This may be one of the more difficult aspects of faith—or rather, of sharing our faith. For those not drawn to pressuring others, proclaiming the eternal truth of the gospel can be difficult. We do not want to tell people that if they do not believe in Jesus, they are going to hell. We want to pat their hand and tell them that we know the truth, but that they’re okay. Don’t rock the boat—and do not, under any circumstance, say something that will offend someone.
In a world proclaiming every perspective but Jesus’, it seems that Christians have become willing to be the only silent voice. And yet, we are the ones with the truth. So we proclaim the truth of heaven, but leave out the truth of hell—to the point where we start to question whether it is a reality at all.
This is not about fire and brimstone or threatening people with hell. This is about understanding the truth so we can more lovingly and realistically communicate the whole truth of Christianity.
Read the following passages and write out what you learn about the alternative to eternal life.
- Matthew 8:12
- Matthew 22:13
- Matthew 25:46
- Luke 13:28
- Psalm 16
- Psalm 18
- Psalm 86:13
- Psalm 116:3
- Isaiah 5:14
- Isaiah 14:11-15
- Isaiah 28:15-18
- Isaiah 38:18
- Proverbs 1:12
With this many passages about eternal separation and punishment, how can we continue to ignore the reality of what happens if someone does not choose to follow Christ? In a society that screams and pushes and protests in loud and angry ways what they believe, how can we approach communicating the reality of Hell in a different way?
Read Ephesians 4:25-32. What stands out to you with regard to how we should treat one another?
What does it say about what we should be putting aside?
Review the last verse: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Using this as a foundation, how can you share the truth of eternal punishment with those with whom you are trying to share the gospel?
There may be certain people on your heart or that God is bringing to mind right now with whom you may have to have this conversation. Each of them have different personalities, different struggles with life, and different hesitations to the gospel. For each of those people, prayerfully brainstorm different approaches you might take to addressing this difficult subject in a loving way.
The truth of God’s holiness requires an eventual judgment for wrong-doing. We cannot let our fear of offending someone stand in the way of our love for their eternal soul. It is a difficult situation, but a heart of love can cover the bumps and bruises along the way. As Proverbs proclaims:
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” –Proverbs 27:5-7.
Concealing the whole truth is worse than stumbling through a difficult, even offensive, conversation. If love abounds in your life to this person, then the wounds that may come from the conversation can be repaired. Their life looks like it does because their very soul is hungering for the truth that will satisfy.
And God may have put you in their life, caring about them so much, so that you could be the friend to show them the way to the only Source of soul fulfillment.
The flip-side of eternal punishment is eternal life. Both sides offer eternality for the soul. Only one side is really all that preferable. Make sure you are on the right side!
Read 1 John 5:11-13. What do you learn about eternal life in this passage?
What reason is given for us to be assured of eternal life?
It is the heart of God that we are assured of the eternal reward of following His ways. He knows we are human, and so He reminds us again and again that there is reward for choosing Him and His ways. And He does so, so that we can keep believing in Him. That belief spurns more obedience, which spurns more assurance, and then back to more belief. Our God is the God of righteous growth. Keep following Him and you will find the growth in your life unimaginable.
Read 1 John 2:24-29. What stands out to you about our confidence and eternal life?
We can confidently rely on Him because He is truth, and as this passage says, no lie can be part of truth. But why would God spend so much time reassuring us?
Read John 3:13-17. Why did Jesus come?
He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved. Saved from the humdrum of this life, saved from the darkness of sin, and saved from a sense of hopelessness and purposelessness that pervades society.
He came to give us life—and in that life, purpose. And when this life is complete, He came that we might have the ultimate retirement.
Read Revelation 21:1-7. Describe the new heaven and the new earth.
It is sometimes hard to imagine such a reality.
Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. What comparisons are made between now and “when the perfect comes”?
The pictures of heaven being us in wings with a harp riding on clouds is so inaccurate—unless that is the way you worship. The best I can describe is that those moments in this life where you feel God’s presence, where you feel Him moving, and when you are the most sure of His hand—those moments will be mere glances of the overwhelming reality of His presence. The struggles of this life will seem worth it to reach the glorious experience of His eternal, intimate, immediate presence.
The choice is yours
The context of this week’s lesson has been life after our physical death. However, the battle between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness happens every day in our lives. Though it may seem cliché, truly your eternal life begins now.
Read Colossians 1:9-14. What stands out to you?
What qualities are discussed with regard to the people of faith?
These are things promised to us today. Choosing the ways of the Lord leads to greater and greater wisdom and understanding. Though we may struggle with the mortal-ness of our experience and though we may still battle our sinful selves, we can have a taste of what is to come.