“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” ~Jesus
Nobody likes to talk about hell. It’s not very popular to tell someone, “Hey, if you don’t believe Jesus has forgiven you of your sins, once and for all, you will go to hell.” That’s not cool—but it is loving—if you can pull it off in the proper way.
If you don’t, you probably won’t be getting an invite to the next barbecue. However, if we look to Jesus, He warned us more about hell than He talked positively about heaven. He spoke about hell all the time because He doesn’t want any of us to go there.
I believe the main problem with telling others about hell is the approach most Christians take. There is a fine line here. One of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter, advises us to tell others about the hope we have in Christ, but to do so with gentleness and respect (see 1 Peter 3:15). I’ve never won anyone over to believing in Jesus by being rude to them about the gospel, or by being aggressive about hell. We don’t make Jesus look appealing to unbelievers by acting snarky, self-righteous, or by trying to make them petrified of being tortured forever.
Sure, I think Jesus wants us to make it known that there is a place He has nothing to do with—a place specifically reserved for those who reject His free forgiveness. But we are to make that place known about with grace.
Let’s do some 101 stuff about hell, and then let’s try to see if we can get people to not so much be afraid of hell—although, yes, unbelievers should be afraid, because it’s a bad place—but let’s try to get people to see the easy way out of going to hell: Jesus’ death on the Cross and our belief in that event as true for our own personal sin. We have to believe we need it and then receive it freely by grace through faith (see 1 John 1:8-10, Romans 3:23-24, Ephesians 2:8-9). The worst part about hell is that it might not end. There’s biblical evidence for both destruction as well as eternal fire. But the best part about heaven is that it never ends! So let’s refocus!
Here’s a list of some facts about hell, what we can do to help others not go there, and why it even exists. Let’s start with that last subject:
1. Why is there a hell? Jesus said hell is a place of fire and it was created for the devil and his demons (see Matthew 25:41). Some people claim we are currently in hell, but we’re not. There are three different realms. Heaven, hell, and this physical universe. God is a part of two of these realms (heaven and earth), and so is Satan and his demons (hell and earth). As humans–flesh–our bodies are a part of just one—the physical universe (earth). But one day our flesh will die and the never-ending part of us, our spirit, will live on in heaven or hell. Our spirits are the “real” us. They are either completely sinful or completely perfect (see Romans 5-6). There is no middle ground. God looks at our spirits to determine if we are going to heaven or hell. Heaven is sin-free, so our spirits must be sin-free. This can only happen by way of spiritual death and spiritual rebirth, that’s why Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.'” (John 3:7). This happens once in our human lifetime, and it only happens by grace through faith (see Romans 6:6-7, Hebrews 10:10, Ephesians 2:8-9). The opposite of hell, heaven is a place where God’s love and our relationship with Him is completely undiluted. That’s why it’s so wonderful! Hell is only sin and love is not allowed. It’s a place of torment where evil and hate are completely undiluted. In hell, God’s presence is void, that’s why it’s so terrible–because He’s not there. This physical universe–part of it being the planet you are on–has a mixture of both good and evil, because it’s fallen and has the presence of sin. In heaven, sin does not exist, it’s a perfect place.
2. God is here with us, on earth. In hell, He is not there. I just touched on this, but I want to go a little further. In heaven, God’s presence is magnified completely because of the absence of sin. In heaven, His will is done entirely. He is so prevalent there that He is heaven. We will actually get our light from Him, just like we currently get our light from the sun. This is why the Bible says, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23). To take this subject even deeper, if you are a believer you are already in heaven with God, at this very moment! (See Ephesians 2:6). There is no such thing as time in the supernatural realm! God created the very notion of time for our physical lives to be able to be lived out on earth. Therefore, your physical life is finishing up day by day–but like God, you, a spirit, are not bound by time, space, or matter! So your spirit is already enjoying heaven today! (See 2 Peter 3:8).
3. “Nobody will be in heaven who doesn’t want to be there.” This was something Grandma used to say to me. The fact of the matter is, it’s our choice whether we go to heaven or not. God doesn’t decide, we do. Our loving Creator doesn’t send people to hell, we go there by rejecting the gospel. The Bible says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). As you can see, God has made it simple…BELIEVE IN JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR. Legalistic Christians have made it so much more difficult than simply believing He has forgiven us. Should we repent of sinful behavior and attitudes? Should we get baptized in water? Sure. But, neither repentance of incorrect choices and mindsets, nor immersion in any liquid, will get you to heaven. These are the carts behind the horse. These are the things you do to build up your relationship with God after being saved for free. We do these things in order to show Him how much we love Him, and to walk out our true identity!
4. A “terrible person” who didn’t get baptized or prove to God through his actions (behavior repentance), is currently in heaven. That person is the thief on the cross. When Jesus was hanging on His Cross, a man next to Him was being executed on his own. This man told Jesus he believed Him, and Jesus replied, “On this day, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Christ didn’t get down off His Cross and run to the closest well to get a bucket of water, then come back and toss it up on the thief. Neither did anyone else. Further, this man didn’t even have a chance to turn his life around through behavior repentance. Yes, the earthly consequences of his sinful choices was killing him, but he still believed in Jesus–proving belief is what saves.
5. As a Christian, you must stop being afraid of hell. “Stop being afraid?! Matt, you can’t say that! People are going to hell every day!” I know, but we aren’t. I’m not saying don’t be afraid of hell if you don’t believe in Jesus, that’s a very healthy fear. I’m saying, once you do believe in Jesus, stop being afraid of hell. Be afraid of what your unrenewed thinking will do to your life, but stop being afraid of eternal punishment. You aren’t going to hell once you believe Jesus has forgiven you. I repeat, once! As in, the very first time! (See Hebrews 10:10, Ephesians 4:30). From the moment you believed He forgave you, He actually did! He forgave all your sin—past, present, and dare I say, future. YES! This is the gospel! You’ve been adopted into the family of God and as long as Jesus lives you will stay saved from hell! (See Ephesians 1:5, Hebrews 7:25).
Of course, I could continue on with this list, but I believe this will help you understand hell better–as well as heaven. Remember, God doesn’t want you to go there! That’s why He is so patient! (See 2 Peter 3:9). That’s why He sent Jesus! (John 3:16). He’s made it so easy for us to be sure we don’t end up there after we die: believe in Jesus as your Savior. The grace-confused people will say, “Even the demons believe and shudder!” (See James 2:19). That’s true, but they are already damned, we aren’t. And they aren’t believing in Jesus for His forgiveness, we are.
So if you’ve never placed your faith Jesus, repeat this prayer with me, believe it in your heart as true, and you will not go to hell:
Jesus, I am a sinner. I do not have the ability to remove the sin punishment of hell because of my sin, only you do. The Bible says you are patient with us because you don’t want any of us to perish, and I’m grateful for that. Thank you for your patience with me! I don’t want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven and be with you forever, starting right now. Please forgive me of all my sin–past, present, and future. Give me my new spirit. Make your home in my heart. I want to live my life with you and through you. Please show me how to do this each day and begin to mold my actions and attitudes into what they should be as a saint. Always remind me that you are with me! Remind me how much you love me! And remind me to not be afraid! Thank you for saving me. Now, help me to help others know you too. Amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!