Hell is for Real

“Hell isn’t as popular as it used to be.” That is the opening line to the article “The Campaign to Eliminate Hell” written by Mark Strauss for National Geographic. I realize hell is not a popular destination on anyone’s bucket list, but that is not what Mark is writing about.

Mark is referring to the view of some modern scholars that hell is not a place of eternal conscious torment. They reason that such a view is inconsistent with the nature of a just and loving God, and those who hold to the traditional view of hell have been influenced by earlier church scholars like St. Augustine.

The issue is not which church scholars got it right on the idea of what hell is; the issue is, are we to trust the reason of man or what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures? Do the Scriptures teach hell is a place of eternal conscious torment?

Hell is not eternal. According to the Scriptures, hell (some translations use Hades) will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14) and those in it “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). These are just a few verses regarding the eternality of the lake of fire.

In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a story about two people in the afterlife, the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man speaks, a commonly accepted sign of consciousness, to Father Abraham and says he is “in agony in this flame” (v. 24) and describes his location as a “place of torment” (v. 28). Many hold this narrative to be an actual account, but even if it is a parable (parables typically do not contain proper names like Lazarus regarded as a reference to an actual person) it is a parable about a place of conscious torment.

When the book and the movie Heaven is for Real came out I wrote an article about them. They tell the story of Colton Burpo who is almost four years old, and while undergoing surgery for appendicitis claims to have had an out of body experience and visits heaven. I said then, “I believe heaven and hell are for real, not because of Colton Burpo or anyone else. I believe, because I believe the Bible.”

The faculty of reason is part of God’s image in man. He gives us the ability to reason, in part, so we can understand what He has revealed to us in the Scriptures and Creation, not to explain away the reality He has revealed.

When we do kick the bucket the lake of fire is the default destination for those who have rejected the Lamb of God (Revelation 20:15).

The question for me is not why a just and loving God would send someone to hell, because He doesn’t. The question that plagues my thoughts is why do people ignore the mercy of God freely offered in Christ, and stubbornly choose to go to hell?

Trump and the Evangelical Vote

One of the surprises to come from the political race to secure the Republican nomination for President is Donald Trump’s ability to garner the majority of the evangelical electorate when running against someone like Ted Cruz, “who more clearly identified with and spoke the language of religious conservatives” according to Scott Waller.

Waller who is the Associate Professor of Political Science at Biola University gives a cogent explanation for this in his recent article Blame Pastors For Evangelical’s Trump Support. Waller says of the evangelical community “few of its leaders speak about the public importance of faith and the implications of that faith in the public square.”

He goes on to suggest this creates the “idea of a public-private dichotomy,” in our listeners. We give the impression that what we believe privately should not be lived out publicly. But Christianity, while its tenets can be held privately, must be lived and declared publicly in what we say and how we live if we hope to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth.”

They do try to bully us into silence. I commented on an article written by a homosexual activist recently. Another commentator told me I should “keep my religion within the four walls of my church. They have no place in the public domain, not now, not ever.” I responded that he and others like him should “keep their perversions within the four walls of their bedroom. They have no place in the public domain, not now, not ever.”

Of course other commentators called me homophobic, un-Christian, and intolerant. I wasn’t trying to be hateful or argumentative. I was simply trying to share the truth of how detrimental their actions are to themselves and the rest of society. But it was not received with the same concern it was offered. The LGBT community wants Christians put in the same closet they came out of.

This is because they fear their actions being exposed to the light of God’s word. Paul told the Ephesians, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”

Some pastors fear to speak up about political issues that overlap into areas of morality and biblical truth because under the Johnson Amendment they think they will loose their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. But it seems to only be applicable when endorsing a candidate for public office or making political contributions.

I do not make political endorsements, and any church that uses the tithes and offerings of God’s people as a political contribution should loose its tax exemption. God’s people give to support the spread of the Gospel not political candidates.

Paul enjoined Timothy, “I solemn charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…preach the word.” If we don’t preach it, who will?

Targeting Target Revisited

In last week’s article I explained my disagreement with boycotts in general and the boycotting of Target in particular. Of those within the Christian Community who shared their thoughts with me, all but one disagreed including my brother who is normally a staunch supporter of my views. It caused me to review what had been shared and to revisit the issue in this week’s article.

I was surprised that so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ thought I was wrong. I wasn’t surprised because they disagreed with me. Like everyone I have a fallen nature that I must guard against in what I think, say and do. I willingly confess, I am flawed and subject to mistakes. For someone to question my judgment does not upset me or surprise me.

But there were two things that did surprise me.

First, not a single believer who disagreed with me cited a biblical basis for their disagreement. No one said to me boycotts are biblical and here is where the Bible says so. I know the word “boycott” is not a biblical term. It entered the English language circa 1880 long after the Scriptures had been penned. What I mean by a “biblical basis” is there a theological principle in the Bible that would support the concept of a boycott. If there is one they kept it to themselves.

Second, I cited as support for my views the words of Christ who told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and Paul who instructed us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Not a single person who disagreed with me said I misquoted Jesus or Paul, or misread, misinterpreted, or misapplied their words.

It is one thing to disagree with me and question my judgment; it is quite another thing to disregard the Word of God. Do my critics suggest Christ would agree with us boycotting those who persecute us instead of His command to pray for them? Do they think Paul would agree that boycotting is a good way of overcoming evil?

In an article last year I wrote my disagreement with Franklin Graham (it is the only time I can remember disagreeing with him) when he called for believers to boycott Wells Fargo because of an ad it produced showing a lesbian couple learning sign language in order to adopt a speech impaired child. He is now telling New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio he is wrong in calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. Seems like boycotting is a two edged sword.

I write about current events from an avowedly biblical perspective. So the issue for me boils down to one simple question; what does the Bible say about it? Jesus once questioned His followers, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” That’s the question I’m asking.

Targeting Target

I am not a fan of boycotts. So when some people decided to start a petition to support a boycott of Target because of its decision to allow transgender people to use their restroom of choice, I did not jump on that bandwagon. The reasons I did not sign on are both practical and biblical.

A company as large as Target probably employs some Christians in its workforce and a boycott could adversely affect them. One may say they should look for work elsewhere, but the vast majority of us, unless you are self-employed or own your own business, have worked for employers whose policies or practices we may have disagreed with for moral reasons. Besides, to leave would remove the Christian witness and influence of believers at Target.

Boycotts are generally ineffective. Recent estimates say over a million people have pledged not to shop at Target, in a nation of almost 323 million I do not think Target will be forced into receivership by such a boycott.

Forgive the pun but why target Target? There are many businesses and corporations that openly support special rights for the LGBT community. Isn’t it hypocritical to boycott one and not the others? And what about those companies that are secretly friendly to LGBT policies, how would one ferret out their private practices to boycott them also?

We know boycotts are one of the weapons of choice by LGBT activists to bully businesses to comply with their demands. I do not think God would have believers mimic their practices. Godly goals should be pursed by Godly means; otherwise we are no different than them. And outward compliance is not always a sign of inward change, and inward change is the Christian goal.

That is a practical perspective of boycotts here is the biblical perspective.

Billy Graham has said, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic, or political or social, as important as these are. The central issues of our time are spiritual and moral.” We are in a spiritual battle for the soul of our nation and that battle will not be won by boycotts and protests.

I can understand avoiding Target if you are concerned for the welfare of your children in the restroom. But I do not believe bullying Target with a boycott is either effective or good.

And Paul instructs us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good,” Romans 12:21. A boycott does not seem to be a good thing. It is a worldly way of trying to address a societal problem. More than that, it does not seem to be a practice that is in keeping with the words of Christ, who told us “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”