It was a warm November afternoon. My wife and I were enjoying our Sunday nap after church. I was deep in my sleep but somehow managed to hear a text message from my phone. It was a text message from the National Weather Service, informing me there was a tornado warning in the area. About two minutes later, I heard the loud, annoying, and unpleasant sound of the tornado sirens.
Even though it was calm outside, I took the warning seriously. I woke up my wife and son and thought about the best place for shelter in our home. We didn’t have a basement so I decided the best place was our bathroom. Right when we got into the bathroom, the wind started to pick up. Then our house starting shaking violently. I remembered hovering over my family, saying, “If the roof flies off, I will be the first to go.”
My brother also called me from New York and asked if everything was okay. I knew it was serious when my brother called all the way from the East Coast. It was a big deal. Our city, Kokomo, suffered from two tornadoes, destroying 300 homes, 30 businesses, and injuring 5 people.
Despite all the destruction, it was a miracle that no one was killed. I believe the National Weather Service text messaging system and the loud, annoying, and unpleasant sound of the tornado sirens saved many peoples’ lives that day. Alarms may be unpleasant to the ears, but they are intended to make a clear warning of impending danger so that you will take action to save your life.
The doctrine of Hell is also disturbing to hear. The message of Hell is like the tornado alarm in that it’s something most people don’t want to hear, yet it’s a reminder for us to forsake our sins. Throughout the ages, critics have tried to drown this message out, calling it unkind and contrary to God’s all-loving nature.
Robert Ingersoll, a prominent lawyer, and political leader during the golden age of free thought, said this about Hell: “The idea of Hell is born of revenge and brutality. I have no respect for any human who believes in it. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. I dislike the doctrine. I hate, despise, and defy it. The doctrine of Hell is infamous beyond words.”
Hell is not only hated, but it is a parody in Hollywood. Just look at the movie industry and you will find parodies like Little Nicky, featuring Adam Sandler. His father is the devil and his mother is an angel, and he goes back and forth between heaven and hell. What about the song Highway to Hell by AC/DC? Listen to the words of these lyrics: Living easy, loving free, season ticket on a one-way ride. Asking nothing, leave me be, taking everything in my stride. Don’t need a reason, don’t need rhyme. There isn’t anything else I would rather do, going down, party time, my friends are going to be there too. I am on the highway to hell.
If it’s not hated or made fun of, then it’s considered a conspiracy. Secular humanists believe the Christian concept of hell is a manipulative fear device created by the church to keep people from abandoning their faith. You have heard the famous euphemism from Karl Marx, the founder of Communism: “Religion is the opiate of the masses, a way to control society and brainwash them to conform to a particular belief system.”
There is even a growing popular conception, especially in the evangelical world, that Jesus doesn’t want to offend or disturb us with troubling things like unending and real torment in hell. While liberal scholars may deny the concept of hell altogether, even conservative Pastors today are tempted to tone down was Jesus said because they don’t want to be labeled a “fire and brimstone” preacher. It’s also not a good sell if you want to grow in church attendance or provide a seeker-sensitive atmosphere for people to feel comfortable.
I believe the seeker-sensitive church is a contributor to why professing Christians don’t take sin seriously. A Barna Group study reported that 45% of born again Christians believe gambling is okay; over half think living with someone of the opposite sex before marriage is morally permissible. Another study found that 54% of church members were addicted to pornography, and 30% of Pastors in the US are having the same issue. How could this be? I think it’s because people don’t really believe that Hell exists.
Jesus had many things to say about hell. For instance, Jesus said in Matthew 23,
“How will you escape the judgment of hell?” In Mark 9, Jesus said that if your hand, foot, or an eye causes you to sin, to gouge it out, for it would be better to enter heaven maimed than to be tossed into Hell.
Just like the tornado sirens, the teachings Jesus gave us about hell are intended to warn us, in grace and love, of the impending danger of judgment. God does this so that we will be prepared for our eternal destination. God wants us to turn from our evil ways and put our faith in trust and the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of God. All of us have sinned, and none of us are good enough to go to heaven. The only remedy is to accept the sacrifice that Christ made on your behalf. Once you put your trust in God, He will forgive you of all your sins and cleanse you from all the evil you have done. This is unconditional grace!