Ben McSpadden: It's not the prettiest sign. You wouldn't want to see this if you were invited to a wedding, and that's where you're walking, down the aisle where the bride's going to go. It's just not the prettiest sign. At the same time, you wouldn't want Grandma to slip and break her hip. You wouldn't want the little guy running across the floor if it's wet and bust his head open, so it's a necessary sign. And we appreciate it, but it's just not that pretty. In fact, we'd love for it to just kind of go away. That's a lot like some of the message that we have when it comes to the gospel. There's a good side to it, right? Everlasting life—but then there's this reality that we have to deal with called hell. A lot of times, we'd like to just take what, maybe if this sign said "warning: hell," we'd like to just kind of put that away. We don't want to bring that up right now. It's not real pretty, and we just want to say, "Hey, Jesus loves you." It's a lot easier to say.
I'm Ben McSpadden. I'm one of the associate pastors. If we haven't met, I would love to meet you after the message today. I realized something about pastors and this subject called hell when I served on jury duty this week. You already think it's funny. I haven't even hit the punchline yet. Maybe that is humorous.
So I'm on jury duty this week and I run into a guy, and we're just small talk, and he finds out I'm a pastor. He goes, "Oh, so you mean you're a salesman." I said, "A salesman?" "You know, like a salesman of hope," and he didn't even know I went to Hope Church, so I thought, "This is kind of funny." But he was so quick on the draw; he said, "It's that, or you're condemning people to hell." I was like, "Wow. Those are my only two options? I mean, really?" He had a perception of what pastors did. Good news for you today: I'm not planning on condemning anyone to hell. It's not really my job to do that, but I do want to tell you about the reality of hell. We're dealing with some problems in this series The Problem of ..., and today is “The Problem of Hell.”
There's a listing guide there for you to follow along, but just to be fair, I have not died and seen the afterlife; but I do have the Bible as my guide. It gives me some instruction, and there's something to note when we're talking about the afterlife that the Bible tell us, and in 1 Corinthians, it says this: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." I can give you glimpses of what the Bible actually teaches us about hell, but we're not going to be able to get into the specifics because we haven't been there. But we have enough of the Bible to tell us what the reality of it is, and we don't want to be there.
You know, you have to be careful though to not be a victim of the latest cultural soundbite. If your beliefs are built on cultural soundbites, they'll become irrelevant rather quickly. The cultural soundbite that I think that most of us here, when we run into this—at least I'm often faced with it, and it's even in that fellow juror's comment of, "Or you condemn people to hell,"—is “How could a loving God send people to eternal punishment?” That's a cultural soundbite. "That seems so unfair; I wouldn't want to follow a God like that.” I mean, I've heard those sorts of things. If you think about it though, that's a cultural soundbite. and that's something very much in our culture right now: "how dare somebody," "it's unfair to do that," but you have to understand that history over and the world over, people have a God concept that sending someone to hell to them balances the scales if they've been oppressed or they've been a victim of a tyrant or their family's been killed or murdered, raped, or whatever it is—these terrible things. They're hoping that there's a hell where their oppressors will go.
So some people have no problem with that, and they see that's a way to seek justice in the world. When you hear that cultural soundbite, you realize it's part of where we're at today, but there's people all over the world and throughout history that have no problem with this concept. I want us to kind of unpack that because our friends and family, they do hear those cultural soundbites. And they pause and consider, "Is it really fair? Is it really loving?" I want to look at a couple of objections that we often hear. I've already hit on the first one, is this idea of hell. It seems that it is unloving. It is unloving. Again, why would God create people and then just sit up there waiting to smack somebody? Waiting to just send them to hell? Why would He do that? That doesn't seem like a loving God, but you have to understand that God did not create us as human beings to send us to hell. That was not His intention. He created us, both men and women, to relate to him, to have a relationship with him.
