Saturday, July 09, 2016

How many people are going to Hell?

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 7:13, 14

Obviously, Jesus was making the point that more of us are going to hell than are going to heaven. Jesus spent quite a bit of his ministry, more than most people realize, in telling about the coming judgment, and about death and hell. So few of us ever bother to read the Bible to find out what he really said. In the previous question, we focused on the seven woes told to the Pharisees, and found that self-righteousness is probably the biggest impediment to man realizing his utter need.

Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven, quotes Dorothy Sayers: “”There seems to be a kind of conspiracy,” writes novelist Dorothy Sayers, “to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of hell comes from. The doctrine of hell is not ‘mediaeval priestcraft’ for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. . . . We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.””1 People are very willing to talk about heaven, and who might be eligible for heaven, but not about hell, for many reject the idea of eternal punishment altogether, reasoning that a merciful God would not punish.

Thus the first error of the self-righteous—they define God in their own terms, and will not rely on the definitions of scripture at all. God, in his graciousness, has extended his mercy to all. There is no race or creed or gender or deviant lifestyle that cannot be saved. But salvation only comes through repentance and faith (perhaps it would be better to say faith and repentance, for that is the normal order I see in a newly saved person), and through no other way. It does no good for us to try to define God, for he defines himself, and we can only appreciate that through the scripture. If one were to follow Jefferson (who retranslated all of the New Testament, removing all of the miracles), and were to take out the many speeches that Jesus had to say about Hell, there would be a very large portion of what he said that would disappear.

That should serve as a sign post to us that Jesus really did want us to know about hell. It makes us uncomfortable to think about it, much less talk about it, and most of us, judging from history, will quietly walk ourselves to the final judgment without ever really thinking through what is coming. “Our ancestors came from Eden. We are headed toward a New Earth. Meanwhile, we live out our lives on a sin-corrupted Earth, between Eden and the New Earth, but we must never forget that this is not our natural state. Sin and death and suffering and war and poverty are not natural—they are the devastating results of our rebellion against God.”2

The corruption of sin is so blinding that most do not even see their need. Christians have the ministry of reconciliation, of trying to show the blind where to get bread, but in much of the world it is against the law and culture to even explain the gospel. What an evidence of the truth of the gospel! Evil is made plain when we stop to consider the darkness is resolute about one thing only—and that is letting the light come in. The good news is opposed by men everywhere, and even in my beloved country, it is getting so difficult just to explain it simply. “No wonder Satan doesn’t want us to learn the truth about Heaven. If we fall in love with the place and look forward to the future that God has for us, we’ll fall more in love with God, and we’ll be emboldened to follow him with greater resolve and perspective.”3

So, yes, it is true—most people are going to hell. Some seem to be going in the fastest train, careening their way recklessly to hell. But most dutifully punch their tickets, and take many stops along the way of life, blithely headed towards an unconsidered eternity. Some have estimated professing Christians to be nearly one-fourth of mankind, but of those how many does God know as his children? It passes the ability of this saint to know any answer to that question, but we are left with a very awful fact: More than three-quarters of mankind are headed to a judgment wherein they will be found wanting. Truly Jesus said it, narrow is the way to life, but broad is the path to destruction.

Of this there should be no doubt, hell is a real place. Jesus told us “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” Notice the very graphic description. I have heard many times people unthinkingly say that they should go to hell because that was where all their friends were. There is nothing in the Biblical description of hell that allows us to foster the wild notion that we have any association with others. Milton, not the Bible, gives us the picture of Satan reigning in hell. What we are told of heaven is that it is a place of awfulness, of darkness, and fire, and the endless torture of being without the ability to even slake our thirst.

In Mark 9, Jesus takes three times to solemnly tell us of that awful place and it would do well for us to heed it. “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Imagine being stuck with your immortality, for your soul in the image of God is indeed immortal, and having no rest. And knowing, beyond all question that you were there only because you neglected the things of God, the glorious gospel of being forgiven in Christ, if we will but put our trust in him.

And what of the rest of us—by us I mean Christians? Do we not have a ministry of reconciliation? Ought we not be busy proclaiming in hopes that some blind might yet see? I remember that in No Compromise, the biography of Keith Green by his wife Melody, that there is a story of Keith witnessing to one of his close friends. Getting nowhere with his message to his friend, Keith’s frustration grew and grew. Eventually tears started streaming down his face as he countenanced his friend’s fate. It was those tears that finally broke through, and brought his friend to faith and repentance. Have we sought our witness to our friends out like that? Have we cried because we realize the fate of those who stay blind? As long as this age lasts, and it is drawing to a close, we are commanded to go forth and proclaim. Is there someone today that you might pray about being that witness to?

1. Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 776-778). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
2. Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 1657-1659). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
3. Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 3122-3123). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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