Barry Briggs, Senior Pastor
The Springs Church
135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs
Everybody wants to know the answer to the question, “What happens after I die?” In a recent survey, from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, they found that only 59 percent of Americans believe in Hell, compared with 74 percent who believe in Heaven. Even a well-known pastor, at a large church in Grand Rapids, wrote a book recently suggesting that Hell—as it has been traditionally understood–d oesn’t exist.
Those who challenge the notion of a place of eternal torment wonder, “How could a loving and gracious God send someone to Hell?” And, when the question gets framed like that, it does seem at odds. But what if God doesn’t send people to Hell? What if people choose to go there? What do I mean?
Hell is total separation from God. 1 Corinthians 16:22 (NCV) says, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be separated from God—lost forever!” The choice is ours. If I don’t want God in my life now, why would I want to spend eternity with Him? Why would I say I want to live without God on earth, but I want to live with God in Heaven? That doesn’t make sense. God says, “You get to choose. If you don’t want Me in your life, I’ll stay out of your life—forever.” We can choose to accept Christ and live with Him forever, or we can choose to reject Christ and be separated from Him forever. So God doesn’t send people to Hell, they choose to go there.
What is Hell like? Think about this—if Hell is total separation from God, then it’s the exact opposite of everything God is. We know that “God is love.” That’s His nature. So what is it like to live completely separated from God? There’s no love there. God is light, so Hell is complete darkness. God is good, so there’s absolutely nothing good in Hell. God is life, so that means it is eternal death. God is gracious, that means there’s no grace there. You don’t want to choose Hell.
One of the big myths about Hell is that Hell is going to be a big party for all the people who like to party. Hell will be no party. For one thing, no one will see anybody else in Hell. It’s total separation from God and everybody else. There are no relationships in Hell. There are no friends in Hell. It’s total aloneness. It will be like being by yourself, in a pitch dark room, with no windows and doors, for all eternity. There’s no way in or out. In Hell you are alone and afraid, for all eternity, because there is no love.
Sometimes you hear these guys preaching about Hell on television—the hell, fire and brimstone preachers—and they’re yelling and they’re sweating. When you listen to them you think they want people to go there. What’s with that? I don’t want anybody to go to Hell. And God certainly doesn’t want anybody to go to Hell. Jesus doesn’t want anybody to go to Hell. That’s why He died on the cross.
So how do I avoid Hell? Colossians 1:21-22 (NCV) tells us. “At one time you were separated from God. You were His enemies in your minds, and the evil things you did were against God. But now God has made you His friends again. He did this through Christ’s death in the body so that He might bring you into God’s presence [that’s Heaven] as people who are holy, with no wrong, and with nothing of which God can judge you guilty.” The key that unlocks the door to heaven is friendship with God. If you become a friend of God in this life you will remain friends forever. If you are not a friend of God in this life, you will not be friends in the next.
Jesus says in Revelation 3:20 (NLT) “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear Me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” Friendship with God is the key that unlocks the door of heaven. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart right now. He is knocking. He is calling to you. If you open your life up to Him and let Him in, He promises to open the gates of Heaven and let you in. Why don’t you take a moment to do that right now?