Hell – An Important Part of the Gospel

Hell doesn’t fit into today’s market-driven church environment or sensitive, Madison Avenue version of the Gospel. We attract people with programs, resources, entertainment, and promises of blessings.  Hell just isn’t “seeker friendly.”

Is that to say that the Gospel should be all about scaring people and threatening them with impending doom without declaring the love, mercy, and blessings of God? Of course not, that’s my point. We need a healthy, Biblical balance of the complete Gospel as presented by Jesus and the Apostles. That includes both Heaven and Hell. That includes both love and anger. That includes both blessings and consequences. That includes both forgiveness and punishment.

It makes sense from a human standpoint to package the Gospel in the most attractive way possible. As Christians, we have become very concerned about the world’s opinion of us. We don’t want to appear to be “fanatics” or old-fashioned kooks. We want to attract people to Jesus through the lure of how salvation benefits us. We want to “attract” people, not inform them.

We are selling to them, instead of witnessing to them.

A story in the Wall Street Journal
reported that a growing number  of churches have services aimed at…. pets.

Yes, pets. (WSJ, 3-10-04). Church services are held to improve the lives and CHANCES FOR SALVATION for pets. It is believed that more people will come to church if church is more “relevant.” (Don’t laugh; how many things are done in fundamental churches today in the name of relevancy that would have been borderline ‘heathen’ ten years ago). Pets get to partake in communion. Funerals and “bark mitzvahs” are held for them.

Okay, that is an extreme example, granted. But it is the natural and logical result of man trying to “package” Christianity to be more appealing. When the techniques, tricks, and seeker-friendly methods are questioned, the next claim that arises is: “What’s wrong with it? It works!”

It must be okay because it works. That is what you call “pragmatic truth”; truth that is decided based on what is tested and works. The problem with that is…. God doesn’t work that way. He has declared what TRUTH is, and our responsibility is to deliver His message to the world exactly as He has given it to us. GOD IS REPONSIBLE FOR THE RESULTS, NOT US. Again, we are Ambassadors, not Sales Reps!

A quick review …

  • Hell is a place of eternal fire and torment – Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:42; Mark 9:43-44
  • You always remember what you lost and regret your decision to reject Christ – Luke 16:19-31; Rev 21.4
  • You will be thirsty, but never get a drink – Luke 16:24; John 4:14
  • You will be in agony, pain and constant misery – Revelation 14:10-11;
  • You will be bitter, angry, frustrated and desperate for all eternity – Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 24:51
  • You will experience the full fury and wrath of God – Revelation 14:10
  • You will never, ever, ever, get a break or be allowed to escape – Matthew 25:46; Jude 7
  • Hell is not temporary – Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9
  • Hell is not annihilation – Luke 16:22-23; Matt. 3:12; 13:41–42; Mark 9:43; Luke 16:19–31; Luke 16:24;Rev. 14:10, 11; Matt. 13:42; 24:51; Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 15; Hab. 3:2; Rev. 14:10; Matt. 25:41
  • Hell is not a bunch of “naughty” people having a party.
  • Hell is not a playground for the demons.
  • Hell is not simply a description of evil.
  • Satan is not the ruler of Hell – Matthew 25:41
  • A loving God not only will, but must, send those who reject Him to Hell for all eternity – Rom 3.23

Why is Hell a critical part of the Gospel message? Umm, isn’t it obvious? Millions are people are headed there. Any one of them could go at any second. How is it that you have to convince Christians that telling people about Hell is not only necessary but COMPASSIONATE?

