This is really not what I had in mind when I was talking about Horror Stories for Halloween. However, I think that it is as good a time as any to make a reference to this true life horror story.
That is, according to the Bible, Hell, a place of fiery eternal torment, is the default destination for absolutely everyone. No matter how genuinely kind, friendly or selfless any individual person might be. The only way to be saved is by inviting Christ into your life as your Lord and Saviour. I know that that might sound strange. I’ve written about it in fuller detail on my Bible Blog.
This is the standard understanding of the Bible among born-again Christians like me. Some Christians describe this in a more gentle way, as a place of “eternal separation from God”. This is a more gentle interpretation…but it is not what the Bible says. The Bible talks about a place of fiery eternal torment.
Regardless of who is right, it is definitely not a pleasant prospect. In fact it is so deeply awful I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
A negative reason to consider faith?
I am so aware that this might come across as a very crude attempt to try to scare people into becoming Christians, or at the very least considering faith.
Candidly speaking there are so many positive reasons to consider faith in Christ. Reasons of self-esteem, reasons of a beautiful future, going to Heaven where we can escape all this mess and carnage on earth. Also truly dealing with the ugliness in your heart (although admittedly many Christians have not done that), overcoming various bad habits, knowing God! (That should be no 1!) Being full of joy
Perhaps what I need to do is to start a series on positive reasons to consider faith. However, I need to make sure that that does not become a “Tosin-promise” where in a post I promise to do something, but then life happens and I either forget or decide I can’t be bothered, and hope other people think I’ve forgotten! I realise I’ve been making quite a few of those recently, which is not a good thing. All the same please believe me that there are so many beautiful and powerful and exciting positive reasons to consider faith in Christ. However, this is the way I look at it.
Let’s pretend I am a housing officer for the local council and I am trying to sell to you all the positive reasons why you should move into the flat across the road from your existing flat. I could tell you that the flat is completely free, much better than your existing flat, and all you have to do is physically move – the council will even pay for your removals! And there is beautiful furniture thrown in for free – all those features are like selling the positive features of faith in Christ, of which there are many. Not everything is positive; the Bible does promise us Christians suffering down here on earth, of which I have had a taste myself. And yet on the whole there is lots of positivity, lots to look forward to in the future. And yet none of those things explain why you have to move across the road, or why you have to become a Christian – until I explain to you that the council plans to demolish your existing flat. Well OK then! Suddenly you instantly understand why it is not just a brilliant offer, but it is actually compulsory.
It is like that when I talk about my faith. I personally would be more than happy to sit around talking about all the positive features of the faith. However those would not necessarily communicate why you need to consider the faith. Hell is that one reason. And that is also the reason why I feel compelled to go around telling everyone. I feel like I metaphorically need to knock on everyone’s door to explain to them what the council plans to do with their existing flat, why they need to get out of there. And of course you would need to tell people if their existing flat was going to be demolished. Of course you need to give people the chance to safely get out! Of course I cannot just sit there quietly with the threat of demolition hanging over people’s heads! So I hope that seen from that perspective people would understand why I feel I need to say it.
You do not need to agree with me, of course. That is completely your own prerogative. Unfortunately to complicate matters, there are lots of people each eagerly claiming that the truth belongs to their own faith or belief system. That is like lots of people knocking on your door claiming to be housing officers from the local council, all suggesting that you will only be safe if you move into their particular property. However I have told you, I have done my own part, and the rest is up to you, to decide to investigate further, to consider it for yourself, to decide which housing officer, is any, is telling the truth – or to decide that we are all peddling various scams, and then make up your mind to firmly stay put in your existing flat.
In real life in this flat scenario the council would drag you out kicking and screaming if necessary if you refused to vacate your existing flat. As a child I always used to wonder why we as Christians do not do that (except when Christians have acted this way in the past, which is very unChristian). The answer is that God has given us genuine free will but we have to freely choose Christ for ourselves, He will not force any of us to accept salvation in Christ. I guess you could say it is still a forced choice if the alternative is Hell. Well the way I look at it is this: we were all always going to go to Hell. That is just the path we have been set on. Then God invented a rescue package – and that is Jesus. His death, His resurrection etc. Then Jesus stands to the side, offering eternal salvation. It is a completely free gift, but He is not going to force it on you. If you refuse it, then you just continue on that broad road that you were on, heading where everyone else is heading.
Actually, as I am writing this, I am wondering whether there might be a viable argument for suggesting that non-believers in Christ simply die, rather than face eternal torment. This is probably immensely heretical but secretly I think that most Christians wish that that was the case. Because otherwise the prospect of eternal torment in burning flames is just too, too awful. I actually find it psychologically quite hard to deal with and I have always wondered how I could possibly release myself to enjoying Heaven knowing that so many people were burning in Hell – forever. In that case, if non-believers simply died, the negative case for embracing faith in Christ would be removed. I could tell people: reject Christ, and simply die, or cease to exist, (as you always were going to do anyway – surely that is not news?!), or embrace the sacrifice of Christ and live forever! And Heaven truly is going to be amazing. There is going to be amazing food, and music, no pain, no death, no betrayal, no racism, no sexism – but no marriage either! (Which is why Mr HW really needs to show up “on this side of eternity”!) Jesus is going to be there, and I definitely plan to be there, although I daresay I am not going to the the centre of that party!
But this is a little get out clause, because the Bible speaks about a place of eternal torment. This talk of eternal torment could be a metaphor, admittedly; in other verses like John 3v16 the Bible does talk about people perishing. It is only when compared to eternal torment that the prospect of dying outright could be seen as a blessing. Ultimately we will not know for sure until this life ends. I’d say err on the side of caution and choose Christ: choose Christ to win for yourself the glories of Heaven, choose Christ to avoid the prospect of Hell or damnation, whatever it might look like!