I’d like you to picture in your mind the most amazingly good person you know who isn’t a Christian. Maybe that person is your parent, a family member, or a close friend. Maybe she is a remarkably kind Jewish woman who coached one of your sports teams or a profoundly spiritual but unbelieving teacher in your hometown school. My bet is you know at least one amazingly good person who isn’t a committed disciple of Jesus.
Now, ask yourself, “Given all the good this person has done, do I honestly think this person will go to hell if they don’t become a Christian before they die?”
My guess is that your answer is probably no.
Or “of course not.”
Or you thought, I just can’t see how a loving God would do such a thing.
If you mulled over any of those answers in your mind, then I have two thoughts I’d like to share with you.
First, it appears you’re in good company.
Second, I don’t know how to say this except to just come right out and say it—you’ve been duped.
To be fair, you probably answered no to that question because you are a normal, compassionate, open-minded, intelligent person who just happens to have been born in a period of human history when tolerance of one another’s religious beliefs reigns supreme.
Let’s acknowledge that almost everyone thinks this way. Let’s acknowledge that you’re in good company. Let’s even acknowledge that some churches say they believe in hell but never talk about it. But let’s also acknowledge the fact that you could be wrong. Smart, well-intentioned, and sophisticated people get duped all the time. I know, because I was duped myself.
But the time for being duped is over.
And the time for allowing our twenty-ﬁrst century culture to squeeze you into believing that “everyone’s beliefs are equally valid” is over. That mind-set is done. As St. Chrysostom so ominously warned, “We must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them we oﬀend God.”
It’s time to get serious.
Practically speaking, if everyone goes to heaven, why bother with Jesus at all? Why attend church? Why share our faith with others? None of this makes any sense. Why would we do anything beyond that which makes us feel good? If there is no hell, then giving less than our best to our faith makes perfect sense.
But if hell is real, it changes everything. I’m convinced that if we were to truly believe in hell, there would be no cost too high, no sacriﬁce too great, no pain too unbearable to keep us from doing everything in our power to convince people of this reality and show them the way out. To live any other way would be unthinkable.
The fourth-century monk St. Anthony wrote, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”
I believe that time is now. Christians say they believe the Bible, but anyone today who takes the Bible’s teaching on hell seriously is called intolerant, fanatical, and strange.
But for years I’ve had this unnerving conviction that what the Bible teaches is true: Hell is real; people without Christ in their lives go there, and I have a responsibility to reach every single person within my sphere of inﬂuence before it is too late. The more I’ve studied the Bible, the more I’ve realized the apostle Paul felt the same conviction:
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience conﬁrms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut oﬀ from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel (Rom. 9:1–4).
How about you? Do you feel great sorrow and unceasing anguish for that non-Christian friend you work with? That Jewish neighbor? That Hindu person who works at the restaurant you frequent? If not, why not? To me there are only two answers to that question: You either don’t believe in hell, or you don’t care that your friends will go there when they die. There’s no middle ground here. Most Christians I meet either don’t believe that their non-Christian friends are going to hell, or worse, don’t care.
Are you one of them?
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