Summary: The second in a series on gaining an eternal perspective on life.
1. The famous preacher John Killinger & his wife attended a small country funeral where the pastor got up & for most of the 15 minute sermon talked about the horrors of hell & how tragic it was that the deceased was probably there at that very moment. When they left John complained & his wife agreed that it was just about the tackiest thing either of them had ever seen. "However," his wife said, "it would be truly unforgivable except for the fact that it was all true."
2. The statistics about the number of people in America today who believe in heaven and hell is pretty high. Consider this poll.
A Harris poll found that 89% of Americans believe in heaven, and 73% believe in hell. However, when defined as a place of actual torment where people will be sent— only 31% believe in hell.
3. Strangely enough a newer poll shows that far from more and more people writing hell off, more people believe in hell now than did earlier. Consider these statistics.
Strangely enough a poll conducted by US News and World Report showed that there are more Americans who believe in Hell today than there were in the 1980’s or even the 1950’s. However, today most people no longer believe it’s a real place. [US News and World Report. "Hell Hath No Fury." January 31,2000. p. 46]
4. Many people have an image of Hell that is not based on reality. For instance Mark Twain said, "I’ll take heaven for the climate and Hell for the society." Media mogul Ted Turner once said "I’m looking forward to dying & going to hell because that’s where I’m headed." People would not be so flippant about Hell if they understood the reality of it.
5. Hell is being "frozen out" by many preachers who downplay God’s judgment in their sermons. According to a lengthy report June 19, 2002 in The Los Angeles Times, the mention of hell from pulpits is at "an all-time low" as a result of the influence of secularism on Christian theology. 6
6. (Set off a smoke alarm using test button.) The sound you just heard is very unpleasant. It is loud, it is annoying, and you probably would rather not hear it. Nevertheless, this noise can save your life because it is a warning of impending danger so that you will take action to save your life. Today I will be speaking to you about Hell. It too is unpleasant and disturbing. It is like the smoke alarm in that we had rather not hear it, but the teachings Jesus gave us about Hell are intended to warn us of impending danger. To let us know of God’s coming judgment.
7. It’s true that many people who know little or nothing about the Bible and Christianity have a lot of misconceptions about hell, but they aren’t the only ones. Sometimes the things we hear even in church are based more upon tradition and what we’ve heard from others than on scripture.
8. I’ve had several people tell me over the years that you can tell how good a preacher, or man of God is by the frequency which he preaches on hell. The problem with that is that scripture never says that & even more dramatically, the word "Hell" isn’t even mentioned in 49 of the 66 books of the King James version of the Bible. My point is that while we need to understand what scripture says about hell, we don’t want to be guilty of what the Pharisees were, making scripture say what we want it to, rather than letteing God speak for Himself.
9. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard over the years that hell is one of the most frequent topics in scripture. I’ve listened to sermons where I have heard the preachers make statements about hell that I am not at all convinced were true. Let me show you one example of what I’m talking about.
A Common Misconception Christians Have About Hell—
1) "Hell is spoken of much more in scripture than heaven."
2) The word "Hell" is used 14 times in the NIV New Testament.
3) The word "Heaven" is used 223 times in the NIV New Testament.
10. Just because we haven’t always got it right doesn’t mean the topic of hell is not an important one. The truth is that one of the reasons we frequently don’t get it right, is that we are more likely to simply repeat what others have said about hell than we are to study the scriptures which talk about it. So this morning I would like for you to lend me your thoughts for the next few moments as we see what scripture has to say about this very important subject. However, before we begin our study let’s pause and ask the Lord to guide our thinking.