What an impacting weekend we enjoyed at our church with three Easter services and a further three nights presenting the drama Heaven’s Gates Hell’s Flames with our talented and hard-working cast and crew. I was thinking about the very reality of Hell as a place. The Bible speaks of a place of eternal punishment, using the same word as the one describing the ‘forever-ness’ of eternal life (in Matthew 25:46). It therefore leaves no room for theories of a quick annihilation of people who go there or of Hell’s non-existence, but urges us all to seek God’s redemption and to submit to Him.
It was staggering to hear that some churches have knocked back the opportunity to present this drama which is used all over the world, not because of budget, technical or calendar restrictions, but because it is apparently too confronting. Errr…excuse me?! Isn’t that what the Bible is about? I thought Christianity was supposed to be based on proclaiming the Easter message all year round and that Jesus’ death and resurrection was for the purpose of rescuing from Hell and sending to Heaven anyone who would receive His gift of salvation and submit to His leadership of their lives.
If the Gospel gets reduced to an ancient proof text for popular psychology and practical helps for everyday living, then we miss the urgency of helping others to understand that Jesus Himself says that He is the only way to God (John 14:6). The separation of those destined to Heaven or Hell is not on the basis of which church they are in or even whether they are in church. It is not on the basis of those who pray now or prayed a particular prayer once. And it is not on the basis of whether people do enough good in their lifetime. Yes, we should go to church, we should pray (including a particular prayer of salvation), and we should do good. But salvation is not based upon religion. It is based upon living in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ as His disciple. There is no room allowed by he Bible for a second-tier Christian life.
Almost five-dozen people declaring publicly their decision to follow Christ in one weekend, and to turn from Hell’s flames, is surely the sort of thing Christians should discuss with great excitement and with great urgency. It surely makes for more significant post-Easter conversation than whether we have Good Friday football, what the Easter Monday traffic was like, whether ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ was sung in church, or even whether we had enough chocolate to eat!