Is hell for real?

You may have heard about a pastor preaching there’s ‘no such thing as hell’ last week. The headline was broadcast around the globe.  When it comes to the subject of whether hell’s real or not, I often think of a parable or story Jesus told in Luke 16: 19-31, about a broken and poor man who begged day and night for a few crumbs of food at a rich man’s gate.  A few scraps may have been thrown his way, but most likely he was ignored or made to think he was to blame for being in his sorry condition. At last the poor man died and found himself in a peaceful place, at home with God in eternity.  Across an immense dark chasm the poor man heard the rich man, (who had also died), crying out from a place of fiery torment, “GO BACK! Please go back and warn my brothers that this place is real!” But Jesus said that if people didn’t believe God’s Word…the Law and the prophets,  as found in the Bible, they would not believe even if someone returned from hell to tell them it was real. Compelling, isn’t it? I’ve had conversations with some who say they believe the Bible but not in hell.  They don’t seem to understand that we need to take God at His Word, and not bend His Word to suit our own notions (which is where all apostasy begins…)

When I was in my mid-20s, I met a down-and-out man named Joe. He’d lives a ‘hell’ of a life…At age 35, he looked 90, a result of much hardship, and alcohol abuse. Joe told me he always remembered one story from the Bible – the story of a poor man begging at a rich man’s gate. Joe said he was trying to detox and get his life right, and asked me what the Bible story meant. I asked Joe if he thought that in God’s eyes, he could be the ‘poor’ man in the story. Joe’s eyes filled with tears. He didn’t feel worthy of God’s great unconditional love. He reeked from booze, and street life. His face was swollen from hard living, but he tenderly reached out in childlike faith and gave his life to Jesus that day. A week later Joe died instantly in a head on car collision while speeding along in a friend’s vehicle to race through a red light near Higgins and Main Street in my home city of Winnipeg. Joe and I had met just in time for him to have his lifelong questions answered. Out of his brokenness, he accepted Jesus’s love and promise that whoever believes in Him will never die. Jesus CHOSE Joe. I simply had the privilege of encouraging Joe. I recalled Joe’s face when he asked me to read Luke 16: 19-31. He said he understood the story and knew hell was real, and he wanted to be in God’s better place — heaven.(Read: Jude 1: 20-24)

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