It’s the traditional teaching of many of the 30,000+ denominations of Christianity in our world today, yet not a belief that is held by all Christians. In my interactions with my pagan neighbors, I discovered Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world who believes in some form of hell.
But should this even matter in the grand scope of Christ’s finished work?
In my earlier years of religious study in fundamentalism, hell was a major factor of doctrine. At the same time, I was taught ‘once saved, always saved’. So to me, hell wasn’t really an issue since I had faith in Christ. They teach you that once you believe in Christ by faith, that you absolutely will never go to hell. It didn’t need to be a concern for us as believers. However, it was still a concern if your loved ones and neighbors were on the road to hell.
I had to come to the place where I was going to trust God with whatever plan he had for humanity and follow his teaching of ‘love your neighbors as yourself’, regardless of what version of hell people did or didn’t believe in.
So does hell matter in the Christian tradition?
From the description on the website Hellbound? the Movie, we see a variety of perspectives from all sorts of spiritual leaders. My husband and I have studied diligently and can see how each denomination comes to their individual conclusions. We understand. However, we also take into consideration the testing of interpretations by measuring them against the fruit of the spirit (faith) and the works of the flesh (doubt).
It’s very important to understand many things when studying the bible from the era the writers lived in, their culture, the message from God for each of those generations, and how we grow or weaken based on those teachings.
When a teaching puts us in bondage to fear, worry, doubt, panic, restlessness, and anger then we would be wise to reconsider the teaching. However, that is not to say that we should totally disregard the passages, but rather look at them again and see if there is a different message than what we were previously taught. If there is a different perspective then we should look for it. We should be better stewards with the scriptures than what we had been in previous generations. One no longer has to spend an outrageous amount of money to attend a seminary. We have a lot more free resources now and better ways of communicating than ever before. There is no longer an excuse to not study for ourselves.
Take the following questions and paste them into Word or on your blog and prayerfully answer them. Avoid trying to answer them with the scripted responses your church tradition has taught you. Answer them from the depths of your heart. From the place where you are truly you. Consider providing examples from your own journey. Avoid yes or no answers. Please give thoughtful soul widening responses.
- In the long run, how does the teaching of hell affect our lives?
- How has Christianity become complacent towards their fellow man, because their salvation is secure and have nothing to worry about?
- How satisfied are we with our evangelism efforts if our neighbors might burn in hell for all eternity?
- How often have we felt like evangelistic failures when our loved ones refuse to accept Christ, no matter how much we beg them, and they die not ever proclaiming faith in Christ? How does this affect us?
- How do we carry the weight of their lost soul for the rest of our lives?
- What kind of ‘accountability’ is there toward us when we face God?
- How will we feel if their blood really is placed on our hands?
- What sort of experience will we go through when we see them cast into the lake of fire right before our eyes before we get to walk through the pearly gates? What kind of rejoicing will we partake in after witnessing that?
This doesn’t sound like a very encouraging scenario nor does it sound anything like the abundant life Christ is said to have brought us into.
So I’ve gone back to the scriptures to see where we, as Christ followers, should find our foundation in this very important discussion.
- If Christ has paid for the condition of sin once and for all, then why do I have to live in constant worry for others?
- I thought faith in Christ ‘saved me from hell’ and if I’m saved from hell then why must I continue to fear hell?
This doesn’t sound like a ‘saving to the uttermost’ to me. Even the scriptures say that anything of fear is not of faith.
- So do we really have total, absolute, faith in Christ and his finished work or not?
- If we’re saved from hell then why must hell be the focus to get us to Christ and to living a Christ-like life?
- I thought Paul said the Law (the former schoolmaster) was what led us to realize our need for Christ.
Isn’t a life in Christ supposed to be about love, faith, and grace? He said we would be safely grazing beside the rivers of life, well protected, and peaceful.
But this doctrine of literal eternal torment is anything but peaceful.
If we really believed in this literal hell, then why haven’t Christians all over the world given up everything in their lives to walk the highways and bi-ways of life and tell every single person out there about this hell and how to avoid it?
Maybe we have this inward voice asking us, “What if I’m wrong?” What if we are so wrong about this doctrine, what is it that we have done?
- Terrorized our neighbors with a make believe horror story with them as the star of the story?
- Disrupted any amount of peace they had in their lives with an image that causes nightmares?
- Created such a fear that near death experiences become more traumatic than the illness they already suffer?
- Sent people into severe depression when their loved ones die before the preacher can get to their house to explain the bible?
- Divided entire families due to the forceful begging and pleading to get them to recite a prayer and go to church with you?
- Isolated people in their churches and homes, afraid to live life to the fullest?
- Cause doubt of their own standing with God if they didn’t ‘get saved right’ or put enough faith in Christ to actually save them?
It seems to me that this is not the Kingdom in which Christ established for us.
- Why would he die and resurrect only to bring us into such an awful place of worry, depression, and doubt?
- How can we possibly trust him with our own salvation and believe that he will make us watch our loved ones get tossed in the lake of fire?
- What kind of groom is that?
If something scary flashes on the TV screen, my husband covers my eyes for me, to protect me. Don’t we do the same for our children? But it is a popular belief that Jesus will make you watch your loved ones be thrown into everlasting torture. Many years ago, barbarians would force husbands to watch as they tortured their wives and children. They would force the wives and children to watch as they tortured daddy. This was equally torturous for the entire family. Is this really who God is?
Maybe this movie, Hellbound?, will help us to re-examine this teaching and broaden our own hope in Christ to a place where we can truly say, “Jesus is the Savior of the World”. Or perhaps it will solidify the belief of hell and we’ll all quit living our own enjoyable lives and start relentlessly banging down the doors of everyone in our towns.
If you decide to answer all the questions on your own blog, please come back and comment. Give us the link to the post so we can come read your thoughts on this controversial, but much needed discussion.
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