The hottest topic: Hell
The hottest topic of them all
Well they don't come any hotter than Hell. What am I thinking of making a hub about Hell? Who wants to hear about it these days? I guess there may be some Bible Belt people on Hubpages who might think it's a good thing to do. Did you know that Jesus spoke more about Hell than he did about Heaven. Don't you find that strange? I recently asked at our preacher's meeting if we could tackle the subject of hell sometime. It didn't seem to be a very popular choice of subject. My argument was that whatever we thought of it, whether we thought it was real or picture language, as preacher's we certainly ought to be clear in our minds what we thought, as our congregations deserved some answers from us. So if you are interested read on.
A story Jesus told, or was it a story?
The rich man and Lazarus
Jesus said that there was a rich man, so rich that he could afford purple robes, something rare and costly in those days In fact purple cloth was worth its weight in silver.. He lived in luxury. Outside his house was a poor beggar, covered in sores, whose only wish was to eat the scraps the rich man threw out. Even the dogs pitied him and would lick his sores.
Time went on and the beggar died. So did the rich man. The angels carried Lazarus, the poor man, for that was his name, to Abraham's side, what we would call heaven. The rich man died and was buried, no angels for him. He found himself in hell. In the distance he could see Lazarus with Abraham (the founder of the Jewish nation.) He obviously thought things were the same as always and that Lazarus was at his beck and call, there to serve him. He asked for Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue as he was tormented by the heat where he was. Abraham reminded him of the life of luxury he had lived and the good things he had enjoyed, while Lazarus had received bad things, but that now their roles were reversed. Abraham said that besides all this there was a huge gap between them that no-one could cross. There was no way to get from heaven to hell or from hell to heaven.
Again the rich man wants to send Lazarus on an errand. He wants him to warn his five brothers what will happen to them if they continue living selfish lives. Abraham says they have the words of Moses and the prophets to guide them. The rich man says that he thinks they would take more notice if someone rose from the dead. Abraham says that if they won't listen to Moses and the prophets they won't even listen if someone rises from the dead. And indeed Jesus has risen from the dead and still people do not believe.
A comprehensive book by a British evangelist
In his book John Blanchard takes you through what the Bible does and does not say about hell.
Justice or mercy
Did the rich man deserve it?
Why was the rich man in hell. What had he done to deserve it. He had been utterly selfish walking past Lazarus without giving him a thought. He could have done so much to help him. He could have afforded to feed him and get him a doctor, but no he had ignored him. In doing this he was ignoring what he had been taught about God. He was not going God's way. God's way in the New Testament (the second half of the Bible) is to follow Jesus and put our trust in him. If our trust is in him we will want to live his way and help others. Jesus is the way to heaven. When you know that way you don't have to worry about hell any more, you are safe in Jesus.
We do have an innate sense of justice and a desire for wickedly cruel people to be brought to book in some way. However there are times when we all deserve to be punished, but if we come to Jesus we get something better than justice, we get mercy.
Links to the Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus
What is the story
meant to tell us?
Why did Jesus tell stories?
When Jesus told a story he always did it with a purpose. He was using the story to teach some vital truth. Some people will look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus and dismiss it as just another story. But Jesus always had a purpose with his stories. They were meant to illustrate some truth about the kingdom of God, the world, in which man's way of looking at things counted for nothing. The rich man was self satisfied thinking he had everything he needed but he had forgotten the eternal perspective that he should be living God's way and caring for his fellow human being. He made the discovery too late.
If Jesus had spoken about the kingdom in straight forward practical terms it would have made no impact on people, but a story brings out the important truths of God's kingdom in a way that is far more telling than just being given the facts. But maybe the story was based on people known to the crowd Jesus was teaching. If you look this story up in Luke 16 you will see that Jesus told the story to the pharisees. They were the rich religious leaders. They were apparently good living people in that they kept the laws meticulously. They would have respected the rich man and looked down on Lazarus as a no hoper who was probably lazy and in their view deserved his poverty.
We tend to think of people preaching hell to the "sinners" in life. Jesus once said a strange thing. He said,"They've got it all wrong about sin." Jesus loved sinners and that's why he died to save them. The "sinner" knows he has done wrong and comes to Jesus for forgiveness, and Jesus gives that forgiveness willingly. But the haughty religious person, who keeps all the fiddly little rules, is trusting in his own ability to save himself. He has forgotten the two basic rules, love God and love your neighbour. There has to be a huge change in his life before he can receive salvation, he has to humble himself to realize he needs that salvation.
Are you worried
by the thought of hell?
That's a good sign
If the things I have said about hell worry you that is a very healthy sign. The first step to avoiding hell is realising our danger. If you are worried about it that will drive you to Jesus where you can find forgiveness and peace. However if you are inclined to scoff at the whole idea and dismiss it out of hand you are the one in danger. The one who is cautious and takes things to heart will willingly turn to Jesus, accept his salvation and make every effort to live the way that pleases God. The one who scoffs at this simple story does not see its deeper meaning and will live his life for himself and end up with only himself to live with, thus having the company of an utterly selfish person, banished from Jesus who gave everything for others.
Tell me what you think
Do you think hell is a place, or a state of mind?