|How to Get to Hell|
(by Chris Long and Rich Mullins)
Note from Chris:
This article is admittedly lengthy, but I can guarantee that it may be one of the most important things you'll ever read. Not because I think it's so wonderful, but because the truths in this message today reach far beyond surface Christianity into the nuts-and-bolts, blood-and-guts Gospel truths that deal with the most important issues that you or I could ever address. It gets us into core issues that we all need to face.
With that out of the way, I'd like to jump right into the catalyst for my writings today: an article by Rich Mullins I ran across many years ago. For those that don't know, Rich Mullins was the writer of several popular Christian songs including "Awesome God", "Step by Step" and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." He went home to be with Jesus in 1997.
Here it is:
I remember one time [my friend] Beaker and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and he met some friends of his, so I walked into town. It was about a five-mile walk from the campsite down the trail and down into town. And when I got there I went into a restaurant and I was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation. We were having a good time, and he said, "Hey look, it's dark and it's five miles up the road to your campground. Why don't I drive you up there?"
The Bible clearly teaches that the central issue is one of belief or unbelief. We either believe the Bible - all of it - including that we are sinners in need of saving and that Jesus provided that salvation and believing and responding to that revelation, or we do not believe. It is unbelief that keeps us from God. It is unbelief, steeped in our own pride, unable to believe and accept God's simple revealed truths that keeps us from heaven.
God does send humans to hell, but not because He is being mean; rather it is because He is honoring our own wishes. The Bible even tells us that hell was not created for us humans, but rather for the devil and the rest of the demons. God's heart is one of wanting all to come to Him, but He has chosen to accept the choice of humans that, in prideful rebellion, reject Him by their unbelief. In essence, all those that will go to hell are those that themselves CHOSE to go to hell by not believing and humbling themselves before Almighty God, the God who made them and everything they see! If God didn't let them have their way, there would be no element of choice, and we would all be mindless robots - not creatures that can CHOOSE God (LIFE!).
The Bible introduces the concept of saving by faith right away in the Bible and continues that theme until the very end. In the first book of the Bible, for instance, we are told in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham "believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." When reading the Gospels, you will find that Jesus almost always brought the physical healings and miracles that he performed back to the issue of faith one way or another. The other books of the New Testament make even more abundandtly clear that it is faith, and specifically faith in Jesus and what He did on our behalf, and not our works, that saves. Check out Romans 4 for an in-depth read that lays this out.
The issue is not about any specific sin, including homosexuality. However, it amazes me the amount of people that instead of reading and believing what God himself has said about sin, including homosexuality, they instead try to candy-coat it or explain it away to fit their own agenda and belief-system. When God calls something an "abomination" to Him and "unnatural", and especially when it is an issue reitterated multiple times in Scripture (Romans 1 is a great read), you cannot just explain this away as "not what He meant" or "only for a specific time" or anything else. To do so, is to do so in complete ignorance and pride, rather than genuinely trying to seek the truth in humility.
I have a very hard time with those who want to merge being homosexuals (or adulterers, or any other sin) and be Christians, all the while claiming that their sin is not sin when the Bible clearly says otherwise. I mean, you either believe the Bible or you don't. You either believe in and accept God's payment for sin on your behalf or you don't. If you are so blinded that you can't even admit that what you are doing is sinful, then you certainly don't see a need for a Savior for that sin. And if Jesus isn't covering that sin (by your own arrogant choice), then you will have to answer for that sin with absolutely no defense when you meet the Lord face to face. If in rebellion to God, one chooses to ignore what He says and "pick and choose" only the parts they like and want to hear out of His revealed Word, they are standing on a very shaky foundation. And on that Day, that foundation will be revealed for exactly what it is.
