Summary: This is perhaps the most unpopular subject in the whole Bible. It is so unpopular, many ministers avoid the subject. But if Hell exists, shouldn’t we sound a warning?
If Hell Exists
M-1093 / 13 July 2008
Dr. Russell K. Tardo
The Bible’s Most Unpopular Topic
The text today is from Luke, chapter 16, and I’ll be speaking about the most unpopular subject in the Bible. Several topics probably come to mind -- trials, suffering, holiness, or the call to sacrifice, death, separation from the world, etc. While all these are unpopular, none of these are our topic of choice. Today we’re going to talk about hell because that is certainly the most unpopular subject in the Bible. How do we know it’s an unpopular subject? Because no one wants to talk about it. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve been in a church for ten years and never heard a message on the subject of hell.
It must be borne in mind that this is twenty-first century America where everything is market driven, including the church. When something is market driven, that means the supplier gives people what they want, something popular, light and entertaining, or amusing. Heavy subjects are to be avoided at all cost. The people want their messages, i.e., their sermons, like they want their meals -- light, no calories, nothing that would make them feel heavy. Nothing weighty, please. If the preacher wants people to come back to church, he doesn’t talk about unpopular things. The church has borrowed its methods from the world. In the world of marketing what happens if a product is unpopular? No one buys it, that’s what happens. If it’s unpopular, it sits on the shelf, neglected, gathering dust and eventually, it disappears because the vendor stops carrying the product altogether. The difference between an unpopular product and hell is that hell is not going to go away. Hell can be neglected, avoided and shunned. It can be ignored, not addressed, not spoken of, but that doesn’t change the reality -- hell is not going away.
When I was a youngster growing up in the Baptist church, we heard messages on hell with some degree of regularity. It wasn’t all that long ago that such messages were common fare in an evangelical church. In Bible believing churches, someone -- the pastor, a visiting evangelist, etc. -- preached about hell as a warning in order to escape hell’s fire and brimstone. The message was to live righteous and godly lives because if you didn’t, you’d end up in hell. That was the twentieth century and people heard about hell. Now in the twenty-first century, the age of Oprah Winfrey religion and Dr. Phil philosophy, the modern popular church has remade, recast, repackaged God into a kinder, softer, gentler version of Christ who is just too nice to condemn anyone to eternal flame. The whole idea is absurd in the minds of modern people, including many Christians. They look upon such teachings, such topics as something carried over from the medieval period.
We can say without fear of contradiction, hell has fallen out of a place of popularity in the world. A poll was taken on "Hell and the Afterlife in America." At random, sixty-four percent of Americans said they believed they would go to heaven at death. Five percent believed they would be reincarnated, coming back in some other life form. Five percent professed to believe they would simply cease to exist. Twenty-four percent had absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what would happen to them at death. One-half of one percent said they would probably go to hell.
Many people believe in heaven, but most don’t want to believe in hell. It’s not a pleasant thought. It’s a new day and such topics are dismissed from the mind. It’s the day of the 10,000 member, tremendously popular mega church where people flock to hear good music and uplifting, inspirational messages. These churches find no place for teaching on the doctrine of hell. Like the old song, Home on the Range, at these churches never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. A message that might bring conviction in any area of life is simply not heard. There just aren’t many churches in America where a message about hell is presented. The subject is not talked about because someone might leave offended.
What about this? It’s strange, but true: the lost, unsaved world talks more about hell than the contemporary church. The things said about hell are actually rather telling. Hell is frequently mentioned in the everyday conversations of the worldly. For example, "It’s hot as hell." That’s a little telling, don’t you think? They’re acknowledging that hell is hot. Who talks like that? The world! "All hell broke loose." "There’ll be hell to pay!" "Just for the hell of it...." "What the hell?" "He’s mad as hell." "I’m sure as hell going to ...." Think about it! "I’m sure as hell ...." What does that mean? Hell is sure. It’s surely there and awaits the wicked. Go to the world and much is heard about hell, but not so much as a whisper is heard of hell in church. And if there’s a dispute or exchange of angry words, one of the party is sure to say, "Go to hell!" Then there’s the expression, "That sure scared the hell out of me." Wait! These are telling expressions because it is saying that there is a need to get right because no one wants to end up in hell. The Bible repeatedly tells the church to warn every man about the reality of hell.