(Warning: post contains graphic language)
“Damn your soul to hell!” screamed the mother repeatedly at the murderer of her young son. The scripted line came from a movie that was loosely based on a true story of a man who forced his adolescent nephew to assist him in picking up young boys, taking them to his farm across the border, and using an axe to kill over 20 victims. The man was hanged for the murders but did he go to hell?
Nobody wants to believe that Hades/hell/Sheol exists. Heaven is an acceptable belief to most Christians because of the image that we will be like angels and live on streets of gold (though I have heard some say that they are afraid of being bored in this ethereal abode). Unbelievers chaff at the possibility of, and the born again chaffs at the thought of loved ones, being cast into either a pit of unquenchable fire or utter darkness.
It is no wonder that some religious denominations refuse to preach about a physical place of eternal damnation. Perhaps the old ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons upset the modern congregation; or final judgment of sinners is considered incongruent with the message that God is love; or the belief that a God of love could never create such a horrific place. A closer look into this theology (though I’m probably only skirting the topic since I am no theologian) may reveal that many today are uncomfortable with believing in the Judgment Day. Belief in the afterlife for the wicked is passé and not politically correct in our enlightened age.
Is the shift from the belief in a Dante’s like “Inferno” due to being unwilling to accept the possibility that more than a few people may truly be sent to hell? If so, then what should we do with the hard truths of Jesus Christ who said in Matthew 22:7, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” And again, in verse 13, “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” These words by Christ refer to and are evidence of the judgment to come (see Matthew 8:12 and 25:30).
A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If I am uncomfortable with the thought that God reserved a place of eternal damnation for the wicked and unrepentant, then I will not be comfortable preaching repentance. If my focus is on preaching eternal judgment, then I may be remiss on testifying about the hope of redemption. I cannot ignore the many examples of God’s judgments (for example, see Isaiah 1-3) and the response of godly men and women who praise God for His judgments (see Psalm 9). But just as importantly, I am reassured by Scripture that even creation will be freed from “the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21). Is there a place where the wicked will be cast eternally? For this Christian, the question is settled by the certainty that Christ will return in all His glory and complete deliverance from all our sinful natures.
Dear Lord Jesus, You are the author of faith and the guarantee of redemption. I pray that none would suffer loss of Your precious gift of salvation. I pray that I would work alongside Your Holy Spirit in wooing others into the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Your precious blood – Amen.