Heavenly Father, let everyone who has not yet made you lord and savior of their lives come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, now, in anticipation of a greater hope for eternity – an eternity of “inclusion” in your presence, not “exclusion” from it.
The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, who he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. I Thessalonians 1:8-10
Back in 2011, some of you may remember when the book, “Love Wins” was published by Michigan megachurch pastor Rob Bell. It had tremendous appeal, as it spoke of God as someone who would “not” allow people to go to hell and that even the “gates of hell” did not exist. The idea that there are “not” eternal consequences for sin had great appeal to many people…but it was a lie. After several years, he left mainstream ministry, partnered with Oprah Winfrey, and now surfs near Hollywood.
Similarly, while I attended Oral Roberts University in the 80’s, Carlton Pearson, pastor of the large non-denominational church ‘Higher Dimensions’, was on the rise in Tulsa. He was an alumnus of ORU and was extremely close to Oral Roberts himself. As his following grew, and later in his ministry, he came to the conclusion that a loving God would not allow people to go to hell. Again, from a biblical standpoint, that just was not supportable. Oral Roberts, himself, tried to counsel Carlton in the mistake he was making, but to no avail. So, after this shift in Carlton Pearson’s theology, Oral Roberts and a large host of other Christians stopped following Carlton.
People in our world today don’t like consequences. Many feel that no matter what wrongs one commits, no matter how bad a person they are, regardless of what someone has done, a loving God wouldn’t send them to hell. The bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NIV). Romans 6:23, NIV says, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hebrews 9:27, NIV, says “just as man was destined to die once, and after that, the judgement.” The last verse in the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus concludes – “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life,”(Matthew 25:46, NIV).
This week, we will be reviewing passages of scripture outlining the reality of “hell” that awaits every non-believer. From that perspective, let me take a moment to urge you to surrender your life to Jesus Christ…now. Make him Lord and Savior of your life. I John 1:8-9, NIV, says, “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” When we die, our destiny will be set for eternity. If we choose Christ and surrender our lives to him now, we will join him in eternity…just like the thief on the cross who gave his life to him that day. If we do not choose Christ and instead choose the trappings of this world, once we die, we will be out of the presence of God, forever.
Lord, your word in Psalms reminds us that, “the wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God,” (Psalm 9:17, NIV). May the Holy Spirit draw all men unto you father, so that they may experience eternity “in” your presence…not “out” of it.