TEXT: Mark 9:43-49 (LB) – “If your hand does wrong, cut it off. Better live forever with one hand than be thrown into the unquenchable fires of hell with two! IF your foot carries you toward evil, cut it off! Better be lame and live forever than have two feet that carry to hell.
And if your eye is sinful, gouge it out. Better enter the Kingdom of God half blind than have two eyes and see the fires of hell, where the worm never dies, and the fire never goes out – where all are salted with fire.” (That’s Jesus commenting on hell.)
INTRODUCTION: Illustr. – “Oops, wrong e-mail address! Sure is hot down here!”
Beatle John Lennon summed up the thinking of a growing population of Americans today when he wrote the following lyrics to his popular song, “Imagine,”
“Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.
No hell below us, above us only sky.
Imagine all the people living for today.”
I wonder how John would re-write those words if he could come back today?
Illustr. - According to a recent USA Today survey, only 52% of adults in America are certain there’s a hell. Of that 52%, 48% think it is a real place where people suffer eternal fiery torment, 46% think it is simply an “anguished state of existence rather than an actual place” and 6% said they believe in it but don’t know what it’s like.
Well, you can’t blame people for wanting to get rid of hell. After all, the thought of a place of eternal torment – fire, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, where the “worm dieth not.” A place of utter darkness created for the devil and his angels, a place where all the wicked who have ever lived down through the ages will be – doesn’t sound very appealing to me! Hot, crowded, painful, tormenting, forever. Nah, I’d rather go to Florida and ride “It’s a Small World After All” a thousand times in a row at DisneyWorld!
Seriously, hell doesn’t sound like a good time to me, so I say we get rid of it!
PROPOSITION: I HAVE COME UP WITH SOME GOOD ADVICE FOR HOW TO GET RID OF HELL.
But I’m going to need your help! I need you to help me decide…
INTERR. SENTENCE: What’s the best way to get rid of hell?
I. GET RID OF THE BIBLE. Illustr. – “Do you really believe what you read in that Bible?”
Listen to me, if we’re going to get rid of hell, the first thing we’ve got to do is get rid of this book (the Bible)! I’m telling you, it’s nothing but trouble! It’s got all these reminders and examples and warnings about hell in it. We don’t want to be bothered by that stuff. Too depressing. Too scary. Makes a guy uncomfortable when he’s roasting marshmallows around the campfire or when he goes to a funeral or when he’s burning a beetle with a magnifying glass. Ouch! I say we get rid of it!
Get rid of verses like the one we read as our text today. Get rid of Matthew 10:28 – “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.”
Get rid of Matthew 13:49-50 – “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Get rid of Luke 16:23-24 – “In hell, where he was in torment, (the rich man) looked up (and said…) ‘Have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”
Get rid of Revelation 21:15 – “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Get rid of Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death…”
Get rid of Revelation 20:13 – “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.”
Aww man! I’m getting depressed!!! Somebody cue up some John Lennon for me, will ya!?!
“Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.
No hell below us, above us only sky.
Imagine all the people living for today.”
Thanks! I feel much better…I think. If we’re going to Get Rid of Hell, we’ve got to get rid of this book! It’s just too depressing and it’s filled with all these reminders of death, hell and judgment at the hands of God. I can’t handle it! It’s got to go. Stick with the Wall Street Journal or “self-help” books. Check out Yoga or Shirley McLane’s latest. Read “Chicken Soup for the Guy/Gal Who Wants to Get Rid of Hell’s Soul.” There’s all kinds of good reading out there that will make you feel good about yourself and back up your right to not believe. Just take my advice and stay away from the Bible if you want to Get Rid of Hell.
II. GET RID OF JESUS. If you’re going to get rid of hell, you’ve got to get rid of this concept of a Savior. After all, if you’ve got a Savior, He’s obviously come to save you from something. Right? We don’t need to be saved, we need to Get Rid of Hell. If we can just get rid of hell, our problem is solved. So we got rid of the Bible, now if we can just get rid of the Son of God and the Old Rugged Cross and all that suffering and bleeding and dying and resurrecting (well, the resurrecting part was pretty cool. Let’s keep that so we can go to church on Easter.)
Well, we started with the right first step. We’ve already decided to Get Rid of the Bible, so if we don’t have the Bible to worry about, we can kind of re-write the story of Jesus and His reason for coming to the earth. In fact, maybe we don’t have to get rid of Jesus (after all, he was a pretty good guy). Maybe we don’t have to get rid of Him, we could just “re-invent” him. Give him a “make-over.” In fact, I know a guy who re-invented Jesus to Get Rid of Hell. Met him at my previous church. Was a part of our Young Adult Ministry for a while. Talented guy. Musician. Recording engineer and producer.
We had a great relationship until he started coming to church and found out we believed in hell and that, on top of believing in it, we preached that sinners went there (because that’s what it said in the Bible). Then we had several long-winded discussions and e-mail dialogues. You see, this fella had come to the comfortable conclusion that Jesus died for us so that we would have a better life – to “take the hell out of the life we live” – not to deliver us from eternal suffering. For him, the worst hell we will face is whatever life hands us, and Jesus died to make this world a better place in which to live. With hell out of the way and a God of grace who would never send anyone to a place of eternal torment, this guy had tied it all up in a bow, neat and simple.