Some people are like, "Well, I like Jesus, but I don't like what Christians say about hell." The problem is is that Jesus actually taught us about hell, taught us about heaven and hell. He was actually giving a lot of clarity to that because before He showed up, there was some unclear things about the afterlife. But when He shows up, He brings a lot of clarity to it, and He teaches a lot about what's going to happen. At one point, He's teaching and He's talking about in the last day, the judgment day, He's going to separate people out. He uses the imagery of the sheep and the goats; the sheep on His right are the people who believe, and the goats are on the left, and they're the people who don't believe. This is what He says about those on His left in Matthew 25:41. He says, "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"
That's really interesting because it was prepared for the devil and his angels. God did not create man so he could torture him forever. In fact, that was not His plan A. His plan A was for us to live at peace with Him forever, and yet we chose to rebel against him, and we chose to go our own way outside of His presence. There is a place called hell. It was intended for and prepared for the devil and his angels. It was not intended for man, but that is what we are given if we choose to walk away from God. So when we say that everlasting punishment makes God evil, we're kind of putting the problem of hell on God's shoulders, on choices that God made, and that it's His responsibility. And we hold Him responsible, but we actually sidestepped the issue of man's responsibility of his own choices; and therefore, we diminish our own significance in the fact that we can make very important decisions, life-altering decisions. God empowers us with that.
You see, hell was not intended for us. But for people who don't want to be in God's presence, there's only one alternative, and that alternative happens to be hell, and it's not a good place. It's not God's fault. It's not that He's unfair, but he does give us a choice. And He's warned us, and He's pleaded with us. He's even sacrificed for us; that's what Jesus came to do, to die on the cross for our sins. He came to proclaim God's love to us, and he made a way that we could be forgiven and be made right with God. But even then, some people turn from that. This is where the hard part is, is because if hell is real, we all have loved ones that have rejected the ideas of Jesus. They've rejected who he is; they don't think they need him, and that's really where it gets very emotional and very hard to consider this concept because we don't want to see our loved ones there. So, it just seems unloving of God, and yet He's pleaded with each and every one of us, and He's even sacrificed for us and warned us. There is a better way.
In fact, the Bible actually speaks of God's patience when it says this in 2 Peter. It says, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." So in fact, it's the exact opposite; God is very patient. He doesn't want to see any perish, but He also gives us choice. He doesn't want to see us in hell; He did not prepare that place for us or our loved ones, but some of our loved ones and some of us here are still struggling with this idea that, "Do we really want to follow God?" And there is an alternative to following God, but it's not good.
So, I remember before I came on staff at Hope, I worked in the social work industry. One of the jobs I had was working at one of the largest homeless shelters in Tarrant County, and I worked for a program where we were primarily working with people who had substance abuse issues or mental health, and often they had both. Early in that job, my boss pulled me over and had me look out the window. He said, "Look out there, and see what's going on." He knew many of the people by name, and he knew what their issues were. He said, "Ben, there are people out there right now that have put so much poison and drugs in their body that they, medically speaking, should've died like five times already. There's only one reason they're still alive. Do you know what that is?" I said, "I haven't a clue." It's like week two on the job; I'm learning all the ropes. He says, "It's God's grace." My boss was a believer, and what he was pointing out was some of them very well should have died in some of the things that they've done. In fact, there are other people that have done what they had done only one time and have died, and yet they were still alive. It's God's grace because God's being patient. He still is giving them an opportunity to choose to turn to him.
So, this idea that it's unloving, we have a very different picture when we read the Bible that God is very loving. He does not intend, and he does not rejoice in people going to hell. He wants them to repent and turn, and he's patient.
One of the other big objections is unjust. It's unjust. I mean, we sin for a little bit down here on earth, and we get an eternity in hell. That just seems a little over the top, but that's actually a misunderstanding of our sin, the seriousness of our sin. You see, even here on earth in our own court system and how we mete out punishment for crimes, it doesn't equate with the time, right? You can harm somebody greatly; you can kill someone in a matter of a few seconds, yet the punishment is years. So, the time isn't in proportion to the time it took to commit the crime. The punishment is based on the severity or the one that you have offended and what you have done to them. It's one thing for me to go and smash a bug. It's another thing to be driving out on the highway and accidentally hit a squirrel or a dog. It's a whole other thing to actually take someone's life. The severity of it is very different. When we're talking about sin, we're talking about sinning against a glorious, infinite Being, God.
