More About Hell? Part I
Jesus said, "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."1
Hell. Not a popular topic by any stretch of the imagination. And these days it isn't a popular or politically correct topic to preach, write or talk about as if it were a reality. For many, hell is a place they hope doesn't exist and, if it does, they don't expect to go there. For others, hell is a figment of the imagination from outdated folklore, or a place to curse people to whom you don't like. Many believe that death ends all.
Think of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy that caused devastation over hundreds of miles in the eastern states of the U.S, or Hurricane Katrina that caused the city of New Orleans to be hopelessly flooded so that thousands were stranded and many lost their lives. How unthinkable it would have been had the "powers that be" known about these impending disasters and not warned the people to evacuate areas that were in danger zones. And how tragic it was for those who could have left but failed to heed the repeated warnings? How much greater the tragedy not to let people know about the warning that God's Word has clearly given for all to flee from the wrath of hell to come. In fact, Jesus talked more about hell than he did about heaven. C.S. Lewis wrote, "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than Hell … but it has the full support of Scripture and specifically of Jesus' very own words."
The Bible describes hell as a place of utter darkness … also as a lake of fire that burns day and night forever. Whether this is literal or figurative I do not know. What we do know is that Jesus described hell as a place of eternal torment. It is a place that was prepared for the devil and his fallen angels/demons—a place to where those who have never received forgiveness for their sins will be banned forever. It's not that God sends us to hell, but that we send ourselves there when we don't heed God's warning and receive his forgiveness for all our sins and his gift of eternal life. Hell is a place where we choose to be when we choose to leave God out of our lives.
Eugene P. Harder shared how, "In his book titled, To Hell and Back, Cardiologist Maurice Rawlings recounts the startling near-death experience of a patient taking a cardio stress test on a treadmill.
"The patient became breathless and began to sweat profusely. The monitor showed a dangerous rapid heartbeat. This was followed by a long pause in the beat and then by a flat line. Charlie's heart had stopped, his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell.
"One of the nurses breathed 'the kiss of life into Charlie's lungs.' Another nurse started the IV but the heart would not beat properly. A temporary pacemaker was needed. Whenever Dr. Rawlings stopped pushing Charlie's chest to adjust the pacemaker, his heart would stop. Charlie's eyes would roll up and he would turn blue.
"This time when Charlie's heart re-started he was screaming the words, 'I'm in hell! I'm in hell!' Hallucinations, Dr. Rawlings thought. Most victims scream, 'Take your big hands off me, you're breaking my ribs.'
"But Charlie was saying the opposite: 'Don't stop! Don't stop. Every time you let go I'm back in hell!'
"When conscious, Charlie begged the Doctor to pray for him. Dr. Rawlings said, 'I felt downright insulted. In fact, I told him to shut up. I said I was a doctor, not a minister and not a psychiatrist. The nurses looked at me as if to say, "Do something!"
"'So I composed this make-believe prayer to keep Charlie off my back. "Jesus Christ is the Son of God, keep me out of hell. If I live, I'm on the hook. I'm yours." Say it Charlie!'
"Charlie said the prayer and then a very strange thing happened that changed both the Doctor's and Charlie's lives. Dr. Rawlings said, 'A religious conversion experience took place. I had never witnessed one before. Charlie was no longer the wild-eyed, screaming, combative lunatic who had been fighting me for his life. He was relaxed and calm and cooperative.'
"'It frightened me. I was shaken by the events. Not only had that make-believe prayer saved Charlie McKaig, but it got me too. It was a conviction that to this day I cannot explain. Since then, Charlie has outlived three permanent pacemakers. It's difficult to believe that my simple prayer opened the road to both Charlie's and my own salvation.'"
To be continued ….
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to know for certain in my heart the facts about heaven and hell … and help me to make sure that I am prepared for the day that I meet you face to face and there give an account of my life.* Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Matthew 10:28 (NIV).
* NOTE: To be sure you are prepared for the day you meet God face to face, read the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.