Sheol, Gehenna, Hades and all the other words for hell were just figurative words. Places that described temporary worldly suffering. Hell was not literal. Jesus didn’t die to save us from literal eternal suffering. This guy altered the Bible. He changed the Savior. And he Got Rid of Hell. Pretty neat, huh? Only problem for me is, I’ve had some bad days, but I’ve never had a day so bad that it merited beating a sinless man and nailing him naked and bleeding to a cross. Some days I wonder why the Son of God died for my bad days, but hey, if it works, don’t mess with it! After all, our goal here is to Get Rid of Hell!
John 3:16 (SAV – “Slightly Altered Version”) – “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not have a bad day, but instead should have a really great life.”
Hey, we’re doing pretty good! We’ve gotten Rid of the Bible. We’ve gotten Rid of Jesus (or at least, our false concept of Him). Now for our THIRD STEP in Getting Rid of Hell…
III. GET RID OF CHRISTIANS. Illustr. – “The Nut Case” If we’re going to successfully Get Rid of Hell, we’ve got to do something about all these Nut Case Christians who are always getting in our face with this “gloom and doom” preaching and conviction stuff! We don’t need a bunch of pious, “goodie-two shoes” or plastic preachers with crying wives telling us how to live our lives, trying to “scare the hell out of us!” Some of those TV Evangelist’s hairdos are enough to scare the hell out of most people!
We’re trying to Get Rid of Hell here! You people leave us alone, will ya!?! Stop trying to make us feel guilty! Stop pressuring us to “get saved.” Stop talking about the rapture and sin and judgment and the devil and for Pete’s sake, STOP TALKING ABOUT HELL! You people are nothing but trouble! If you want to do your “religion” that’s fine, but keep it to yourself! Stop trying to scare people. Mind your own business and leave us all alone. You can talk about love and grace and forgiveness and kindness and mercy and stuff like that, but don’t talk about hell. It makes us feel bad and Christians shouldn’t go around making people feel bad. You should make us feel good about ourselves. Don’t judge us, love us!
We know we can’t get rid of all you Christians, but if we can get you to just tone it down a little, then we can Get Rid of Hell. Let’s work on this together, what do you say? We won’t give you a hard time, and you won’t talk to us about hell. Deal? Cool. We like things cool. Cool is better than hot. And this is How You Get Rid of Hell.
IV. DON’T DIE! Illustr. – “Quiz to get into heaven” The three previous points were tough but this fourth one is a real challenge. You can throw out your Bible, re-invent Jesus and try to avoid those pesky Christians, but how do you get rid of death? I wish I could help you more here but I don’t know how to get rid of the “Grim Reaper.” Sure, you can exercise (run, walk, ride a stationary bike, get you an “Ab-Roller,” try “Tae-Bo,” get a video and do the “River Dance”). Sure you can eat right, drink lots of fruit juice, watch your weight and lower your cholesterol. Sure you can take Echinacea and “One-A-Day” multiple vitamins and eat your “Wheaties” or “Special K,” but sooner or later, your time is coming!
I’m at a loss for advice to give you so you can be prepared for “The Big One” as Redd Fox used to say. And I’m really uncomfortable about a verse that’s in the Bible we got rid of back in point number one. Goes like this:
Hebrews 9:27 – “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”
And there are others:
Romans14:10-11 – “(For) we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”
Hebrews 10:26-27 – “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
Revelation 20:11-12 – “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
(Is it hot in here?) Now, I understand that you Got Rid of the Bible and that you don’t really believe in any of that other stuff, but because it’s so hard to Get Rid of Death, I only think it’s fair to let you know these things. You know, just to sort of clear my conscience. You do what you want with it. Cause, just in the outside chance that hell is real, I thought you should know. You know? Well, you know. Cause I heard this song the other day,
“When the milk is turning and the toast is burning,
Captain Crunch is waving ‘farewell’;
When the ‘big one’ finds you may this song remind you,
That they don’t serve breakfast in hell.”
Well, at least you know. Not that you’re worried or anything. But when you’re dead, it’s too late to Get Rid of Hell.
V. GET RID OF SIN. Just in case you’ve not realized that everything I’ve said up to this point was VERY tongue-in-cheek, let me say this real clear: There is only one way to Get Rid of Hell and that is to LET JESUS GET RID OF THE SIN IN YOUR LIFE! You may not like it. You may not want to admit it. You may not want to hear it. But Sir/Ma’am, one day you will look God in the eye and what you did with your sin during your lifetime will determine whether you Got Rid of Hell for eternity.
“Why,” you say, “would you preach about hell when it’s such an uncomfortable subject?” Because God doesn’t want you there. Matthew 25:41 tells us that God never intended for you and I to go there, but that hell was originally “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Things don’t just go away because we ignore them. Hell is one of them. We do not preach with judgmentalism this morning for we are all sinners saved by grace, but we preach with the same sense of urgency felt by Jonathan Edwards in his… Illustr. – Read from Jonathan Edward’s famous message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
“How Do You Get Rid of Hell?” There’s only one sure way. It’s the way of the cross. I’m telling you the truth. Did you know that there is not even one unbeliever in hell? Most were probably nonbelievers when tossed down there, but immediately upon arrival, their eyes were opened. Everybody down there believes in Jesus. Once they were cast in, they knew they had missed the opportunity of a lifetime – with Jesus. Hell will make a believer out of you.
CONCLUSION: God wants you to be saved. He’s done everything He could for you to be saved. He asks in Ezekiel 18:23 (LB) – “‘Do you think I like to see the wicked die?’ asks the Lord, ‘Of course not! I only want him to turn from his wicked ways and live?’” He wants to Get Rid of Hell for you. The man on the cross is the key to Getting Rid of Hell. Romans 10:9.