When He punishes and when He allows the punishment of hell, it's reinforcing the idea that, our problem isn't this heavy-handedness of God, but it's our lighthearted view of sin. We don't take it serious, but God takes it very serious. It's very important to Him that we would live in line with Him because he knows what's good for us, but yet He gives us freedom whether or not to choose it. Again, he's warned and he's pleaded with us, but when we sin and there's this consequence of hell, it upholds the worth of that relationship. It upholds the severity of it. The Bible indicates, actually, that there's different levels of punishment. So you're like, "Well, okay. It's severe, but I mean come on. Really? If Uncle So-and-So didn't accept God, he was a pretty good guy. Why is he going to get punished the same way that somebody like an evil tyrant, like Hitler or Mao or somebody, would be punished?"
Well actually the Bible indicates that there's different levels of punishment, and when Jesus is teaching on the subject, you can see it in some of his talks. He says he's speaking to some cities that he had just gone in an area among the Jewish people who were God's chosen people. He had just done some works, and they chose not to repent. This is what he says to them: "But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Tyre and Sidon than for you." Those are foreign nations not part of God's chosen people, and then he says, "And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You'll be brought down to Hades, for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."
Wow. I mean, if you're not familiar with your Old Testament, Sodom ended in fire and sulfur raining down on it. That wasn't good. That was a bad ending, and Jesus is saying on the day of judgment it's going to go better for them than for these Jewish towns that have rejected him. It's like there's different levels of punishment here.
You go on, and he's talking about the scribes who were kind of hypocrites in their time; they were well-respected religious guys, but they really missed the heart of God. This is what Jesus says: "Those who devour widows' houses and for pretense make long prayers, they will receive the greater condemnation." Then later, he's giving a parable, a story to describe how this all works out. He says this to his followers: "And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating, he will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."
Wow. There's a lot going on here, but it seems like, I mean I don't just think about hell all the time, but to consider that there's different levels of punishment, I hadn't really thought much about that. But every time you trip across Jesus's words on the subject, you realize there's going to be varying degrees of it. Then it says in 2 Corinthians, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." God is just and perfect, and to think that his punishment is hell is unjust because people sin at different levels and how could they all receive the same, we can see that that's not what's indicated in scripture. There are differing varying degrees of punishment. How he punishes men who have destroyed entire peoples versus how he will punish people who maybe have lived a seemingly good life on the outside but have just rejected him; however that works out, God's going to uphold his justice. He's going to uphold his goodness and his perfection. I'm not the judge; I wouldn't know how to assign the correct punishment, but God will uphold his goodness and his greatness and his justice. And it will be deserving at the right level.
This is hard, again, to accept, but many people will accept this idea of a hell concept, but they want to sugar coat it. "Well, it's not going to be that bad, right?" "There's hell, but maybe… Here's a couple of the excuses that maybe people give for hell to make it not feel as bad. One is that there really are their second chances. This idea of second chances, it's kind of like in our video game world; you die in the video game, and you get re-spawned, and you get to play again. You get to try again. That's sort of what Hinduism is, right? It's the video game version of spirituality. You get to try again. There's second chances. If you get it wrong in this life, which you probably will according to them, you're going to have a thousand lives to eventually get it right and become enlightened and reach moksha, and that's their version of salvation where you're absorbed in to the universal being. But then there's also a Christian version of second chances, but it's not considered reincarnation where you live the same life over and over again or different lives. It's more like being in detention center; it's called "purgatory," and that's an idea that some Christian groups take hold of.
It's this idea that when you die, you kind of get in detention and that you're going to be purged of all the evil until you're good enough to get into heaven. Either way, there's second chances at some point where you'll eventually make it to heaven even if you didn't get it all right down here on earth, but when Jesus, again, is speaking of what's going to happen after we die, he gives the story of a rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not follow God, and Lazarus did; and Jesus is giving the story to help his hearers understand there aren't any second chances after death; there's a finality to it.
This is what he says, and he's talking about, the rich man is calling out, "And he calls out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'"
You see, after we die, the Bible's very clear. Jesus was very clear that you get a zip code, and you don't get to change it. You're there. You don't get to move neighborhoods. Your chances of changing your zip code are here right now, but after we die, it's final. So this idea of second chances, it might be appealing but just because something is appealing or not appealing, just because something does not appeal to how I feel doesn't make it less real. That's just something that you can kind of roll off your tongue there, right? "Just because it doesn't appeal to how I feel doesn't make it less real." Some of these ideas of not getting second chances is not appealing. It doesn't make it any less real.
