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Dear Evangelical: Tell Me the Truth, Am I Headed for Hell?

hell

Bruce: Five years ago, 152 Pakistanis were killed in a plane crash.

Evangelical: I hope they all knew the Lord.

Bruce: Why does that matter?

Evangelical: Well, if they didn’t know the Lord they probably went to hell.

Bruce: Probably?

Evangelical: Well…some of them might have trusted Jesus just before they died. I don’t know their hearts. God is the judge.

Bruce: It is likely the plane passengers were Muslim. Most likely the last word on their lips was ALLAH. Do Muslims go to heaven when they die?

Evangelical: Only if they believe in Jesus.

Bruce: Muslims do not believe Jesus is the way, truth and life.They do not believe salvation is found in Jesus Christ. So, did the Muslim plane passengers go to hell when they died?

Evangelical: I am not their judge. It’s between them and God.

A lot of Evangelicals are increasingly uncomfortable with what the Bible says about hell. According to inspired, inerrant Word of God,  all non-Christians go to hell when they die. They will be tormented day and night for eternity. All Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists will burn forever because of their rejection of Jesus Christ. Many Evangelicals even add Catholics, liberal Protestants, and universalists to the thou shalt burn list.

Let me remind readers what the Bible says about hell (collated from several Christian websites):

  • A place of weeping and gnashing of teeth – “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
  • A place of darkness – “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).
  • A place of torment – “And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23).
  • A place of sorrow – “The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;” (2 Samuel 22:6).
  • A place of everlasting destruction – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (II Thessalonians 1:9).
  • A place where humans are tormented with fire and brimstone – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
  • A place where fire is not quenched – “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).
  • A bottomless pit – “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit” (Revelation 9:2).
  • A place of no rest – “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11).
  • A lake of fire – “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
  • A place of hopeless of unsatisfied desires – “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame ” (Luke 16:24). The rich man wanted water but could not get any.

The Bible, as interpreted through the lens of Evangelicalism, is very clear on the matter of hell and why people end up there after they die. Even those who have never heard about Jesus Christ will burn in hell forever. It’s their fault for not knowing, even though no one ever told them about Jesus.  According to the Calvinist, before God created the first human he decided where each of us would bunk when we die. The elect go to heaven, the non-elect go to hell.

According to the Evangelical score card, the overwhelming majority of people, past, present, and future, end up in hell when they die. This is God’s righteous judgment of those who did not repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Wait a minute, what about the people who lived before the birth of Christ?  Where did they go when they died? Let the explaining and theological gymnastics begin.

Yet, when it comes right down to it, when confronted face to face with someone such as I — a person who once professed Christ, who once preached the gospel of Christ — many Evangelicals have a hard time telling me I’m headed for hell. They convince themselves that I am just confused or backslidden. They are certain the Holy Spirit will straighten me out and in no time I will be back preaching at First Baptist Church of Somewhere.

For some people, particularly those who are Christian friends or former parishioners, the notion of Bruce Gerencser going to hell is quite preposterous. A few of my friends have told me they find my defection from Christianity quite unsettling. If I can fall away then anyone can fall away. If I am headed for hell, will they be next?

I’ve attended many funerals over the years. I have only been to one funeral where the preacher had guts enough to say that the deceased went to hell. In every other instance some anecdotal story was told to give the living the impression that the deceased was now in heaven with all his dead loved ones (please read Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?). No matter how vile or evil the person was, he went to heaven when he died. People can live most of their lives as  atheists, but because they asked Jesus into their heart as a child, they go to heaven when they die. What a sweet deal, right?

Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Do you believe it is truth? Do you believe that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ? Do you believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?  If so, it’s time for you to be honest about what you believe. It’s time to speak the truth. It’s time to own what the Bible says.

If what the Bible says about salvation, heaven, and hell is true, then these claims are also true:

  • All Muslims are headed for hell
  • All Buddhists are headed for hell
  • All agnostics are headed for hell
  • All atheists are headed for hell
  • All who have not trusted Jesus Christ as their personal savior are headed for hell
  • All who reject the truth claims of the Bible are headed for hell
  • All Catholics are headed for hell
  • All liberal Protestants are headed for hell
  • All universalists are headed for hell
  • All homosexuals are headed for hell
  • Bruce, YOU are headed for hell

If you are not willing to consign to hell most of the billions of people who have lived on this earth, then it is time for you to stop saying you believe the Bible is truth; that you believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Just remember, once you admit that you only really believe certain parts of the Bible, you have started down a slippery slope that could lead you to where I am today. Then you too will be headed for hell, just like me.

I write this post as a challenge to my Christian readers, friends, and former parishioners. What do you really believe? Do you really think I’m headed for hell? Do you really believe God will fit me with a special fireproof body so he can torture me for eternity? Don’t try to evade the question by saying things like, I don’t know your heart or only God knows for sure. If one can know from the Bible what salvation is, then certainly it seems people should be able to know if they don’t have it. And if they don’t have salvation, they are certainly going to hell.

