The following is my sermon I preached June 30, 2002 at the Bible Baptist Church in Port Orchard, WA in response to the article that appeared in the June 19th issue of the L.A. Times:
Jehovah Witnesses teach hell is the grave. There is no literal burning hell in Mormon theology.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II said hell should be seen not as a fiery underworld but as "the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy."
Even Billy Graham, who came to prominence in the 1940s as a fire-and-brimstone Gospel preacher, now also soft-pedals the doctrine of hell. " ... I believe that hell is essentially separation from God. That we are separated from God, so we can have hell in this life and hell in the life to come... ," Graham told an interviewer in 1991. "But to describe hell in vivid terms like I might have done 30 or 40 years ago, I'm not at liberty to do that because... whether there is actually fire in hell or not, I do not know."
Many church leaders avoid mentioning hell in an attempt to package God and market Jesus in a positive way sinners can stomach. They are lowering God Almighty to society’s standards of acceptance, when it ought to be the other way around.
Proclaiming Christ without mentioning hell denies who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us. Jesus was humiliated, battered, whipped, pierced, crucified and descended into hell in our place. With His blood, He paid the price to keep us out of hell!
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said, “The day will come when they will preach heaven without preaching hell.” THAT DAY HAS ARRIVED.
The L.A. Times ran an article on June 19th entitled “Hold The Fire And Brimstone” which illustrates how preaching on hell is at an all time low in American churches.
Hell is not mentioned in Campus Crusade’s (Bill Bright) tract “Four Spiritual Laws.” Neither is it mentioned in Billy Graham’s tract “Steps To Peace With God.”
ÆTwo appeals in getting people saved:
1) POSITIVE approach – CARROT appeal - (Solution to problems). “Receive Jesus into your heart and He will give you joy, peace of mind and meaning in life. Jesus is the answer to all your problems.”
Perhaps more than any other, Robert Schuller, Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA, is credited with inspiring the movement to supplant hell with feel-good messages. The "Hour of Power" televangelist stopped preaching on the subject 40 years ago, moving on to a theology that stressed individual success in such books as "If It's Going to Be, It's Up to Me!"
"I don't ever want people to become Christian to escape hell," Schuller said. His take: Why threaten people with God's stick when dangling a carrot is enough to close the deal?
2) NEGATIVE approach – CONSEQUENCE appeal - (Saving from punishment). You need to get saved because you’ve sinned against a Holy God and deserve eternal judgment. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, paid for your sin by shedding His sinless blood on the cross. He arose from the dead and will save you from hell if you will repent and believe on Him.
We are to preach Christ AND WARN of the consequences of rejecting Christ (Ezek 3:17-21 cf. Acts 20:26, 27, 31; 24:24-25; Col. 1:27-28)
I. The holy writers of inspired SCRIPTURE tell me hell exists.
! Deut. 32:22– a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell…
! Job 11:8– It is as high as heaven … deeper than hell;
! Ps. 9:17– The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
! Ps. 18:5– The sorrows of hell compassed me about...
! Ps. 55:15– …let them go down quick into hell…
! Ps. 116:3– … the pains of hell gat hold upon me ...
! Prov. 9:18– … her guests are in the depths of hell.
! Prov. 15:24– The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
! Ezek. 31:16– … I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit…
! James 3:6– … set on fire of hell.
! 2 Pet. 2:4– God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell…
! Rev. 20:13– … death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them ...
! Rev. 20:14– And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
1. Hell is down
2. Hell is deep
3. Hell has levels
4. Hell is fire
5. Hell is painful
6. We know the moral tone of those who will be there
7. We know the rapidity of one who goes there
8. We know the pain and sorrows that surface there.
9. We know the irremediable state of those in hell (no pardon / no weekend pass– It’s permanent).
10. We know the transitory nature of the place in the plan of eternal incarceration (Hell will eventually be part of the lake of fire).
II. The faithful witness of our SAVIOR tells me hell exists.
Jesus preached more about hell than He did heaven!
! Matthew 5:22– … in danger of hell fire. (from Sermon on the Mount)
! Matthew 5:29– … thy whole body should be cast into hell (Sermon on the Mount)
! Matthew 10:28– …fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
! Matthew 16:18– … the gates of hell…
! Matthew 23:15– … the child of hell …
! Matthew 23:33– … how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
! Mark 9:43– … go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
! Luke 10:15– … thrust down to hell.
ÆPerhaps the clearest teaching about hell came from Jesus in Luke 16:19-31
III. The dying words of lost SINNERS tell me hell exists.
Several years ago a book was published, entitled Beyond Death's Door by Dr. Maurice Rawlings. Dr. Rawlings, a cardiologist, resuscitated many people who had been clinically dead. He was a devout atheist until an incident in 1977 that brought a dramatic change in his life. See Chapter One.
ILLUS. Back in 1996 we had a nurse who was a member of our church. She worked in a care-center in our area and had the unpleasant experience of seeing a man go to hell ALIVE. She was giving care to a Mr. Jones who had terminal lung cancer. During the time she cared for him, she witnessed to him. In her own words:
I asked him more than once, “Do you know for sure if you were to die today that you would go to heaven?” His answer was always, “I hope so.”
One day when discussing eternal issues with him, he said in an adamant tone of voice, “I don’t ever want to hear the name of Jesus mentioned again in my presence.” I assured him that I would honor his request.
The next day, I was at the nurse’s station going about my morning paperwork when Mr. Jones’ son-in-law asked me, “Would you come and check on Dad. He keeps asking us to call 9-1-1 to get the fire department here to put out the fire. We have assured him there is no fire, but he continues to insist that we call.
As I entered the room, he screamed at me, “Get out of the fire! You’re standing in the fire!” He was in a panic. I noticed his fingers had a death grip hold into the armrests of the recliner. His arms were board stiff which pushed his upper body deep into the back of the recliner. His eyes and face expressed visual horror. He would flail his body around as if he were dodging someone and swung his arms as if attempting to fight something off.
He continued to scream of fire and men with chains coming to get him. “Don’t let them take me!”
I notified the doctor of the problems and received orders for anxiety and pain medications. We administered the medications, but they had no effect. His uncontrollable agony, screaming, groaning and wailing continued until my shift was over and I was relieved by another nurse.
When I returned to work the next morning I was told that Mr. Jones passed away shortly after I had left work the day before. The nursing assistant said, “Mr. Jones told us he was in hell and warned us not to follow him!”
CONCLUSION: The logic of JUSTICE tells me there must be a hell.
! We have prisons and asylums for social non-conformists. So does God. The “pit” is the eternal penitentiary.
! We have graveyards for the dead so their bodies won’t infect the living.
! We have cesspools for human wastes.
! We have dumps and dumpsters – We have sites for the garbage of this world. And so does God for the garbage of this universe.
Revelation 21:27–There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
! Would you haul garbage into your house?
! Would you entertain a petrifying corpse in your living room?
! Why then would you expect God to bring the decaying, rotting refuse of the universe into His beloved city?
But, preacher. God is love! A God of love would never send one of His children to hell! That’s right! But the question is, are you one of His children? If so, when did you become one of His children? How?
What must one do to go to hell? NOTHING.
A drunk staggered up to a New York policeman asking for directions to a tavern called “Hell’s Gate.” The officer answered, “See the cross on that steeple over there? That’s the steeple of Calvary Church. Just keep going past Calvary and you come to ‘Hell’s Gate.’” Yes, that’s right. Just keep going the way you are going– Walk past Calvary and you’ll also arrive at “Hell’s Gate!”