Ask four “average” “Western” (so called “civilized”) people what they think about hell, and you’ll probably get a whole assortment of answers, including, but not limited to, the following answers:
“I don’t believe in hell. That’s just a fictitious place.”
“I know what hell is. Hell is right here on this earth. That’s what hell is.”
“I don’t believe in hell, and I don’t believe in heaven. I believe that we just “fizzle out” when we die.”
“I don’t believe in hell. I believe that all people go to heaven when they die. I don’t believe a loving God would send people to hell. I can’t understand why you Christians are always condemning people. Lighten up a little, won’t ya? Get with it; this is the nineties, you know! I have enough problems as it is without people preaching hell, fire, and brimstone.”
Now, to understand the question a little better, let me portray to you a potential scenario, in which it is very stormy. The question is no longer, “Is Hell Real? What Do You Think?” but rather, “Is the Bridge Out? What Do You Think?”
Ahhhh. At this, you will probably answer something to the effect, “How do I know if the bridge is out or not? I have not heard any reports on the radio (for the radio isn’t even working); nor have I read anything in the papers (for the storm just started half an hour ago); nor have I seen any reports on TV (for the TV, like the radio, is not working, for there is currently no electricity). No, I do not know if the bridge is out or not! But I can know, if I do some investigating. Yes, I can know FOR SURE if I but CHECK THE EVIDENCE.”
First, there is CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: It is very windy outside. I can see that some trees have toppled over. The storm seems to be getting worse as the minutes go by. I can even see large amounts of debris being thrown around in the air! It is possible, then, that the bridge is out. That is a distinct possibility!
Second, there is FIRST-HAND EVIDENCE: Either you, or another person, manages to go to the location of where it is said the bridge is out. Indeed, you, or they, manage to see that it IS INDEED OUT!
Now I hope you get the picture. I’ve tried to show you that, when it comes to things which may affect your LIFE ON THIS EARTH, you are NORMALLY VERY CAREFUL TO EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE WHICH IS ALL AROUND YOU. You do not simply say, “I don’t believe the bridge is washed out!” when the storm is raging all around you. But, if you are a wise person, you examine the evidence before trying to drive your car over that bridge. You do not say, “I believe that God would not allow anyone to go over a washed out bridge! A loving God would not permit such a thing!” No, but rather, you realize that MANY PEOPLE HAVE DONE SO AND PERISHED BY PLUMMETTING INTO THE RIVER BELOW THEM, BECAUSE THEY WERE IGNORANT OF THE EVIDENCE WHICH WAS ACTUALLY AT HAND.”
They didn’t know the bridge was washed out. But if they had been more careful, they could have known, or, shall we say, they might have known (indeed, many innocent people have perished for not fault of their own). They were not stupid people. But they were ignorant (that is, “lacking knowledge”) in this particular case. Perhaps they forgot to look down the road a distance, like they should have. They believed that everything would be “all right” and did not think that “this day” could be “any different” than the day before. The knowledge they lacked was VITAL to their survival. They lacked it … and they perished! (Many examples could be cited.)
Now in the Bible, we read God saying, “My people are destroyed (perish) for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) In the New Testament, we read God’s cure for perishing people: “For God so loved the world that He gave his One and Only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) So there you have it: People that perish, because of a lack of knowledge. And people that will never perish, because they have come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Now what LACK OF KNOWLEDGE DO WE POSSESS WHICH CAUSES US TO PERISH?
For one, we lack the knowledge, or the willingness to admit, that, we live in a spiritual world that is “mirrored” in many ways by the physical realities around us. This is all “circumstantial evidence” that points towards there being a hell. For, if there is a micro (or even macro) cosmic type of “hell” in this life (and there surely is, for those that have experienced it), and if there is separation from loved ones in this life (and there surely is, for those that have experienced it), in this physical realm in which we find ourselves, then, surely, it is but a small example of what is to come in the next life — which cannot simply be an inversion of the life which we live here, but must be, in many ways, a parallel to it (for why should a criminal, or a sinner, or a bad person, or a mocker, suddenly change, because he has died? But no, the change must take place THIS side of the grave, within that person’s heart, from a deep level of inner heart felt conviction, or else that person is deceiving himself, and living a lie.)
Thus, because we are not willing to see the many parallels between THIS LIFE AND THE ONE WHICH IS SURELY TO COME AT ANY TIME, we perish.
For in keeping and maintaining a “hardened heart” towards man, which is our OWN DECISION, we are simply affirming OUR OWN DESIRES FOR WHAT WE WISH TO TAKE PLACE IN THE LIFE TO COME.
It’s your decision. You choose. Hell is real, or it is false. What does the evidence say?
[Jesus speaking] “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)