Do you believe Hell is a literal place and is there a spirit of urgency to tell His truth to those that are lost?
Yes and no. I say yes, because I believe in what the Bible teaches, but I say no, because a lot of beliefs about hell don’t come from the Bible.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. — Revelation 20:11-15 NIV
… and here …
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’… “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” — Matthew 25:31-33, 41-43, 46 NIV
Both John in his Revelation and Jesus refer to a future moment of judgment when Jesus will determine the eternal destiny for each human soul. Those who are known by Jesus, those who were in relationship with him, those who had received his name and had their names written into his book of life will enter eternal life, while those who were not in relationship with him, who did not live the way he lived, who did not have their names in his book will be cast into eternal fire. However, let’s be clear. The Bible never tells us in any sort of detail what “eternal life” for us will look like. Nor does the Bible ever tell us in detail what “eternal punishment” will look like.
Scholars have speculated that an eternal punishment could be exactly what it said in Revelation 20: “The lake of fire is the second death.” In other words, the lake of fire could very well be the annihilation of the human soul into non-existence. On the other hand, it could also mean never-ending conscious torment for the human soul. Here’s the point, though. The Bible doesn’t tell us which one is which. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told that the human consciousness will continue for eternity in the lake of fire, but nowhere are we told that the human consciousness will come to an end in the lake of fire. We just don’t know.
Therefore, when the question is asked regarding whether we believe in a literal Hell, the only answer I can say is that we believe the lake of fire is real, and we believe eternal punishment is real, and we believe some will enter eternal life while others enter eternal punishment. If your notion of Hell is in any way more detailed than that, your notion of Hell has come from someplace other than the Bible.
But let’s tackle the second part of the question. Is there a spirit of urgency in our church to tell the truth to the lost?
Yes and no. I say yes because I have a desperate passion to tell the good news to the lost through my words, through the words of the people in our church, and even more than that through the lives of the people who are following Jesus in this town. I desperately want the lost in Lafayette to know how much God loves them.
However, I also say no because “telling the truth to the lost” is often misunderstood by Christians to mean telling people they are going to Hell unless they get saved. I once sat in a coffeeshop having a conversation with a man who saw it as his duty to go to college campuses with a megaphone to tell women they were harlots and men they were murderers in their hearts and that they were all going to Hell unless they turned to Jesus.
I tried to convince him to stop that, but he didn’t listen to me.
Why do I want him to stop? Am I not worried about people’s eternal soul!? Am I okay with the fact that people are dying and going to Hell?!
I’ll give a simple answer.
I’m trying to imitate Jesus.
Literally the only time Jesus ever told someone they were headed for Hell was in this passage:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Matthew 23:29-33 NIV
The people who thought they were following God by telling other people how to follow God were the people Jesus said were going to Hell because they acted spiritual but failed to actually live out the message of the prophets.
Let’s be blunt. If Jesus didn’t use “You’re going to hell” as his method for convincing people to follow him, neither should I. Also, if Jesus wasn’t impatient with people trying to get them saved at any cost, then neither should I be. If God wants to save someone but he can’t because I don’t get there in time, or because I wasn’t aggressive enough, then that’s a pretty weak God, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, every single moment that goes by in a person’s life where they think God hates them or where they think they are unworthy, or where they think they are living life on their own, or where they think this life is all there is, every one of those moments are wasted moments when that person could have felt the presence of God with them when they could have known the love of God over them.
Beyond that, every single moment a person who claims to follow Jesus doesn’t live like Jesus is a wasted moment for the Kingdom of God. God can figure out a way to work around our failings and our laziness, but isn’t it better to join him in his work!?
No, I want to live the way Paul encourages followers of Christ to live:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. — Colossians 4:5 NIV