See, it is one thing to struggle with sin as a believer, recognize that it is sin, and desire to stop that sin in your life with God's help. As Christians, there is a real war between the new nature (spirit) and the old nature (flesh). This happens with most all believers (myself included!). It is another thing entirely though to claim to be a believer and yet be steeped in sin that you won't even recognize as sin, and worse, even become "proud" of and convince yourself that God approves of. I always take the claims of anyone that says they are a believer seriously, because I don't know the heart and only God REALLY knows and so I need to be careful not to pass the judgement that only God can pass. But it is also true that the fruit of a person's life always eventually shows itself. If someone is claiming to be a follower of Jesus and yet they practice homosexuality or other sin where they won't acknowledge it as sin, are proud of their sin, and defend their sin, then how much of Jesus is really showing in their life? What's the fruit? A life of disobedience to God's Word?
When someone is flaunting sin that God specifically says is wrong, well, it is fair to question just what their relationship really is with Him. Because more likely than not, what has happened is someone is really just using Christianity as a veil so they can still claim they are right with God while doing their sin. Many people that claim to be Christians in actuality have a "smorgasboard religion" of a little of this, a little of that - where they have chosen to embrace things they want to hear but discard things that actually set boundaries for their lives or tell them things they should not do.
Many people like to hear flowery messages about how God loves them and wants them to be successful, fulfill their dreams, take them to Heaven, and so forth. And many of those same people don't want to hear the truth of God's Word in regards to sin, hell, and judgement - and even the Gospel truth that Jesus is the only way to Heaven! There are entire denominations and churches (including many large ones - and many you will find on the religious t.v. channel) that love to cater to these people. They won't ever tell you that you are doing anything wrong or that sin is serious and has serious consequences. They'll "uplift" you every week by just telling you how God is for you (sometimes they don't ever - or rarely - even mention Jesus!). Your ears can be tickled by any number of "pastors" that do this if you want. But you'll do so to your own detriment!
Because the truth is that God loves you very very much. But He also hates sin very very much. He hates what it brings about in people's lives - which is death (spiritual, physical, eternal). In fact, it is partly BECAUSE He loves you that he hates so much that which would destroy you. And it is also because of His love for you and me that He provided a way whereby we can all be restored to Him and where LIFE will conquer death in all its forms.
The main purpose of life here is for each person to choose Life for all eternity. Everything else is secondary to that. Originally the earth was created and humans were made to live in perfect fellowship with God. Due to the choices of the first two humans, who rejected God's way and chose satan's lies instead, sin was brought into the world. Thus the fellowship was broken and death entered the world, because a gap now existed between a holy, righteous God and sinful humans who rejected God and His ways. God could have just ignored it or just started over, but then our choices would be of no importance and thus we could not have any choice in whether we loved God and wanted to be with Him. God could also have just punished us forever with no hope. And yet, God's heart was to restore the broken fellowship. He wanted us to be with him forever. And so His plan went into motion.
Since we could never pay the penalty for our sin and right the wrong because we were the sinners, and because He is a just God that couldn't just overlook the sin, the only way the wrong could be righted was if He Himself paid for the wrong. God spent a long time from the time of those first humans until the time of Jesus, showing us that we as humans would never be good enough and could never do enough to pay for our sins. We couldn't even keep 10 simple commandments from Him. Because God who is holy and pure also is a just and fair God, there had to be an act to satisfy God's justice. And yet, we could not satisfy it. So, in His love, He Himself satisfied His justice by sacrificing Himself on our behalf. Jesus, who is referred to as "God's son", but is also one of the 3 parts that makes up who God is (yes, there is a mystery in this), caused Himself to enter our world to fulfill His divinely orchestrated plan.
Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life on this earth, was put to death by sinful humans, which of course is not at all how we think it should have been. It should have been us on the cross. And yet, even if I had been put to death on the cross, and even if my death could satisfy God's justice, at best it could only satisfy His justice in regards to me because as a sinful human, I certainly could not atone for everyone else's sin. Only God Himself, perfect in every way, could atone for all mankind. When you get down to it, Jesus dying on the cross was the most unjust thing ever! It shows us the depths of His love for you and for me. There is no greater love. (see Romans 5:6-11).
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and yours, so that we all can stand righteous before God by acknowledging our sinfulness and believing in and accepting His work to pay the penalty for our sin. See, Jesus died and satisfied the righteous requirements of God to atone for our sin. But there still is the element of choice in all of us. We must now choose to either accept His sacrifice on our behalf or not. It was a global human act and yet, it is very personal in application. If we do not WANT Jesus to pay for our sin, God will not force it. If we choose to try to come to Him in some other way, He will allow us to try. We can try, but we will fail.