In Hebrews 9:26 and 27, I'll just read the last part of that verse, 27, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." So, the scripture is very clear: there aren't second chances after we die. There's not a do-over, and there's not a detention center that we just kind of get punished enough that eventually God will let us in. Another way to lessen the severity, another excuse for hell is that "it's only symbolic." "It's only symbolic. It's not really forever," right? There's two versions of this; there's a positive to "life isn't forever," and there's sort of a negative version. The positive version is Buddhism, right? You can attain enlightenment and eventually just not exist because existing equals suffering, and so we want to get away from suffering and so we just don't exist. That's the positive idea when it comes to this idea of "it's only symbolic" because in the end, we really just quit existing.
Another term that's kind of a harsher term, it's the more negative, is being annihilated. Eventually people who go to hell, there's this idea that they will be annihilated, but if hell's not a literal place and it's not everlasting, then I don't know that I need to take it seriously. I had a coworker in college, and he said to me, and he'd been reading some of these ideas of, we call it "new age" but it's a carryover of Buddhism, and he says, "You know, Ben, I just realized and just kind of came to this conclusion that there's really no such thing as sin. Therefore, I don't need a Savior; I don't need Jesus' help because there's no such thing as sin." That just kind of undercut everything that he had learned growing up in the Bible. He did; he was a missionary kid, and he grew up; and he decided that there's no such thing as sin.
If there is no hell, or at least it's not eternal or everlasting, then really, it's something that I don't need to worry about because I can keep living the way I want to. Because after I die, eventually God will either forgive me with enough second chances, or he's just going to cause me to no longer be conscious, not exist. And I won't care because I won't be aware, and I might as well live it up right now when I'm conscious and aware of what I want to do. That's where that argument goes. It kind of takes the sting out of this idea, because if it's not eternal, eventually it goes away. However, if we are eternal and we will remain conscious forever, boy, the stakes are a little higher. I really want to consider this. To be sure, the Bible does use symbolic language; even when it's talking about the afterlife, it uses symbolic language, but this isn't our chance to go, "Whew, glad it's not going to be that bad. It's only symbolic." That's not what I mean.
You look at this warning sign here. I mean you look at it, and it's almost comical, right? The sky's going to fall. I mean, you can see that in a cartoon, right? A little stick figure… It's kind of funny, but this is symbolic of what could happen. But the reality of what could happen is much worse. If you've ever fallen on a hard service because you've slipped, you may have broken a bone; you may have gone unconscious; you may have really busted some things. This is light, and it's symbolic, but it's light in comparison to the reality of what could be. Just because something is symbolic doesn't make it less real; it's still extremely important. I think the challenge though is that we have all kinds of warning signs these days. In fact, this week, both of my vehicles that I drive, they have warning signs on them. My wife's car and my car, they both have warning lights on them, and the first one that went off was my wife's car. We're driving up to, this was last weekend, driving up, and these newer cars, they have that symbol that's TPS, the tire pressure system where you don't have enough air in your tires, and so you need to pull over so you don't have a blowout. It's really important. At the same time, you can go a ways.
When I went into a tire shop and said, "Hey, this is going off, so I don't know if I've got a punctured tire or what." They check out all the things, and they say, "Well all your tires look great. It's this fourth tire it looks like you bought from a different place. It doesn't actually have the sensor on there, and so your system is reading it saying "sensor's not working," so it's sending the same signal. Basically, everything's fine," which totally desensitizes my need to go into anxiety mode when I see that sign now in my wife's car. That's not good because now I don't really care about a warning sign because it doesn't seem that important, so I need to get something adjusted, something fixed. The other car, I'm driving along, and the warning light comes on. I do my research and it looks like, "Well yeah, this probably needs to be dealt with but you have some time, so you can delay." If it was a red flashing sign, I've been told that that's when I need to pull over immediately because it will be damaged beyond repair, and you’ve just kissed that car goodbye. Thankfully, I just have the orange lights right now.
But hell is a red flashing symbol. We have all kinds of warning signs, but hell is one that is primo. It is "Pull over now; you need to deal with this because you'll be damaged beyond repair if you don't address this." That's the challenge we have because we have so many different symbols, and we think, "Well, the algorithm's off" or "It doesn't really, in my special case..." No, this one is accurate. This one has got a good read on all of our lives. It doesn't malfunction, and we need to really consider the situation.
