't sit on the pews any longer. Get out and tell the world that He lives!

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