Jesus alone is the bridge that closes the gap between sinful man in rebellion to God and a holy, just, righteous God who loves everyone and wants ALL to come to full repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9, John 14:6). The choice to believe that, or not believe that, is ours. We can choose to believe in and accept the sacrifice of God on our behalf or reject it in our pride. You can stand in belief or in unbelief in regards to what the Bible teaches. One way leads to life (now and forever) and the other death (now and forever). Our choice.
Rich Mullins was indeed absolutely correct when he wrote above that people that go to hell do so because they have rejected the grace that God so longs to give. The trick here is that many people haven't openly said: "I reject God's grace" or "I reject Jesus", but yet their life of unbelief and rebellion to God showcases it nonetheless.
The best part of the Gospel story is that it doesn't end with Jesus bloody and naked, hanging dead on a cross. Jesus did die for our sins. But He also rose from the dead. Jesus Himself, speaking of His life, said "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (John 10:18). Jesus proved He was God by rising from the dead, because only the One who made the universe and had total authority over life and death itself could do it! He showed Himself to many after He was raised and many of those people eventually ended up being put to death themselves for their unwavering assertion of what had transpired (this is recorded in other historical records, not just the Bible - why would such people die for something they knew was a "lie"? They wouldn't. But they would if they knew for a fact it was true!)
The Bible tells us that He now is again outside of our world in the Heavenly realm. He is forever interceding on the behalf of all those whose faith is in Him. And yet, the Bible does also teach that there will be a time when He will come back into this world. When He comes back, it will not be as a baby in a manger, but as the King of Kings coming to Himself pronounce judgement on an unbelieving world that would not believe in Him.
Not all Christians agree on everything the Bible teaches about the future events to come in this regard, but there are some things that are agreed on: (1) Jesus is coming back, (2) those who have rejected Him will encounter judgement the likes of which they have never known, (3) those who have rejected Him will ultimately bow their knee and declare that Jesus is Lord to the Glory of God and acknowledge that He is just to cast them off into outer darkness (hell), (4) those that have NOT rejected Him but have believed in Him and what He did will live forever with Him for all eternity, (5) This earth will be destroyed and a new one will be created.
Incidentally, just a brief sidenote: This last one is why it is so sadly ironic that many people are much more concerned with "global warming" and the saving of this earth, which the Bible SAYS will be destroyed (by God!), then in the saving of their own souls! This of course doesn't mean that we are not to be good stewards of the earth...I'm just pointing out the clear irony here.
Some people don't like to hear all of these Biblical truths because they don't think it is fair or that God is unloving. They claim that a loving God would never send anyone to hell and that they cannot believe in a God who would. The fact is that God is most loving and loves us more than any human could ever love us. He proved His love for us. It is not God who is unloving, but WE as humans who are unloving. It is we who turned away from God and who broke His laws (which He established for our own good). It is we humans that crucified Love on the cross. It is we humans who have been rejecting Him ever since!
Yes, God sends people to hell - but NOT because He wants to, but because WE want to. It is an absolute tragedy and it breaks God's heart. If someone goes to hell, it is because they have chosen to reject Him because they have rejected the way in which they could live with Him.
See, the truth is that God is God, and we are not. We are the creation. God is the One who has always existed, who made the universe, who made us, and who established right and wrong. If God says that something is wrong or is not good for us, what right do we have to argue? Do we think we know better than Him??? And yet, many people foolishly make the mistake of not believing because they don't think they agree with Him or the type of God they think He is. Let me share something: It does not MATTER what you or I think is right. It does not MATTER whether we agree with God. It does not MATTER if we understand Him or understand all about Him (we can't anyway!!). We are not the Creator. We are the created. You can foolishly reject Him and refuse to submit to Him if you want. You can choose, in your pride, to live your life apart from Him in a life of unbelief if you want. But in the final analysis, God will prove Himself true. And it will be He, and not you, who WILL have the final say.
