Been to Hell Lately? A Few Profess They Have and Miraculously Returned to Tell Us All About It.
The Professional Testimony Giver
Do You Remember the Professional Testimony Givers?
In the 1970s and into the 80s, youth groups being assembled in large venues for the sole purpose of going to hear an incredible testimony of ex-biker, ex-drug user, ex-big time felon or the up and coming rock stars of Christendom, was a common affair. I have heard too many over the years but two particular events remain stuck in my memory just for this day.
- The first was a large event and I don't even remember the guys name but wow was he a bad boy. He was so bad that everyone was on the edge of their seats wondering how he out "terriblize" the next part of his story or should I say his testimony. What he said of his past was evil, repulsive and really was nothing to share with such a mixed group for many in my crowd were not happy they came. His testimony of evil lasted about 45 minutes or so and every event was worse than the previous one. Finally, in about a minute or less, he wrapped up his speech by saying in a nutshell: Jesus saves. There was nothing about his seeking forgiveness from those he had wronged in the past, nor how he was now living for Christ and the impact it had made on those close to him, whether good or not-so-good. Of course there was no charge to go listen, but there was a love offering taken: I don't remember if I gave or not but being a young Christian, I may have felt pressured to contribute. To receive pay for ones testimony in this life is all will ever receive for the effort of which I have more to say. Next event:
- In 1969 or 1970 our church in Capistrano Beach, CA invited a young man to come and give his personal testimony as he was one of those rising rock stars I have mentioned by the name of Josh McDowell. Yes, the now famous writer and well renowned as a speaker to large audiences of believers. His format was much the same as the previous speaker and from his spiel that night I only remember one thing: what he did to his father's beer in the fridge to get back at him. (You figure it out.) Now I don't remember a love offering that night but there was one more likely than not, it was a Baptist church.
Do you realize how many young people then believed that you had to have done really bad stuff before you were saved to have a good testimony. If one's testimony was too boring, who want to listen to you. A wonderfully placed lie by the devil, for there is no one born of God that does not come with a perfectly equipped testimony of their encounter with the saving grace of our Savior. To whom our testimony will have an impact is not our choice but the sole work of the Holy Spirit drawing others to Jesus. We are to give the reason for the Hope that lives within us without charge, freely given as was the gift of salvation of which we are now partakers.
There other types of testimonies which sadly draws even Christian's attention and they pure deception.
Out-of Body Phenomenon.
I will grant that this phenomenon is not as popular as the Near-Death Experiences but back in the 1980s a book and video by a Dr. Raymond Moody were big sellers within the Christian community as they dealt with both OBE & NDE (a phrase the Dr. used often in his video); then quietly went off the market. The OBE gained a lot of attention from the more scientific of the medical profession as Dr. Olaf Blanke did research on certain areas of the brain being stimulated to produce the shadow effect, as if someone is there when no one is seen and the OBE which gives one a reverse and parallel view of one's self.
The only reason I mention the OBE is that it is more commonly found within the non-Christian community such as New Age, Eastern Mysticism and the like. The book and video by Dr. Moody addresses this phenomenon as part of his Christian research which uses believers testimonies. I absolutely do not claim to be an expert or even well educated in this field but when I address the NDE, it is the massive inconsistencies of these testimonies as compared to the Word of God that has stirred me to action.
The Common Event - Light!
Near-Death - A Common Foe!
Last Sunday, a bible class led by a dear friend of mine went south in my mind. In a flea market, he found an old VHS tape by Dr. Moody on OBE & NDE and decided to show a portion of it and have some discussion concerning the subject. It was like throwing a bloody piece of meat into the water filled with piranha, they seemed to eat it up; hook, line and sinker. I was more taken back by their response than I was at the "show" that had just aired. In this case, rather than seeing a light, he "went to hell" and witnessed and heard people he had known, suffering in the flames and crying out. Now this occurred before he became a Christian and after a bloody fight in store that almost cost him his life. He admittedly was on drugs and an alcoholic while this "vision" occurred, either in the ambulance or the operating room. Kind of an OBE+NDE episode.
This past week on Facebook someone posted a video lecture, of which I did not watch, concerning another person who had gone to hell for just a few minutes and lived to tell about it. Many have read or heard of a recent book on this subject and possibly an upcoming movie? These things are exciting but they lack any scriptural basis and like the professional testimony givers, there is money involved. People do not flock to hear or watch boring material; keep it on the sensational and you will have a winner. Several problems:
- No one in scripture has even gone to hell (gehenna) and lived to tell about it.
- He recognized people he had known; now that makes him privy to who is going to hell and who is not? None of those people he saw would ever experience saving grace? I thought that Jesus held the keys to hell and death. Remember the thief on the cross; no one would have ever picked him to be heaven bound. How about you? This is information reserved for God alone!
- Jesus Himself described Gehenna as a place of darkness and the gnashing of teeth more than once. The kind of darkness the Bible describes is painful in itself and as in the plague in Egypt, you couldn't even see the light of a candle. Hard to recognize people in absolute darkness.
- Flames were not a characteristic of Gehenna, for it is the picture of a smoldering garbage heap and as Mark records it, a place where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die. The Facebook posting spoke of a fiery lake: that does not come into use until the antichrist and the false prophet become it first residents. These accounts leave enough false trails that even the most novice of believers should question their validity.
As the video progressed, the old professional testimony format came into play: horribly wicked individual with an equally evil father that killed his pet lamb. Then, when out of the hospital, finds out his wife has become a Christian: exit that scene as nothing more is said. Next scene finds himself in church were he becomes a Christian listening to a sermon about the Lamb that was slain for our sin. I do not discount his salvation experience but that was secondary to the experience in hell, a place he never went to. My conclusion follows:
What Is You Mental Picture of Hell?
Don't Blame The Devil.
Our sinful flesh can create enough of its own nightmares without the devil's help. When people abuse their bodies and minds with pornography, alcohol, drugs, bad company and a hatred for anything godly, everything is fair game when comes to nightmares. Just look at how varied and perverse the movies are in our day and age. So many are brilliantly written but super strange at the same time. Every person here has had their bouts with personal dreams they would love to forget but the flesh loves reruns.
I conclusion, I do not discount what the man saw in his vision but it was based solely upon his own mindset and his interpretation of facts and perceived ideas from myriads of sources both physical and philosophical. Just get a group of people together and have them give you their ideas concerning heaven and hell; they will all be different. The deception comes into play when one wants to present that which is not purely biblical as being valid. In the first place, it should be questioned if someone is making money and secondly whether or not it brings glory to God.