010117

16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Kate Bartlett

    This is something I have wondered. How can a loving God send a person to hell and ‘want’ to torture them because they simply have doubts or questions. So often God sounds more like the devil. It seems like such a twisted, hateful, sad mindset and belief system.

  2. Avatar
    camper

    good stuff ….. I am interested in hearing more about the preacher who said the dead person was burning in hell …… what was the reaction of the dead person’s family? and how was the reaction of the assembled crowd? somebody told me my mum was probably in hell ….. that hurt ….. so I can imagine when the preacher said it at the funeral you were at ….. that would be devastating. how is that supposed to help the grieving process??? and to show th love of God and bring people to Christ??? how???

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The funeral was in New Straitsville, Ohio. The man was arguably a bad person, so I suspect family agreed with the preacher. At the close of the service they passed an offering plate to help with funeral expenses.

  3. Avatar
    Kate Bartlett

    In my previous comment I said “so often God sounds more like the devil” but thinking about it God sounds, acts, responds more like a human being. A great big powerful controlling, spiteful human. I’ll probably go to hell for saying that.

  4. Avatar
    Beth

    I think you’re good, Bruce. When I was a kid, an evangelist (who thought Catholics worshipped the devil) assured me that anyone saved had a get into heaven-free card, no matter what they did. Haven’t really seen much to convince me that was a stray belief.

  5. Avatar
    Karen

    Words I live by:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    — Marcus Aurelius

    I’m convinced ol’ Marc had it figured out.

  6. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    The concept of hell as everlasting punishment is probably the worst doctrine in the NT and spoken by Jesus. How can anyone who is compassionate want to see anyone suffer torture forever for finite “sins” committed in finite time? When we see someone suffering, don’t we want to relieve that suffering and , if we have the ability to do this, would not a compassionate person do this?

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

  7. Avatar
    DJ

    I always wondered…if the brain is dead when we die, how can we possibly interpret torment, darkness, sorrow, etc?

  8. Avatar
    Zoe

    DJ, I thought I’d share what my past belief-system would have said about your question.

    The brain is dead, but the spirit &/or soul if you will, the invisible eternal part of us does not die. It is eternal, therefore aware.

    Any attempts at teasing it all out are useless because if God can create a world in 6 days He can do anything.

    • Avatar
      DJ

      Thanks Zoe.

      I’m glad that that was my “past belief-system” too. I now know that “awareness” is in the consciousness, which is in the brain, hence…dead. I truly believe that spirit &/or soul is a name the brain gives to the awareness of person-hood we feel in our brains. Hence…Invisible & eternal is presumptions built on the spirit/soul belief.

      The If God /[Then] He can… is not only assuming there IS a god but it is also a false if/then statement based on presumptions too.

      A lot of layers to dig through! But the truth is extremely useful when dug up!

    • Avatar
      Scott

      So just where is the “soul/spirit” located in the body? If such a thing existed it would need some space to record all one’s life experiences. Most if us remember early computers and the problem with memory. The Apollo spacecraft only had 75 kilobites of memory, oodles less than a modern smart phone.

      Any ideas on where to find a “soul”?

      • Avatar
        DJ

        Assumption = soul/spirit exists. The brain’s memory record’s one’s life experiences but even at that, memory edits itself every time it is recalled.

  9. Avatar
    Scott

    Love the “Farside”.

    One of my favorite cartoons on hell, was a “Non-Sequitor” in which the demon is giving the person a choice of regular hell or living in your house while it’s being remodeled. The person is looking at the demon, who says “Pretty much the same, isn’t it?”

    Scott

  10. Avatar
    Daniel Wilcox

    What a helava post;-)

    Seriously, it’s one of your most powerful.

    The older I get, the more horrific and incomprehensible the doctrine of hell becomes.

    I could add that (for most of my life) in liberal Baptist churches, Anabaptist, and Quaker, we had a very different view of hell. We totally rejected the fundamentalistic stuff.
    Instead saw hell as the real consequence of living wrongly–selfishly, abusing others, etc. For instance, a greedy person who refuses to change, gets what he chooses–and it’s hellish. He misses out–unless he changes–on the joys of generosity, compassion, helping, etc.

    “Belief or non-belief” has nothing to do with it.

    But I know, you know all about us cherry-pickin’ liberals, so enough…

  11. Avatar
    Michael

    “The devil is in the details”…that saying is so true in this instance.

    Let’s switch roles a bit. Let’s say that “god” is the devil, and the great lie that satan is trying to make us believe is that ‘god actually exists’ and is as stated in the bible. That to me is the devil. It has stunted our growth as a civilization for centuries!

    In the comments, I read about the brain and that is where consciousness resides, along with memories and your personality actually resides there too. Hit someone in the head with a baseball bat, you will lose memories, you could conceivably change personality wise…and lose consciousness!

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser