We’ve all heard the knocks against preachers and churches who preach fire and brimstone sermons. Many of us have heard the statement, “Preaching about Hell to the lost is the wrong approach to winning them to Christ.” In some way or another, we’ve all heard people talk about the topic of Hell being taught and preached in our churches.
It seems that many today feel as if the church should steer away from the topic of Hell, but I beg to differ. I believe it is important to know about the wrath of God and His judgement, just like it is important to know about His unending mercy and grace. Our God is a merciful God, but He is also a just God.
It is up to each one of us on where we will end up for an eternity.
There is a parable found in Luke 16:19-31 that speaks of a beggar named Lazarus and a selfish rich man. We find in this parable spoken by Jesus Himself, that Hell is a very real place of torment. We learn through this parable that the little things can keep us out of Heaven one day. Often times, we think of the big sins like murder and adultery but we tend to forget that our character and the way we treat people can be sin as well if we’re not careful.
Luke 16:19-23 says, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:” “And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,” “And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.” “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;” “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.“
Jesus used this parable to explain to the Pharisees that it isn’t about how much you have on this earth that really matters, but that it is what you do with it to help others that truly matters. The Pharisees believed that wealth was proof of how righteous one was. The Pharisees looked down on those of lesser conditions and labeled them as unrighteous. We find in these scriptures that Jesus felt differently. The rich man in this parable didn’t die and go to Hell because he was rich. Instead, he went to hell because he was a selfish man who only cared for himself.
The rich man is a good example on how the little things in our lives can keep us out of Heaven one day.
We learn from Lazarus that our current sufferings do not have to be our eternal sufferings as well. This man suffered from hunger, homelessness, and sickness while he lived his life on earth. He had no one who cared enough to reach out and help him, but instead faced those who ignored him and refused to help him out of his plight. Through Lazarus, we learn that we may have to suffer for a while here on earth, but it will never amount to the peace that awaits us in eternity with God. Our sufferings, whatever they may be will only last for a season if we just hold onto God and our relationship with Him until the end.
Through Lazarus, we learn to have faith even when our situation seems to lead to nothing but hopelessness. Our faith in Christ will be rewarded one day.
Luke 16:24-26 says, “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.“
In these scriptures, we see the rich man begging for mercy but that his chance for mercy is no longer available to him anymore. We learn from the rich man that our opportunity to make things right with God are only available to us while we are alive on earth. Once we die, our chance for salvation and mercy will have passed us by. These scriptures paint us a very vivid picture of just how bad Hell truly is. The rich man was able to look up into Heaven and see the peace that he could have had, but chose to continue to live in ways that were unpleasing to God, which left him in an eternity of torment.
There are many paths that can take any of us straight to Hell. Those paths lead us into an eternal torment that will have no exit signs or roads to help lead us out. Once our time here on earth is over with, we will either look forward to an eternity in paradise with God or we will be stuck in torment for eternity. Which one will we choose to go to through our actions here on earth?
Luke 16:27-31 says, “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:” “For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” “And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.“
In these last set of scriptures, we find that the rich man was begging for someone to be sent to his family to witness to them about the torment of Hell. His begging was not granted because not even his experience can save his lost family from joining him in eternity. It is up to each individual to live right or to live a life full of sin. Preachers can preach the truth all day long and if someone doesn’t want to hear it, they won’t be willing to receive the truth of it. Teachers can guide people through the word of God to have a deeper understanding of His word and a love for it, but if someone doesn’t want to hear it, they won’t be willing to receive the truth of it.
Isaiah 5:14 says, “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.“
Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.“
These scriptures teach us that Hell is not getting any smaller, but instead it continues to grow larger every single day. Hell is a place for those who are not saved and do not live a sinless, righteous life. We all have friends and family that fall into those categories, but what are we doing to win them to Christ? Are we shying away from telling them in a loving way that if they don’t get right with God, they aren’t going to make it to Heaven? Have we gotten so lax on talking about eternity in Heaven and Hell that we’ve air conditioned the conditions of Hell?
It is important for each of us to learn not only about Heaven and living in paradise for eternity, but also learning about Hell and living in torment for eternity. Hell is just as real as Heaven is and it needs to be talked about. People that we love and care about need to know the reality of their sins. People we aren’t that close to, like coworkers and those who God places in our paths to witness to, need to know the reality of their sins. I’m not saying to start out a conversation with telling someone their going to Hell, but what I am saying is that we need to be honest with each other about sin and the consequences of sin.
It is time the people of God stopped shying away about the topics of eternity. Whether we like it or not, one day we will stand before God and will be judged on how we lived our lives here on earth. He will either keep us on the right hand side or He will put us on the left hand side. What side do you want to be on? What side do you want your family and friends to be on? Life is too short to be shy about the realities and consequences of sin and our actions.
It is up to us to speak up and win the lost to Christ. Are we going to win them by shying away from these topics and being quiet? No, I don’t believe we will.