The cultural tide is turning rapidly. A number of Christians who have been on cruise control are wakening up to the fact that intolerance against Christianity is on the rise. Of course, we are not talking at the level of beheadings, burnings or brandings – we are talking about social hostility. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem. We do. This morning, I have just written a blog about Final Judgement for non-Christians. In this blog, I want to write about the same issue for Christians.
If previous generations were guilty of manipulating people by wrongly using the Bible’s teaching on hell to scare people, today’s church has the opposite problem. Consequently we have a few major issues. The first issue is this, it is impossible to communicate the gospel faithfully without showing what the gospel says about Judgement. Secondly. The current cultural climate has zero tolerance for the Bible’s teaching on Judgement. Thirdly, the church for too long, has tried to accommodate the culture by avoiding the topic of Judgement. Consequently, they have ended up with weak churches, weak preaching and no conversions. Why? It is the faithful presentation of the full gospel which is the power of God for salvation. Fourthly, attempts to communicate gospel truths about Judgement today is much more difficult. Fifthly, most Christians are lacking knowledge about the basic elements of the gospel, and consequently are ill-equipped to faithfully communicate the full message of the gospel. Sixthly, try to interact with unbelievers about the Final Judgement today, and you will encounter hostility. Since most Christians are now pragmatists, they interpret this as failure. People react to the gospel, so don’t talk about the gospel, is pretty much the method of the day. Or, talk about love, purpose, peace – anything but God’s Judgement.
Let me be absolutely crystal clear: Christian – you need to go to hell.
You need to go to hell in at least two ways.
You need to open the Bible afresh and read what the Bible says about the Judgement to come. What did Jesus teach the disciples concerning hell? What did the apostles teach the church concerning hell? Also, you need to look at how Jesus and the apostles did evangelism. How did they communicate the truths about Judgement? Was Judgement peripheral or central to their message? I’ve done this. It was central. This is why ‘repent’ is the constant response called for, to the gospel, by Jesus and the apostles. Why repent? Because there is a Judgement to come.
Let’s look at just a few examples.
John the Baptist’s Message
10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:10-12 ESV)
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17 ESV)
29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:29-30 NIV)
17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
(Matt. 7:17-19 NIV)
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone– an image made by human design and skill.
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
(Acts 17:29-31 NIV)
2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
(1 Thess. 5:2-5 NIV)
I could continue. But those brief references should be enough to make the point that the Judgement to come is a central component of the gospel.
I’ve heard the argument that 21st century people will not accept the message, they are too advanced, they are too evolved. Sadly, Christians have bought into this myth. Teaching on the Judgement to come has never been popular. Jesus was persecuted. The apostles were persecuted. Christians throughout the centuries have been persecuted. Why? Well it wasn’t because they were handing out lollipops and balloons and launching a ‘Love your City’ programme. They preached a gospel which challenged people’s idols, warned them of Final Judgement, proclaimed a crucified and risen savior, and called people to repentance. That is the apostolic, catholic, and Biblical gospel. We would do well to return to the creeds of the church. The creeds are clear about Jesus and Judgement, “he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
William Booth illustrates the second way in which the Christians need to go to hell.
“‘Not called!’ did you say?
‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say.
Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin.
Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help.
Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there.
Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world. — William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army)