That awful four letter word!
I am continually shocked by the use of this four letter word.
Perhaps you are too.
So I usually avoid saying it, because I don't want people to be shocked by it either.
And like most people, deep down I want people to like and respect me.
I think most Christians avoid saying it because of the reaction it can cause amongst decent folk.
You know which word I am alluding to, don't you?
But brace yourself because I am about to spell it out.
No, I need to be bolder. I'll spell it again.
H E L L
There I've done it.
I may have heard it mentioned in church over the past 22 years. I just can't recall when.
Once or twice, in my childhood, I think I heard street preachers (common in those days) shout the word through a megaphone, but like the very word itself, I confess I was somewhat embarrassed by their bold confrontational activity.
But Jesus wasn't embarrassed by saying it.
Because it is a truth. A terrifying truth.
For Him not to have spoken of it would be similar to a man knowing that a massive tsunami was approaching but refused to speak the word lest people would be seriously discomforted or terrified.
Yet telling people gives them the chance to run to the safety of higher ground.
Hell, for many, is the approaching tsunami, and Jesus is the higher ground.
Contrary to some declarations, Jesus spoke more of heaven than hell, but He did speak more of hell more than any other biblical figure. Approximately 13% of His teaching and about 50% of His parables were about punishment, judgement and hell.
So it is important to take a few minutes to really read, and really absorb what Jesus said on this issue. [All emphasis in the verses below are mine.]
Matthew 25:30 & 41 & 46
Even in the last book of the Bible Jesus is still speaking on this terrible fate for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life.
Revelation 20: 12-15
Jesus makes it clear in the scripture quoted immediately above, that this lake of everlasting, tormenting fire is essentially for the devil and the angels that followed him in his rebellion against God.
Here are some of the descriptive terms used to describe the reality of this hellish place.
I wish it were not so. But wishing it were not so does not make it not so.
Using various words such as Hades, Sheol, Gehenna, Abyss, Abaddon and Tartaros the Old and New Testament declare this to be so.
And of course as we've seen, Jesus Himself declares it to be so, and He does not tell lies.
If these things were not so He would have told us.
Who is bound for this awful eternal state? Unless redeemed, everybody.
A genuine enquirer invited my wife and I to dinner in order to have some of his troubling questions answered. He had been a church attender for many years and was (I suspected) reasonably confident of his own righteousness as 'a good man'.
One question was this.
That question was easy, but the answer perhaps unexpected.
Listen to Jesus confirming this truth in the final pages of scripture.
As Paul says, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Nothing defiling has ever, or will ever enter heaven. Until we understand that we can be easily confused or deceived. (Revelation 21:27)
Using spirit mediums satan deceives many people into thinking that this hellish state does not exist. Roman Catholicism speaks of a middle ground called purgatory where those on earth can, by prayers, rituals, sacrifices and indulgences, see souls, not bad enough to go to hell, but not good enough to go to heaven, eventually being released into heaven by their earthly efforts.
Even well meaning ministers and pastors can give the impression at funerals that the un-redeemed are now safely with their loved ones in heaven. It is a sensitive time and the urge is to guard the listeners hearts and be sensitive to their grief.
I think it is safe to say that the majority of people think death automatically takes you to be with your loved ones in heaven, or else they think that the choice is between Christians spending eternity with God singing His praises or a total wipeout. No awareness after death.
And so they escape facing the Biblical reality.
Jesus said that unless we (you and I) repent, we perish. (Luke 13:3)
God's heart is that no one should perish, but that all should repent.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Hell is what we are saved from. That's why He sent Jesus. That's why the cruel cross. That's why the bloodied tortured Messiah.
It made a way, the one and the only way, to heaven. There is salvation in no other Name. (Acts 4:12)
Listen to what Jesus said about the very heart of God.
That's why satan, the god of this world, offers so many religions without Christ as Redeemer.
That's why the early church - until recent decades - took the 'go into all the world' commission seriously.
I heard it put this way, and it simplifies things.
Passengers on a train end up where the train driver goes. Running down the train corridor in the opposite direction is to no avail.
Safety is dismounting from the devil's train and boarding Jesus' train.
Then and then only can we safely proclaim
There, I've said it.
And it has changed how I pray for the unsaved that I know.