Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Heaven, Hell, and the Gospel

Along I-65 between Birmingham and Louisville there are plenty of 'evangelistic' billboards at which to laugh, but a sad reality lies behind the message - a message that choosing heaven or choosing hell is the essence of religion in this world. Jesus does teach quite a bit on the topic of hell, but today the topic has become so distorted that either escaping hell or assuring oneself of heaven seem to have been completely separated from the person of God.

I am reminded of an evangelist (with perfect evangelist hair, of course) who preached a thrilling message on heaven and the wonders of heaven. He preached with passion and great zeal in this first message to our church, and then, having adequately painted a picture of the gloriousness of heaven, he gave an invitation: "Come, now, and you can have heaven." (My paraphrase.)

Removing the message of the Cross, the death and resurrection of the Son of God, the absolute need of mankind for redemption, or the fact that our salvation is supremely for God's glory (not to satisfy our own desires for a better place) is to take the gospel out of the gospel. Just as Scott Slayton has pointed out the lack of an explanation for the invitation given by Joel Osteen, there is an absence of the gospel out there in places where some unspecified religion is being proclaimed.

I certainly believe that the Bible teaches a literal heaven and a literal hell, but making the choice out to be a simple Eternal Choose Your Own Adventure is to present a lie to people. Holding heaven over a person's head like a carrot and then leading them to pray a prayer that equates to the ticket is from the father of lies.

Speaking of the fire kindled in us by God, Richard Sibbes writes:
"Heavenly truths must have a heavenly light to discern them. Natural men see heavenly things, not in their own proper light, but by an inferior light. In every converted man, God puts a light into the eye of his soul proportionable to the light of truths revealed to him. A carnal eye will never see spiritual things." (from A Bruised Reed)


Butch said...


Milton Stanley said...

Good word. We've got to remember the cross. Peace.