Hell is an important part of the Gospel because Jesus and the Apostles considered it important. The talked about it an awful lot: Matt. 11:23;16:18; Luke 10:15;16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18;6:8;20:13, 14; Matt. 5:22, 29, 30;10:28;18:9;23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5;Jas. 3:6; 2 Pet. 2:4; Matt. 3:12; Matt. 5:29 v. 30; Matt. 7:13 v. 14.; Matt. 8:11, 12; Matt. 10:28; Matt. 13:30, 38–42, 49, 50; Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:8, 9, 34, 35;Matt. 22:13; Matt. 25:28–30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43, 44 vs. 45–48.; Matt. 5:29. Luke 3:17 Matt. 3:12. Luke 16:23, 24, 26 vs. 25,28; Acts 1:25. 2 Thess. 1:9; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6, 23; Rev. 9:1, 2 Rev. 11:7. Rev. 14:10, 11; Rev. 19:20; Rev. 20:10, 15; Rev. 21:8 Rev. 2:11.

They obviously did not consider it trivial, rude, or poor marketing. Hell is real. Look at the next person you see. If they are unsaved, they could drop dead from a heart attack and be in Hell right now this second. So are you being rude or being compassionate by informing them of that truth?

Hell is an important part of the Gospel because it inserts an element of urgency that is otherwise missing. Trying to “sell” the Gospel leaves people with the idea that there is time to ponder, consider, and weigh the decision about Christ. This is simply not accurate, nor compassionate. The time to obey Christ is NOW because you are not guaranteed one single second of life. There are a thousand ways to die at any given moment.

Hell is an important part of the Gospel because of the finality and eternality of the decision. Telling someone that “Jesus will improve your life,” and you get to go to Heaven to boot, does not convey the tragic result of what happens if you reject Christ. This decision affects eternity. You can only be wrong once. No second chance. People need to be very, very clear what their rejection of Christ really means.

Hell is an important part of the Gospel because it helps the hearer to understand the full nature of God. It is not enough to simply appeal to them on the basis that “God is love.” God IS love; perfect love. But He is also perfect justice, jealousy, anger, wrath, and power. Including the reality of Hell in the Gospel presentation allows the hearer to get a complete picture of Who they are dealing with. God is love and mercy and kindness and patience and forgiveness and blessing…… oh yes, people need to know that. But they need to know the terrible wrath of God that comes with rejecting His offer of love and forgiveness.

Hell is an important part of the Gospel because it gives us reason to persevere when times get tough. Consider this story (I didn’t make it up, but I can’t remember where I read it):

A guy gets on a commercial airliner and is approached by the airline attendant. She tells him to put on this big bulky parachute saying that it will “improve his flight.”  She explains that the flight will be more pleasant, that he will feel better, and that the flight in general will just be more enjoyable. And when the flight is over, he will be safe. So he puts on the parachute and tries to squeeze into the cramped little airline seat. Well as the flight goes on he gets more and more uncomfortable. His back hurts, his shoulder hurts, he can’t find a way to sit that is relaxing. What’s more, people begin to make fun of him. They snicker and laugh at him and make comments about what an idiot he is to wear a parachute on a commercial flight. After a while, he gets sick of hearing the criticism and taunts, and along with the discomfort and aching muscles, decides to take the parachute off. The parachute apparently does NOT make the flight better, so why bother.

Guy number two gets on the airplane and the airline attendant gives him a parachute is well. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear “at 30,000 feet we are going to open the door and throw everyone out.” This guy sits down and experiences the same discomfort, the same aching muscles, the same taunting and criticism; but of course there is no possible way that he is going to take the parachute off because he understands the consequences of the decision.

You can see where I’m going with this. Many people put Jesus on for a while because they have been told that “Jesus will improve your life,” which is all well and good unless you leave out the part concerning the consequences of rejecting Jesus. So many people give Jesus a bit of a chance and then the inevitable hardships of life come upon them. Then the equally inevitable criticism and taunting begins to occur and pretty soon you are left with a person who feels like Jesus did not live up his promise to make their life better.

Without a clear understanding of Hell, you have neglected to give the person a second very compelling reason to obey Jesus – if you don’t, they could be condemned to eternal torment and suffer the wrath of God.

That’s a powerful motivator, not fire insurance. Hell is an important part of presenting the Gospel.