The reality of eternity without Christ compels me to preach the gospel
For the most part, the subject of hell has not been a topic of discussion in churches today. One of the reasons is that, in the past, hell was presented with a fire-and-brimstone, “you’re going to burn” attitude. As a result, it is a message perceived of as unloving and harsh. However, if it is presented as a message of warning, and not of condemnation, it is more readily accepted. A message of warning is a message of love. What loving parent wouldn’t warn his or her child not to play in a busy street? If a person truly understands what eternity might bring, they may be a bit more receptive to the gospel. God’s desire is to get people into heaven, not keep them out!
Another reason the topic is avoided is because of a lack of answers as to the “whys” regarding the extreme severity and eternal duration of hell. To many, God would be unloving to allow such punishment for all eternity.
This lack of teaching—and even ignoring of the subject altogether—is derived from a questioning of the morality of God. Some criticize His justice, stating that if they were God they wouldn’t allow someone to suffer forever, so then God certainly wouldn’t either. A lack of understanding causes silence on the subject. If hell is mentioned, it is downplayed in order to avoid offending anyone. The fear of loss of congregation members is on the minds of many pastors.
The misconceptions of hell could easily be avoided if people had the answers to some of the more challenging questions. I answered many of these questions in my latest book, 23 Questions About Hell. There are straightforward and clear biblical answers to these questions. There are also reasons Christians need to hear teaching about hell:
1. Understanding how severe hell is gives us a greater appreciation of our own salvation. Many do not believe in a literal place of torment. Some Christians believe that if someone dies denying Jesus, they simply cease to exist. This belief, called annihilationism, is not biblical and can easily be repudiated. Jesus said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). The same Greek word for everlasting (aionios) is used in both places. Just as heaven is eternal, so is hell.
Revelation 20:13 states, “Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” They are delivered up from the grave (sheol) and judged. It is clear that existence continues after death—both for those resurrected to eternal life and for those resurrected to eternal judgment (see Matt. 13:42, 18:8; Luke 16:23; 2 Thess. 1:9-10; Heb. 6:2; Jude 7,13; Rev. 14:10-11).
2. There is a lack of the fear of the Lord today. An absence of reverence has caused many to live compromised lifestyles. Psalms 89:7 says, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints.” Many Christians live in sin and think it is acceptable because of a misunderstanding of grace. However, grace is the empowerment to overcome sin, not excuse sin.
Others think that a loving God will simply overlook their sins. This view exalts God’s love to the diminishment of His holiness. The Bible says that without holiness “no one shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Jesus said in Mark 9:47, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
When we have an understanding that hell is a horrific place, we will not feel comfortable living in sin. God’s desire is for us to mature in our walk with Him to the point that we actually hate evil (see Ps. 119:104,128,163; Prov. 8:13). In addition, it is not only love for God that keeps us from sin, it is the fear of God. Proverbs 16:6 says, “By the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.”
3. Learning more about hell will give us more passion for the lost. It has been said that only 2 percent of Christians even bother to witness. Yet that is what believers are called to do (see Mark 16:15). Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”
(2 Cor. 5:11). God holds us accountable if we don’t share the gospel (see Ezek. 33:8; Acts 20:26, 18:6). God’s will is for us to “make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:27-28).
When we understand the severity of hell and judgment we will be more persuasive with men. We will have a heartfelt desire and urgency to share the gospel.
Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (see Matt. 25:41). God did not intend for man to go to this place. In addition, He is not sending people to hell. Everyone is on the road to hell automatically because of sin (see Ps. 51:1-5; John 3:17-18). God warns people through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to get them off that road. Job 33:15-18 says that He even gives man dreams and visions to keep back his soul from the pit. And, because He loves man, He has given him a free will to choose (see Deut. 30:19).
A major part of our ministry is to answer these difficult questions regarding an eternal hell: why it is justified, who goes there and how to stay out. We have seen thousands saved, and Christians are receiving a passion for the lost with a desire to walk uprightly.
