Summary: Heaven or Hell? (Yes Hell is real) The choice is ours.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO HELL?
Text: I Thess. 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I have been wanting to speak on this topic for many years. In fact, waaay back in the beginning of my ministry I created a sermon on this topic and then was advised against preaching it. “Accentuate the positive” I was told, “when people know the good God has for them now and eternally, they will naturally want to follow Him.” I bought that philosophy hook, line and sinker. And to a large degree, I still believe it and preach it…………… For too long, in America, God’s word was thundered from the pulpit each Lord’s Day, - long on judgment and devoid of love and grace - and, quite often, leaving people to conclude our God was implacable. Comedians, Politicians, Educators, and just everyday folks began to make light of “Bible Thumping Preachers,” and lumped every proclaimer of God’s Word under the all encompassing umbrella of those breathing “Fire and Brimstone.”
I don’t know enough about the thinking of men like Norman Vincent Peale to know whether he, and others of like mind, intended Christians should ignore completely the “severity of God,” or if they were only hoping to swing things back to a more centered view, but ……….. The pendulum never stops half way does it? For many years now, (certainly a generation or more) Christian magazines, radio and TV shows, and local pulpits have, for the most part, been silent on this part of the “whole council of God.”
So why do I broach the subject now? Well……….. I suppose that could be sermon in itself, but let me just say this much……..starting with a confession. I myself, have been guilty in the past, of making light of this message and those who preached it. Unfortunately those old tent revivalists of my youth come back to my mind as so many buffoons. Hair slicked back (or eyebrows converging above the nose, sprouting off in every direction,) white shirt stuck to their body with perspiration, huge, white handkerchiefs used to dab their face, eyes that glared fire and brimstone, before they ever opened their mouth……………
All I knew when I entered the ministry, was that I wanted to get as far away from that stereotype as I could. And I did. I laughed along with others in the movie house whenever the old western preacher was portrayed as a lecher or a drunk. I watched as over the years ministers of high (and low) profile, and noted for preaching a sterner sort of religion, were “outed” as frauds. All of this only strengthened my resolve.
I began my ministry preaching the love of God. I continue to do so. I believe it! I believe that knowing the love of God expressed to us in the living and dying of Jesus Christ is the only hope for the individual, the family, our State, the Nation, and the World. I have seen its life transforming power. I have experienced it myself. Indeed, I have “tasted of the power of the age to come.” And it tastes like Love. Pure - unadulterated - literal - palpable - eternal…………
Are you with me so far?
Even though the “agape” love of God is poles apart from the “eros” or the “phileo” kind of love most of us are talking about when we use the word “love,” there are some comparisons we can make.
The Greek word “eros” gives us our root word for physical love. When I hear folks talking about “true love” as opposed to “lust,” I know they are, usually, still talking about a physical kind of love. And I know that physical love can be good or bad. So do you. In fact what makes true love “true” is that it also contains elements of agape and phileo love. We recognize it immediately as something better than just lust. When we compare and contrast the various kinds of love we conclude that one kind is good because we have experienced what “bad” is.
(I’m in over my head on these Greek lessons. I may have been sleeping through these classes. But I’m close. Lol)
The Greek “phileo” gives us our root word for brotherly love. Thus the city of “Phila”delphia, or The City of Brotherly Love. Why do we need a distinction between “brotherly love” and any other kind of love? Because we have experienced what happens when society descends to “every man for himself.” “If you forgot let me recommend you rent “Road Warriors,” with Mel Gibson, and watch it again. - (A post apocalyptic society broken down to its lowest common denominator.)
“Agape” love, or the love of God is altruistic, or selfless, or concerned only with the other person,…..an “I want the highest good for you,” kind of love. (Ex. “In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”)