You know, fire is used in the Bible symbolically, and it's used both positively and negatively. I mean, God is a consuming fire. When I think of fire, I have a couple of thoughts. I mean, you can think about fire in terms of hell, and that sounds scary and should be. At the same time, I have this imagery of a campfire, right? I mean, I grew up camping. It's nostalgic, it's warm. It feels great. Fires are good, but when we're talking about hell and we're talking about fire and God being the source of all good things, there's no good thing about that fire in hell. It makes me think of when I was a little boy and my mom was ironing, and she set her iron down and she said, "Don't touch that." Of course I'm a little boy, I'm curious. It's silver; it's not even red hot. How bad could it be? She looks away. I want to test the hypothesis. Boom. She was right; that was hot. I mean, I was, oh. I was in so much pain; I was screaming. I was just a little guy; I must've been like four years old or something, and it is throbbing. There is nothing I remember about that situation that was good.
I remember she poured cold water on it—didn't affect it. It was just throbbing in pain. I think that when we think about the symbolic-ness of hell; when it talks about fire, there's no campfires in hell. But there's this sense of burning and pain that doesn't go away. There's nothing positive about it. So, it is symbolic, but it's to get our attention of a reality that is much greater than the symbol. The Bible says this, as Jesus is teaching, and he's talking about separating out the sheep from the goats and the believers from the unbelievers, he said, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Again, some people want to say, "Well, eternal? It's just symbolic. God's so loving he wouldn't squash people. He wouldn't let them be tortured forever; he would eventually just have them cease to exist." But in this passage here, we see that the word eternal is the exact same word for both those who have eternal life and those who receive internal punishment.
The implications are if this is just symbolic and it's just temporary, then our eternal life is temporary, but when you get into the original languages here and you see this and what all the guys who do the heavy pouring over what words mean because that has power and that there's significance there; they say that this eternal means "something without end." It is ongoing. There is eternal life; that's the good news, but there's also eternal punishment. Again, the Bible says, "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name." Again, we're talking about a warning here. We don't know exactly what it's going to look like, but this is a warning, a red light flashing –“Pull over now. Deal with this."
Now here's the good news: as bad as that sounds and as terrible as that sounds, you don't have to go there. Your loved ones don't have to go there. We have a choice. We have a responsibility to share the gospel, and sometimes it's scary to think about that, but there's a famous magician, Penn and Teller, that duo. They're in Vegas, at times they have shows, and they have TV shows, but Penn Jillette, the taller one, he's the one that talks; he proclaims that he's an atheist. He doesn't believe in God, but he was talking about a time when somebody who did believe in God came up to him after a show and handed him a Gideon Bible and presented the Truth. Surprisingly, Penn actually really admired that. Here's what he has to say about that experience. Check out Penn.
It's really interesting coming from somebody who doesn't believe in God. Now I will say this that not all of our friends who have rejected God think that logically about it. They may say, "Back off," but we don't hate people. We love people. I mean, that's why we do this series, right? We're dealing with problems that people get hung up on because we want them better understand what the Bible is teaching. We want to help them really make a good decision when it comes to their eternal state. We want them to discover and experience God's ways, because we know it is good. So, we love people, and that's why we do the things we do here at Hope.
So we're going to talk about why does hell make sense. We've been kind of hitting on it already; I mean we've looked at some of the excuses, some of the objections, but God's real love requires real freedom. He doesn't force himself upon us; he offers a genuine, authentic relationship with us, but with that comes authentic freedom, otherwise we'd be robots. He didn't create robots; he created us to make choices. CS Lewis has a famous quote: he says, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says in the end, 'Thy will be done,' and all that are in hell choose it. Without this self-choice, there could be no hell." Well why won’t God just give us second chances? Well, we talked about that. It kind of begs the question, and at some point, God—He's considerate, and he—lets us have the choices we make. At some point, some people just, "Leave me alone. I want God to leave me alone," and you know what? He does, but it happens to be final, and it happens to be hell. He does, "Thy will be done. You don't want any part of me? I will not force my presence upon you."