Our main pursuit is for lost souls. Proverbs 11:30 states, “He who wins souls is wise.” Charles Spurgeon said, “Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian. It should be the main pursuit of every true believer.” Our heart is to share the reality of God’s judgment with the unsaved so they can make an informed decision, repent and make Jesus the Lord and Savior of their lives.
Bill Wiese is the New York Times best-selling author of 23 Minutes in Hell. He is an accomplished speaker and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows.
Evangelism: Our Most Sobering Task
Don’t let the comfort of a padded pew keep you from a world that needs Jesus
By Ray Comfort
It was December 1996. A large family gathered in Los Angeles for the joyous occasion of wrapping Christmas presents. Because there were so many gathered that night, five of the children slept in the garage. It was a converted structure, kept warm during the cold night by an electric heater that sat by the door.
During the early morning, the heater suddenly burst into flames, blocking the doorway. In seconds the room became a blazing inferno. The frantic 911 call revealed the unspeakable terror of the moment. One of the children could be heard screaming, “I’m on fire!” The distraught father vainly rushed into the flames to try and save his beloved children. Tragically, all five children burned to death. They died because steel bars on the garage windows thwarted their escape and the only door was in flames.
Pretend you are back in time. It’s minutes before the heater bursts into flames. You peer in the darkness at the peaceful sight of five sleeping youngsters, knowing at any moment the room is going to erupt into an inferno and burn the flesh of horrified children. Can you in good conscience walk away? No! You must awaken them and warn them to run from that death trap!
The world sleeps peacefully in the darkness of ignorance. There is only one door by which they may escape death. The steel bars of sin prevent their salvation and also call for the flames of eternal justice. What a fearful thing Judgment Day will be! The fires of the wrath of almighty God will burn for eternity.
The church has been entrusted with the task of awakening them before it’s too late. We cannot turn our backs and walk away in complacency. Think of how the father ran into the flames. His love knew no bounds.
So too our devotion to the sober task that God has given us will be in direct proportion to our love for the lost. There are only a few who run headlong into the flames to warn the world to flee (see Luke 10:2). Please be one of them. We really have no choice. The apostle Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
Remember that, as pastors, you have the sobering responsibility of speaking to other people’s loved ones. Many times when you open your mouth to preach the gospel, you may be the answer to the earnest prayer of another Christian. Perhaps he has cried out for God to use a faithful witness to speak to his beloved mom or dad, and you are that answer to prayer.
Never lose sight of the world and all its pains. Keep the fate of the ungodly before your eyes. Too many of us settle down on a padded pew and become introverted. Our friends are confined solely to those within the church, while Jesus was the “friend of sinners.” Remember that each and every person who dies in their sins has an appointment with the judge of the universe. There is no more sobering task than to be entrusted with the gospel of salvation—working with God for the eternal well-being of dying humanity.
Ray Comfort is an evangelist, author, television host and founder of Living Waters ministry (liv
ingwaters.com). His latest resource for helping believers answer those who dispute the gospel is The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions.
How to Lead Someone to Christ
Keep this guide handy. You might need it today!
As a busy pastor, you aren’t always asked to lead someone in a one-on-one prayer for salvation. But it could happen today! Keep this simple guide to salvation handy for that moment. To help someone begin a relationship with God, have them:
1. Recognize their need. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All of us are sinners, and we must admit our need for a Savior.
2. Repent of their sins. Because God is completely holy, our sins create a wall that separates us from Him. Tell them that by confessing their sins they will find forgiveness. “Repent” means to make a 180-degree turnaround. The Bible promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
3. Believe in Jesus. God worked a miracle when He sent His only Son to die for us. We don’t have to pay for our sins—Jesus paid it all! We can’t work for our salvation. It is a gift from God, and all He requires is that we believe. Encourage them to put their complete faith and trust in Him. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis added).
4. Receive His salvation. God has given us this free gift, but we must accept and receive it. Have them thank Him for sending Jesus to die on the cross and for His amazing love, mercy and forgiveness. Then have them ask Him to live in their heart. His promise is sure: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
5. Confess their faith. The Bible assures us: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). If someone has repented and put faith in Christ, tell them they have been born again and are now part of God’s family. Encourage them to tell someone else what Jesus has done in their life.