Hell. Is it really a real place? Is it really as bad as Christians make it seem? Should Hell be a part of how we evangelize? Now, I know many of you probably think or have thought about bible-thumping, loud-mouthed, brimstone style pastors when you hear the word Hell. However, Hell is a very literal place and its reality has been lost on many people in our churches today. The top 20 songs being sung by churches all over the nation have no mention of “Hell” nor contain themes about the consequence of unbelief and sin.
That is not to say that every song that we sing on a Sunday morning must contain the word “hell” or talk about eternal punishment apart from Christ. However, these trends exist and matter. Sadly, as a whole, the American Church has lost its urgency towards evangelism- in part because we have stopped talking about hell. I want to mention this now- I am not an expert on Hell nor do I claim to be one. In fact, I have leaned heavily into Francis Chan and his wonderful book on Hell titled “Erasing Hell.” It’s a fantastic read and is incredibly helpful for unpacking such a difficult topic. With that being said, let us look at scripture together.
Luke 16:19-31 depicts the story of Lazarus and the rich man and within this story, we catch an interesting glimpse into Hell. Verse 23 starts “And being in torment in Hades, he (the rich man) looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’….(Abraham replies) a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’” (emphasis added).
In reference to Revelation 20, and put in tandem with this passage in Luke, Chan’s comment that spiritual death/Hades/Hell is for “those who will be separated from God forever in an ongoing state of punishment.” Whew. Every lost person that you know, even the kindest old lady that has always been so sweet to you, is going to face this reality. Ongoing punishment, agony, and unquenchable flames; this is the reality for all those who are not saved. My hope is that your initial reaction isn’t that of feeling that God is not fair. No, the hope is that you feel a sense of urgency towards evangelizing the lost people in your life. A Christian who does not evangelize is like a doctor who does not warn a patient of their heart disease or a meteorologist who doesn’t warn of a hurricane.
As a Christian, you have all the news to offer. You have the Good News of the Gospel, the John 3:16 and the whole book of Romans! You also have the bad news, the penalty of sin and future for all unbelievers. Yet, so many of us are more concerned with the house we are buying, the children we are raising, the job that we hate. My hope, for myself and all of you, would be that we would hate to see our friends in Hell more than our favorite sports team lose. That we would hate to know that our family member is going to spend eternity in unquenchable flames, desperate for but a drop of water on their tongue, more than we want that kitchen renovation. Hell is a real place and come Hell or high water, people in our lives are going there, what are you going to do about it?