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Hell 101



As children, we were all taught this. Many of us have even taught this to our own children. Good People Go To Heaven, Bad People Go To Hell. This is called Christian Mythology, a kind of street-level “common” sense morality-based idea of Who God is. This notion of good and bad has no truth in it whatsoever. It is not derived from the bible but from what people think or assume the bible says, rather than what the bible actually has to say about such matters. The bible teaches us that Heaven is a place created for sinners saved by grace (John 3:17, 14:3). Grace is the unmerited favor of God. “Unmerited” means unearned: you didn’t deserve it, you didn’t earn it, you can’t buy it. Being “good” has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you make it into Heaven. There will be lots of good and moral and decent people who lived good and productive lives who, nonetheless, will not make it into Heaven. In fact, Heaven will be populated by lots of people we might consider “bad” or even evil, who at some point turned from their sin and invited Christ into their lives.










HELL 101


Most of us grew up with this idea of God sending people to hell. As adolescents, many of us struggled to reconcile the notion of a loving God sending His own creation to a place of torment and hopelessness (Luke 16). Some of us have turned away from the church and, by extension, God because what we were taught as children—this nonsense, invented myth about “good” and “bad”—could not be reconciled in our mind with the concept of God’s love and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us. After all, if God is love, how could He create this terrible place as a punishment for us? How could a loving God send people to Hell?

The most basic answer is to correct an assumption: God does not send anyone to Hell. It is not God’s will that any of us should perish (2 Peter 3:9) but that we all might have everlasting life. What we call “Hell” was never created for us. It was created for angels who rose up against God in a rebellion, led by Lucifer, once one of God’s most trusted and magnificent angels. We now call Lucifer “Satan,” and refer to those angels who followed him in his rebellion as “demons.” This place of torment, of outer darkness and eternal fire, was created as a punishment for Satan and all who follow him. It had nothing whatsoever to do with us.


Watching the Word Network these days, we don’t hear a whole lot about sin. We hear a lot about money. Not much about sin. And almost nothing said at all about Hell. What they offer most consistently is not Christ but some book or DVD telling you how good you are. Well, pal, you’re not good. Somebody ought to love God enough to tell you that. The Bible says so. Romans 3:10 says there is none righteous. Not Bishop, not me, not you.

To believe in God, to truly believe in Him, is to both love and fear Him. Because, if the Bible be true and God be God, then, certainly, the consequences of sin are true as well. And this is something almost nobody talks about anymore: If you do not know Jesus Christ in the pardoning of your sin, you are on your way to hell. Nobody wants to preach that anymore. Nobody wants to even believe it anymore. It’s all Prosperity Doctrine and Happy Feet Doctrine and You Can’t Lose With the Stuff I Use Doctrine. But this is the truth. God’s truth. Just as heaven and God are surely real, the terrible consequences of rejecting God are real also.

Christian myth is just that: a general acceptance of a largely oral tradition of themes, concepts and neat little stories that function much the same way fairy tales do, providing comfort and pacification while glossing over tougher questions, providing some semblance of something we accept for truth but which is, in fact, not truth at all.

For example, John 1:3 says, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” A reasonable syllogistic argument might be, God created everything. The Devil, the personal dimension of that which opposes God's purposes in His world, is a created being. Therefore, God created evil.

The comforting simplicity of the Christian myth of Good People Go To Heaven, Bad People Go To Hell, does not address this problem, or any of hundreds of others any reasonable study of theology would present. If God created evil, why would He punish us for evil conduct? The myth, embellished by our human logic and human desire for swift and reasonable conclusions to complex matters, comforts only the non-thinker. The myth applies standards of morality and reasonable conduct to a God who is beyond either. A God Who chose, for reasons we may never understand, to breathe life into creations who would inevitably rebel against Him, requiring an unthinkable sacrificial gesture to reconcile creation and creator.



The scriptures do not endorse a moral standard for access to Heaven so much as they generally speak of heaven as a state of being with God (Luke 23:43, I Thess. 4:17), and a Christian Heaven as a place God is preparing for those whom He has reconciled unto Himself (John 14). There is no scriptural foundation for a belief that you are sentenced to Hell for being “bad” or for weighing the seriousness of or volume of sin against the severity of punishment. For God, sin is sin: human error and human weakness, that which separates us from the Divine. The truth about Hell is simple: we either know God or we don’t. We either have a relationship with Jesus Christ or we don’t. It really is that simple. Issues of good and bad, and even our sense of morality, changes from age to age. But God never changes. Our sin transgresses His holiness, causing Him to turn His face away from us. But through Christ we are redeemed—brought back to Him. Instead of seeing our sin, He sees only the shed blood of His Son. Our sin is forgiven, and we are welcomed into His presence for all eternity. Which, let’s face it, is a much better deal than the alternative.


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Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church is one of the most Influential churches in Colorado Springs. Emmanuel's vision encompasses a progressive and wide-ranging doctrine, stressing spiritual and personal growth, arts and humanities, and compassionate community outreach. Under the leadership of the church's Senior Pastor, The Reverend Cleveland A. Thompson, Emmanuel has evolved into the model of progressive thinking within the traditional African American Baptist church.

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