This is all serious life and death, light and darkness stuff. It is literally the difference between heaven and hell for all eternity. And yet, sometimes as we look at these truths, Christians can, in their zeal and concern for their fellow humans, sometimes lose sight of the fact that the heart of God is still Love. This is another thing that Rich mentioned in his writing that he was absolutely right about.
We are to love all people, regardless of their sin status. We are to have absolute love and compassion on all people because God has absolute love and compassion on all people. We should be especially mindful of this when dealing with those lost in their sin, for it is they who most need to see this love, and it is also they who least expect to receive this love from us!
Many people, including this guy that Rich had contact with, like to use their idea that Christians are "so judgemental" and "unloving" and also that God is unloving as a means of rejecting the Christian's message and Christ himself. This is all fuel that they use to further the hardness of their heart and to remain far from God and His truth. They incorrectly, but understandably, use the love or non-love of Christians to judge Jesus. As we love on them and show them Christ's love as we are called to do in Scripture by Jesus Himself, we lessen their ability to have this as a perceived valid argument in their mind. Or at least it makes it harder for them to hold on to such excuses.
At the same time, love does not mean a watered-down or compromised truth. Sin is still sin and the truth is still the truth. And the truth still needs to be unashamedly proclaimed. But it is important that truth is proclaimed in love (see Ephesians 4:14-15).
And now I must pause. Because there are bound to be some that have been reading this that have never truly believed in Jesus and what He did for humanity. Perhaps after reading this today, your eyes and heart have been opened to the fact that you are a sinner and you have been rejecting Jesus. Perhaps you realize that you have been foolishly fighting God, using excuses about Him being unloving and such. And you now realize that it is the exact opposite. Jesus loves YOU so very much. All you need to do is BELIEVE in your heart these truths that have been proclaimed. Open your heart fully to Him right now. Your faith will save you and Jesus will meet you right now where you are at. He is always listening and will listen to you now.
Right now, either silently or out loud, but from your heart, ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin - that you believe and accept what He did for you to forgive you of your sin. Ask Him to come into your life and make you a follower of His and to save you for all eternity. If you have sincerely done this, He will meet your faith and you will truly become a Child of God and you can be assured that you have been saved from destruction, and that if you were to die today, you would go to live with Him. Jesus will come into your life and help you to grow in your faith and turn from sin. You literally will become a "new creation" - 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
The next step is to seek out a local church in your area that teaches the Bible and believes that all of it is the true Word of God. Check to make sure their teachings line up with what is in this letter (which is standard Christian doctrine). Tell them that you have just given your heart and life to Jesus and you would like their help to go forward. They will be glad to assist you. Also, please contact me and let me know of your decision as well so that I might pray for you! You can find me on the web at: http://www.laughandlift.com/contact.html
Okay, finally I would like to take a moment to specifically address those of you who are believers reading this but know someone who is not a believer (which I imagine is many):
Please know that God is not done with them and there is a process with each person. Only God knows the heart and so only God knows where each person is really at in that process.
As long as a human being is still alive here in this world that does not know Jesus, there is HOPE for that individual. We must be careful to never give up hope for someone just because we don't see any changes. I could be wrong, but I have a theory that all those that die without the Lord, are taken from this earth at the perfect time where the Lord knows that there is nothing more He could do where they would come to Him. The Bible teaches that God is outside of time (not constrained by time) and therefore He knows the beginning from the end. He knows all those that will turn to Him. And yet, I believe He still tries to do everything possible to reach each person. This would be a part of the character trait of justice, of which God is the perfect representative of. As a person rejects Him and His truth and rejects and rejects, their heart continues to harden and eventually there comes a point whereby there is nothing more that could be attempted - the person is insisting on doing things their way without Him. Only God knows what that point is for each person.
Now whether my assessment of that is completely correct or not, one thing IS certain: As long as someone is still alive here, there is hope, because since we do not know the heart, there is still the chance that they may turn no matter how it may look to us. I've got a few personal examples to share.
