OPENING: Looking over the rim of the volcano’s crater, the American tourist remarked, "Reminds one of Hell, doesn’t it?"
The guide threw up his hands and exclaimed, "These Americans, they’ve been everywhere."
APPLICATION: The tourist was noting that the volcano’s pit was not a comfortable place. And he was also declaring that this fiery pit reminded him of another place he would find uncomfortable: Hell.
I. The very concept of Hell makes people uncomfortable: they tend to ignore it, reject it, or mock it.
ILLUS: In 1990 (according to U.S. News & World Report 3/25/91)
78% believed in Heaven and believed they were going there
60% believed in Hell, but only 4% believed they were going there.
ILLUS: (ibid.) The Rev. Mary Kraus observed "My congregation would be stunned to hear a sermon on hell." Her parishioners, she says, are "upper middle class, well-educated critical thinkers" who view God as "compassionate and loving, not someone who’s going to push them into eternal damnation."
ILLUS: Ted Turner, founder of Turner Broadcasting (TBS,TNT,CNN) blasted the Christian faith at a speech to the National Press Club.
"Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don’t really want to be there... Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room, most journalists are certainly going there... (Laughter). but, when we get there we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who want to go to a place that is perfect? Boring, boring." (Laughter).
Also in late 1989, Turner told Dallas Morning News that "Christianity is a religion for losers." Christ died on the cross, but Mr. Turner said He shouldn’t have bothered. "I don’t want anybody dying for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that’s gonna put me in hell, then so be it."
Hell makes people uncomfortable to the point of ignoring, rejecting or mocking its very existence.
II. Yet, Jesus in His teachings, painted a stark picture.
Those who are evil are thrown into darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It will be a place of eternal judgment. A place of torment and thirst.
In summary: It will be a place without God... light... love (companionship, etc.), yet filled with agony.... loneliness... eternal regret.
That’s an uncomfortable concept for the world; for the religious or pagan; for you.. for me
III. And I’ll tell you secret: It even makes God uncomfortable.
It’s not natural: Matthew 25:41 tells us hell was "prepared for Satan and his angels" - not us
II Peter 3:9 tells us God doesn’t want "anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
We are created in His image, He loves us, - would you want to thrown someone you love into Hell???
AND God doesn’t even send people to hell:
Read John 3:16-21
Hell as a destination is a choice. Our choice, not God’s.
IV. Thus when Jesus preached about Hell:
It wasn’t because He wanted us to get "excited" about preaching it. Jesus preached about hell to religious types (Pharisees, followers).
To sinners He used another approach:
The Woman at Well is told "If you knew who it was who asked for a drink..."
Zacchaeus is told "I’m going to your home to eat with you"
Jesus preached hell as a warning to the religiously comfortable.
Likewise, several passages out of Hebrews give veiled warnings of such punishment to the Hebrew Church (which was apparently taking their relationship with God far too lightly).
Should I be afraid of loosing my salvation?
ILLUS: A man shared about the purchase of a summer home: "During the Mortgage Closing on our summer house, my wife and I were asked to sign documents containing small print. When I asked if I should read it, my attorney replied, "Legally, you should, but here’s the bottom line: If you pay your installments on time, there is nothing in there that could harm you. Should you stop paying, however, there is definitely nothing in the small print that can save you."
ILLUS: I bought a watch for $50 - will I take care of it? Of course I will, It cost me quite a bit.
ILLUS: I bought a home - will I deliberately refuse to pay payments? Make improvements? Keep it clean? Of course not! A home is a sizable investment for me and I intend to safeguard it.
By contrast: That which is of little value to me will receive poor attention from me.
IV. But even this wasn’t the primary reason Jesus preached about Hell.
We need to realize that Jesus preached about Hell because it was a "real" place with "real" torment.
Hell was what Jesus described when he told of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff). Notice the plea of the rich man: "… he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, 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.’ (Luke 16:24) Jesus intended us to view hell as a place to avoid at all costs.
CLOSE: My Dad was what was known as "a rounder." A man’s man. Hard worker, hard fighter, and a hard player of baseball and basketball. He was attractive to women and he loved to go out and dance.
Now, it’s not that dad was a stranger to church (when he first met mom, he kissed her behind the furnace in a church basement). He wasn’t unfriendly to church, it’s just that God held little interest for him. He didn’t need God to run his life.
After he married mom, they settled down as married couples did. Mom, a deeply religious woman, never failed to go to church, but dad always had work to do. And - well, church wasn’t all that important anyway. But after awhile, mom’s church going got to bothering him. He accepted the idea that he might go to hell, but the idea of being there without the woman he loved troubled him.
Dad finally decided to force mom to avoid church. He asked her if she would feel comfortable in heaven if he were in hell.
Now, Mom was the quiet type of Christian who didn’t try to force her faith down dad’s throat, but now she had the opportunity to address his need. How would she respond?
She thought for a couple of moments and then asked him: "Lowell, would you really feel comfortable if I were in hell with you?"
The simplicity of her response led dad to change his way of thinking and he turned his life over to Jesus. Why? Because hell wasn’t a comfortable concept to him especially when it came to someone he loved.
SERMONS IN THIS SERIES:
Gaining Heaven’s Glory – Rev. 21:1-8
Escaping Hell’s Fury – Heb. 6:1-8
The Resurrection: Cold Theology or Hot Reality – Heb. 5:11-6:3
Going Beyond Repentance – Heb. 5:11-6:3
My Faith Looks Up – Heb. 5:11-6:3