by David Sisler
Talk to ten different people, you will get ten different definitions. We use "it" to scare children into obedience. We use "it" to frighten adults into loving God. We even deny that "it" exists, a denial based, allegedly, on the love of God. We cannot agree on a single word to describe "it." We quote two or three words from Hebrew and Greek--usually the only words we know in those languages, using the definitions to support our preconceived (and theologically correct ) opinions. "It" is hell.
Dudley C. Stone, writing in the Journal of Systems Management says, "Perhaps hell is nothing more than an enormous conference of those who, with little or nothing to say, take an eternity to say it."
I have a dear friend who says, "Hell is being seated at the worst table in your favorite restaurant and then being served red wine with fish."
Those are certainly not the most celebrated definitions of hell, but they are probably as accurate as this popular definition: "There is no such place as hell. We make our own hell here on earth. A God of love would never send anyone to hell."
One man said, "The Bible uses words like "Gehenna" and "Sheol" and "Hell" and "Hades," and the words mean different things at different times. The reason I don't believe in that place is you Christians can't agree on a definition."
Just so there will be no disagreement, I will use his term: "That Place." No detail will depend in any way on the translation of any word. We will simply call it "That Place."
Jesus said, "There was a rich man who had all that life could provide. Outside of his gates was a poor man who begged for crumbs of bread. The poor man died first and his spirit, the part of man that never dies, went to a place of comfort and rest. The rich man died next and went to 'That Place.'"
Jesus frequently taught by parables. When He used a parable the Bible says, "He taught them a parable saying..." This time Jesus speaks from personal knowledge. "There was a rich man," He said. "There was a beggar named Lazarus," He said.
Jesus said there are flames in "That Place." There is torment in "That Place." There is heaven and there is "That Place" and they are forever separated. Jesus said that all of his former pleasures and possessions the rich man would gladly have traded for one drop of water in "That Place."
Jesus said the rich man was suddenly concerned about his brothers. He did not want them to come to "That Place" so he asked if Lazarus could go back from the dead and warn them. Everyone in "That Place" is concerned about missions. There is no unbelief in "That Place." Every person in "That Place" understands now.
Aside from the recounting of this incident, is there any other evidence that Jesus believed in "That Place?"
When people say there is no hell, they mean that everyone goes to heaven. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven." Then where do they go?
Jesus said, "There will be those in the last days who will claim, 'We prophesied in your name. We cast out demons in your name. We performed miracles in your name,' and without denying their claims, I will say, 'I never knew you.' Depart from me." Where do they depart to?
Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." Then what do you enter? Where do you go?
One more--the favorite verse of many. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
Jesus spent more time talking about punishment and not perishing and spending eternity without Him than He did about heaven. Why? Because He believed in "That Place" and He wanted no one to go there and everyone to spend eternity in heaven with Him. If you put your personal trust in Jesus you never need worry about "That Place." What are you waiting for?
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/12/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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