My grandfather lived to be 98-years-old and as far as I know lived a life full of unbelief his entire life. My grandmother did turn to Jesus and accept Him as the Savior from her sins some years back. For a while I could clearly see in my Spirit how through the Lord taking my grandmother home to be with Him, it could also be a major last effort to reach my grandfather. He had done everything else and my grandfather did not respond. He did not respond when my dad (his son) passed away many months before. (this also incidentally could be seen as a showcase of increasing measures the Lord will take to reach someone!). Sure enough, my grandmother ended up being admitted to the hospital with serious heart trouble and suffered a stroke whereby she could no longer speak.
For nearly 2 weeks, I read Scripture to her in the hospital while my grandfather was there as well. Little did he know that about half of my chosen Scriptures were actually directly geared for him!! And I saw how after I read the Scriptures many times he would be teary-eyed (VERY uncharacteristic!) - there was clearly an internal battle as the sharp-edged Word of God was piercing his heart. My grandmother passed away a few weeks later. Shortly thereafter I was able to have a good talk with him spelling out why she and my dad were both in Heaven. And he listened.
Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that it appeared he rejected and hardened his heart even further. If there was ever someone for which hope appeared to be gone, it was him. He lived over 2 more years from the time his wife (my grandmother) went to the Lord.
I saw my grandmother and dad, who WERE believers and did have hope and expectancy of eternal life, shortly before they left this earth, and there was a marked difference (and I mean night-and-day, or perhaps better to say life-and-death difference) from the state I saw my grandfather in hours before he died. I know that the Lord extended His hand out to my grandfather time-after-time (more than I even know) throughout his 98 years of life. I hope he took it at the end. As far as I know, as a result of his "hopeless" beliefs, he essentially gave up on life after my grandmother (his wife of 74 years!) left this earth - it was too much for him. As a result of choices he made that were fueled out of his "hopeless" worldview, he essentially was a 98-year-old man dying in a strange hospice setting where he basically died of starvation after his bodily processes started shutting down - with mostly nobody but a few neighbors around until the very last day....I can tell you it was a very sad scene indeed.
Billy Graham once said: "I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say that there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and a non-Christian as there is between heaven and hell."
I held out hope for my grandfather as long as he was alive even though I didn't know what else Jesus could do to draw him. About 6 months before he died, I wrote him a letter declaring the Gospel clearly (spelling out much of what I've shared today) along with supporting Scripture. After he died and we were going through his belongings, I did find that letter next to his chair. The fact that it was there and he hadn't thrown it out suggests to me that he may have been giving it serious consideration, and yet his actions even up to his final days suggested he did not turn. But I do know that no matter what, Jesus's heart was for my grandfather to be with him for all eternity and He would do everything He could to make that a reality. And if my grandfather rejected Him and died in his sins, that was his choice - extremely sad, yes - an absolute tragedy, certainly - but his choice, and his alone, to make.
To this day I still hold out hope that in his last moments or seconds of life he turned to the Lord in his heart. I don't really know. I do know that while he was still here on this earth, there was hope for him.
Likewise, I encourage you to also hold on to that hope for those family members and friends that you know. Continue praying and continue loving on them as best you can (even if they outwardly reject you - which incidentally did somewhat happen to me by my grandfather). As long as they are breathing, there is hope for them and remember, God can work where none of us can! I prayed for my father for years and he did accept the Lord shortly before he passed away - God worked and he responded. I also had an elderly friend that had rejected Jesus as the way of salvation for years - We first started talking about Christianity in 1993 and she didn't respond in faith to receive Jesus until 2010 (and subsequently passed away about 3 months later), and that was only after numerous visits and sharing Scriptures with her both in word and in deed. There is always hope through Jesus!
I know I have touched on many things in this rather lengthy letter, but they are some of the most important things any of us could ever consider. The funny thing is I still feel like there's so much more that could be said! But this will have to suffice for now (it is, after all, 3 a.m. and I'm starting to fade!! ;)
It is my prayer that the truths proclaimed will permeate each of our hearts and minds. We all need to hear and be reminded of these things (myself included!).
Love you all! :)
This is version 1.2 of this document (January 28, 2012).