My pastor gave an interesting sermon yesterday. If you are someone who follows these posts regularly, you know I like statistics. The sermon was about heaven and hell, but not a fire and brimstone kind of speech. What made it interesting to me, was the statistics on the number of ‘church going’ people who believed in heaven and the number that believed in hell. The two numbers aren’t anywhere near the same.
For some obscure reason, more people believe in heaven than they do hell. If all you read is the Old Testament, you likely wouldn’t understand the concepts as they are presented in the New. I think there are some problems with people understanding what the New Testament is and is about.
First, the Old Testament is, essentially, the family diary of the Hebrew people (not all Hebrews are or were Jewish, but that is for a later discussion.) The New Testament is the story of Yeshua ben Yahweh, Joshua (or Jesus), son of God and the men who followed Him.
I am going to use the King James version of the Bible for my numbers here. In the Old Testament, heaven is mentioned 327 times, and hell is mentioned 31 times. In the New Testament, heaven is mentioned 255 times, and hell is spoken about 23 times. Obviously, Jesus was more concerned about heaven than he was about hell, and with good reason.
If you read the New Testament, not someone playing around with their own words, you will find Jesus and God have no desire to for anyone to go to hell. They would much rather find you in heaven after this life. So, some of you may ask, why is there a hell at all?
Jesus was very explicit, unless you believed, basically, unless you allowed yourself to be redeemed of sin, you could not be in the presence of a holy God. That makes sense when you remember heaven is a kingdom, not a democracy. Kingdoms have one boss, where one guy makes all the rules. In biblical times, people had to get cleaned up before being allowed before the king.
I’ll make this as simple as I can. If you’ve read the series, you know I reference an old movie line where a little girl asks God why he allows suffering and pain? God gives the only response that’s ever made sense to me, “I never learned how to make anything with only one side to it.” If there is a heaven, there has to be a hell.
I don’t expect that to be palatable to a lot of people who envision God as this giant loving ‘teddy bear’ figure. God does love us, how could He not, we are a part of Him as no other living creature is. Everything in this universe was created from nothing, except man. We were created and sculpted by the hand of God Himself and then given His breath of life. But, if you reject His teaching and instruction, even at the point of death, how can you possibly expect to spend time in His presence?
I want you to understand, Jesus Himself spoke of hell; “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). He further describes hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It isn’t pleasant to think some people will or have wound up in hell. But if you call yourself a Christian of any stripe, you cannot escape the fact. The saddest part, at least to me, is that it is so easy to avoid. Don’t delude yourself into thinking by being a ‘good person’ you avoid hell. While faith without works is empty, works don’t get you into heaven.
My prayer today is simple:
Lord, bring understanding to those who need to see the truth of your Word. In His name.