Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hell is Real

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” - John 3:18-21



To be honest with you all, I really didn't know what to expect when I first picked up this book. Getting this book for free at a church giveaway a few years ago, I immediately picked the book up because of its catchy and bold title. How many pastors do you know have spent a series of sermons, let alone done one entire sermon on the topic of hell? I knew little (rather, nothing) about the author, Brian Jones, besides what was written on the back cover of the book, and I still know little about him. This book, Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It), was very easy to ready, but I often found it challenging to get through.

I've never done an in depth study on hell - I have read the Book of Revelation and done some studying on Christian eschatology (another topic for another day) - so, when finally deciding to pick up this book to read last year, I was surprised at how Jones, as a pastor, describes his story on how even he didn't initially believe in hell. Through God revealing this truth to Jones, he was able to 1. see hell as a real place, and 2. realize that, in light of this truth, others must know the gravity and heaviness of his truth before it's too late.

The Bible describes quite vividly what hell is like - eternal fire (Matt. 18:8), away from the presence of God (Matt. 7:23), darkness (Matt. 22:13, 25:30), and eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46) to name a few. This sounds pretty harsh, especially since we live in a time where many Christians have this illusion or mental image of God that is only loving, only forgiving and only gracious. Many have been lead astray with the ideology that "If God was loving, why would He send innocent people to hell?" Jones points out a better question, "Practically speaking, if everyone goes to heaven, why bother with Jesus at all?" (Jones, 35). Why would we do what we do if all roads lead to heaven? If we do what we do - evangelize - knowing that we'd still go to heaven, we would only be fulfilling our selfish desires, making sense the notion of hell not existing because there would be no consequences. 

However, if hell is real, that I do believe and that Scripture supports, why aren't we doing everything we possibly can to tell others? In light of God's love towards us as His children, being adopted into His family should we not live our lives with the urgency and awareness that God's wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)? Jones calls this form of righteous indignation "apocalyptic urgency". "Apocalyptic urgency is the all-consuming conviction that overtakes you when you realize that hell is real, and that it is within our power to help people avoid going there" (Jones, 34).

And that's when things started to get a little rocky for me, but in a good way. Over the course of the book, Jones' application of the Scriptures in connection to real life stories of evangelism gone wrong had me to reflect on some past experiences of my own that I could have done differently. The only, yet very major (at least to me) drawback to Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) is that in chapter two where Jones begins to talk about apocalyptic urgency, I really wish there was a more clear and in depth presentation of the Gospel. Although Jones hits around the Gospel, and I do realize that the focus of the book is on the reality of hell, but placing myself in the shoes of an unbeliever for a moment - if I picked up this book and got to the part of apocalyptic urgency, there wouldn't be enough for me to see this truth. I would possibly walk away seeing that hell is real, but beyond that, there wouldn't be enough reasoning for me to believe, if that makes sense. 

Overall, I did enjoy the book, and I do recommend you reading it.

Notable Quotes:

"Make all the excuses you want, God sent you into our circle of influence to do a job, and there is no plan B if you don't complete the job." (Jones, 167)

"Christians can negatively impact what another Christian believes. We can influence another Christian to stop believing in hell. The end result of that action is much worse than directing one non-Christian to hell. When one Christian influences another to stop believing in hell, it has ripple effects throughout that person's life." (Jones, 74)

"My answer is simple: Apocalyptic urgency is not about saving your friend form hell. It's about saving your friend from God. Hell isn't your lost friend's biggest problem; God is. Hell is simply the end result of God's justified wrath." (Jones, 132)

SDG