That's a terrible thing, and people don't realize the significance of their choice. The Bible says, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I've spoken will judge him on the last day." Again, it says, "In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." This is something about hell that we don't think about as much. It's not just that there's the presence of pain and suffering in hell, but it's also the absence of God and his goodness. If He is the source of all life and all good things flow from Him and you remove the source of all of that, you're left with only pain and suffering, and we miss this. We miss this value.
You know, humans, we are here on earth. We have this mixture; we have blessing, but we also have trouble. Believers, this is the closest we will get to hell, and our experience with it. For unbelievers, this is the closest they will get to heaven and their experience with good things because God rains on the just and the unjust while we're in this life. There is both a common grace that we all experience in the context of trouble, but when we die and we go to the afterlife, is what we call it. When we pass away and enter into judgment, those two experiences, they will no longer coexist. We will either have grace or we will have trouble, but we will not experience both intermingled anymore. There's no more pain and suffering in heaven, but there's no more good things and blessings in hell. This is a big deal.
You know, we miss our value. Man's significance is displayed in the weight of his choices. Our significance is displayed in the weight of our choices. Freedom that's meaningful comes with meaningful responsibility, meaningful consequences. Our choice is real and significant; it's not like, "Should I get a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder?" That's not the choice. That choice is sort of insignificant, but we as men and women, we are the pinnacle of God's creation. This is not an arrogant statement; this is just a statement about value and responsibility. The animals don't put us in zoos, and the plants don't plant us in fields; we do that to them in order to care for them, in order to be good stewards of those things.
God put us in such a place, and He gave us his image. We have the image of God stamped on us. We have a value and a worth and a responsibility, but He intimately knows us. He knows our hearts. Even when we can't fully explain ourselves, God knows exactly what's going on, and the Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." Again, the Bible says that we can go after all kinds of things in this life, and we can totally miss out on the point of life. Says this, Jesus again speaking about what it's going to take to follow him and what the implications are, it says, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
You and I, we're faced with this choice where we try to gather all that we can for ourselves, or we seek to enter into a relationship with God on his terms seek out what he says is good and right. You know, the stakes are high, and I'm often reminded of Pascal's wager. Blaise Pascal was a mathematician a long time ago. None of us were around. He came up with basically this grid here. This is considered "Pascal's wager." So the way it works is, in that top corner there, if you believe in God, and it crosses over with "God actually exists," you get that top left-hand corner there, "Eternal happiness, heaven." If you believe in God and God does not exist, then it's that top right-hand, "Nothing really happens." Maybe you lived a good moral life, but it didn't matter because in the end you don't exist. There's nothing. But, if God exists and you don't believe in Him, the lower quadrant there, you get eternal damnation, or hell, which is what we've been talking about today. If you don't believe in God and God does not exist, then nothing really happens.
This is Pascal's wager, and really what it shows is that this is a significant decision because if God really does exist, it's not like a, "Well, you might… it'll work out either way." No. It's either you get it all, or you get terrible things. This is a significant choice, but God allows us to make it because He values us. He wants to genuinely relate to us.
So my urging to you is if you haven't made the choice today to really consider the things we've talked about, I want to urge you, make that choice. Make that choice to follow God, to seek out what does the Bible say about what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ? I urge you, this is a red flashing sign, not out of wanting to condemn people or look down upon; I am one that was destined for hell. We all were, and yet, God has made a way that we don't have to go there. He gives us a choice. If you've already made that choice, my prayer for you is that we would be bold, kind in our boldness, and be willing to share with those around us this very significant choice that we all must make. The band's going to come up and sing a song and help us think about these things, but let's pray as we go into this week.
Lord, we're grateful. We're grateful that You do not rejoice in our perishing, but You really desire to relate with us. We're grateful for that. We're grateful that You don't just let us perish in hell and make no way. You have pleaded; You have warned; You have sacrificed for us. You don't want any of us to perish. Thank You for being a God who does love, a God who is kind and patient. Father, I pray that You would help those of us who have already made a decision to follow You, that You'd help us be bold in love and kindness, to share with our friends, our loved ones, and even people that You put across our path that are brand new to us because we know this is significant. Father, for those who are with us today that have not yet made a choice, that You would help clarify things as they navigate what decision to make. We pray that You would help them in choosing rightly and not out of just cultural soundbites, but that they would choose based on truth. We know that that sets us free. And we pray these things in Jesus Christ's name, Amen.