Thesis: God doesn't send people to Hell; people choose to go there.
1. Troublesome question: Would a good God send people to Hell?
a. Some: Unthinkable--fit the crime? (No Hell/no God).
b. Others: Yes!--relish idea; "roast `em & toast `em!"
2. This AM we want to approach this difficult subject--look to Bible for answers!
a. There is a place called Hell.
b. The Bible tells us what Hell is like.
c. The Bible tells us who will ultimately go there.
I. THERE IS A HELL.
A. Not everyone believes there is a Hell.
1. Variety of reasons:
a. Some reject it as fundamentalist superstition.
b. Others cannot reconcile good God with idea of Hell.
2. Illust. People tend to believe in Heaven more than in Hell. Survey taken in 1980 found that since 1952 belief in Heaven has remained steady at 71%. Belief in Hell has steadily slipped from 58% (1952) to 53% (1980).
B. Jesus said there is a Hell.
1. For followers of Jesus that settles the matter!
2. Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone in the Bible;
a. Consistently said: "You don't want to go there!"
b. Bertrand Russell decided to become an atheist when he read words of Jesus on Hell (consistent!)
II. WHAT IS HELL LIKE?
A. Eternal (Matt. 25:41, 46).
1. Not fair! Too long to punish one for disobedience!
2. Illust. What's fair? Suppose I pulled out a gun and began shooting. In a few seconds several would die. Jail for 15 seconds? (2 x 15?; 4 x 15?) Life? Should you consider amount of time it takes or act itself?
B. Place of Darkness (Matt. 8:11-12; 25:30).
1. Human beings fear darkness!
2. Illust. Zachary & Jonathan need bathroom light on. Occasionally forget & turn it off while they're still awake! Hear about it! I fear dark bldg. at night.
C. Place of Fire (Matt. 13:47-50).
1. Now some are wondering, "How can Hell be a place of fire and darkness?"
2. Opens possibility of non-literal fire/darkness.
a. Doesn't make Hell less terrifying!
b. Symbol always stands for more than it symbolizes!
D. Place of Torment (Luke 16:23 ff.).
III. WHO WILL FINALLY GO TO HELL?
A. In the final analysis ..... anyone who wants to!
1. God does not want people to go there (2 Pet. 3:9).
2. Note Matt. 25:34 and 25:41.
3. God's done all he can to keep us from going there!
B. The people who go to Hell will go there because they have chosen to go there (John 3:16-21).
1. Some illustrations:
a. Illust. C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce wrote about a bus of damned souls who were allowed to make an investigative trip to Heaven. Could transfer. Only had to give up the sin that damned them. One by one each decided to keep sin.
b. Illust. Insurance companies cancel auto insurance. Schools expel children. Banks deny credit. WHY? We make choices & experience consequences. Don't exist to cancel ... expel ... refuse credit!
2. The choices we make are made every day.
a. Between hope and despair--you choose to hope.
b. Between faith and doubt--you choose to believe.
c. Between love and hate--you choose to love.
3. Someone has written:
There is a place of eternal darkness and soul-deep pain. We call it Hell. . . . There is another place of summer light and endless joy. We call it Heaven. . . . Heaven and Hell. Light and darkness. Healing and pain. We get to choose. And the choice starts now. Psychiatrists make the choice seem difficult, burying it deep in the repressed longing and pain of childhood. Preachers also make it seem difficult, as if there were hundreds of things to figure out before the choice could be made. Our friends too make the choice seem difficult; life, they reassure us, is terribly complicated and there's nothing to be done about it. . . . The time will surely come, we think, when all the facts will be in and the choice will be clear. All the facts have been in for a long, long time. And the choice is clear. And the choice is yours. (Dale Pauls, Stamford, CT)
Conclusion: Impossible to make the right choices apart from Christ. Would you begin this AM by choosing to walk down the aisle as we sing this song . . .