Hell? No.

Sometimes it seems like Christianity is more about heaven than hell.  But Jesus didn’t come just to keep people from hell.  He came, Jesus said in John 10, so that we might have full, rich, abundant lives. He came to earth to teach us how to live, and give his life to bridge the gap sin had caused between us and God. 

It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that Jesus came because he didn’t want us to end up in hell.  In fact, in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the books of the Bible that tell the story of Jesus’ life) there are only three times when Jesus tells stories in which someone ends up facing hell.  In each of the three, the root cause of that eternal destination is a lack of generosity towards others. 

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about God separating the righteous from the unrighteous on the basis of who acted with compassion toward the needy (and who didn’t).  In Luke 12 the story is about a man who has such a large harvest that he decides he must build larger barns in which to hoard all that belongs to him.  Finally, in Luke 16, there is a rich man who daily passes by a beggar who lies at his door and never offers to help.  After they both die, the rich man is in hell while the beggar is in paradise. 

In these instances when Jesus mentions hell, it is as a consequence of how people treat others during this life.  Jesus does mention hell other times; but only in a threatening way when he is talking to people who consider themselves deeply religious. 

So, unless you are a hyper-religious person, it is very unlikely that Jesus himself would approach you threatening an eternity in hell. 

Go and do likewise.

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5 thoughts on “Hell? No.

  1. It’s also worth mentioning that in many cases our translation of the word “hell” from the original greek is a bit fussy… referring to an actual geographic location (gehenna) rather than a distant other worldly reality…

    Good post brother. Hope to see you soon.

  2. No, I don’t think Jesus threatens hell directly, but we can’t just ignore his warnings either:

    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matt 7:13,14

    You seem to be implying the opposite, that it’s harder to get to hell than heaven. I would disagree. But perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying.

  3. I don’t know if I am misunderstanding or agreeing with the point!

    What I have seen for a long time is that a desire to ‘save’ people from Hell may be a distortion of message which they received and they then have continued to transmit forward. Why?

    Most messages can be distorted and often are. The more complex it becomes, the more likely it is to seek the lowest common denominator in order to motivate or make someone more likely to accept the message. So I see it to be the case here.

    A thought: If Hell is the equivalent of Gehenna, then think about this. If one is considered to be of no more worth than simple trash, then the change of address is not so much due to punishment as a conclusion that the subject is merely worthless and worthy of no further thought.

    Personally I’d rather be punished than to be deemed worthless….and I’d rather be deemed to have value than to be either of the above.

    Norman

  4. Rob, I didn’t imply that we ought to ignore Jesus’ or anyone else’s warnings. My point was, rather, that the intent is to reconcile the world to God, and that it seems to me such an intent is best realized NOT by leading with warnings of hellfire. Such warnings may, indeed, have their place. They are far rarer in Jesus’ teaching that in that of many today.

  5. Steve,

    Besides Matt. 7:13-14, Jesus seems to be telling the crowd in Luke 13:1-9 that hell (destruction) awaits those who don’t turn from sin. (“Unless you repent, you too will perish.”)

    Having said that, I agree with the general tone of the post. Jesus reserved his harshest tone of judgment for religious hypocrites. For instance, in the parable of the talents in Matt. 25, the wicked servant (who knew and served his master) was “assigned a place with the hypocrites.”

    Perhaps we’ve been preaching hell to the wrong crowd.

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