Heaven seems to be a pretty popular place nowadays. Books that tell the stories of those who have died, gone to Heaven, and come back to tell about it, fly off the shelves. The Heaven is For Real movie, based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name, opened at number one at the box office when it was released. And, according to a Religion News Service article, 74% of Americans believe there is such a place as Heaven, and in another, recent survey, 62% of Americans say they are going there.
But what about Hell? Well, 59% of Americans believe Hell is for real and 1.5% of Americans say they are going to that place of torment after they die. Vassula Ryder, author of the best-selling book Heaven is Real but So is Hell, said, “The devil’s most powerful tool is convincing us that he — and hell — do not exist. He works subtly and silently, feeding our doubts and inadequacies, sowing dissension and creating chaos and confusion in our lives. Evil is real, and we have to know how to respond to it.”
Although we much prefer the pleasures and goodness of Heaven, we must accept that Hell, too, is for real. In fact, some authors have claimed that they have experienced Hell. In one book, A Day in Hell, the author writes, “Darkness enveloped me as if thick, black ink had been poured over my eyes… Reaching to my left and my right, up and down proved the black endlessness of my confines. Cold permeated my bones — an icy, water-type cold, in that it surrounded all of me, inside and out.”
In another book, 23 Minutes In Hell, the author said he was imprisoned in a tiny cell where demons viciously tore at his flesh. He said he experienced insatiable thirst while hearing “screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment.”
Perhaps because we do not like to be reminded of negative experiences, these books do not become as popular as books about Heaven. But that does not mean that Hell is any less real.
Another book, however — in fact, the bestselling book of all time — speaks extensively about Hell. Yes, the Bible tells us that Hell is a real place of eternal fire, eternal darkness, and eternal torment. In fact, it has often been observed that Jesus Christ, the loving, miracle-working Son of God, spoke more about Hell than any other Biblical figure. Listen to these words by Dr. Tim Keller: “Jesus speaks of ‘eternal fire and punishment’ as the final abode of the angels and human beings who have rejected God. He says that those who give into sin will be in danger of ‘hell fire’. The word Jesus uses for ‘hell’ is Gehenna, [which refers to] a valley in which piles of garbage were burned daily as well as the corpses of those without families who could bury them. In Mark 9:43, Jesus speaks of a person going to Hell where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ Jesus is referring to the maggots that live in the corpses on the garbage heap. When all the flesh is consumed, the maggots die. Jesus is saying, however, that the spiritual decomposition of Hell never ends, and that is why ‘their worm does not die.’ If Jesus, the Lord of Love and Author of Grace spoke about Hell more often, and in a more vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else, it must be a crucial truth.”
In light of this “crucial truth” — that Hell is for real — what will you do? Perhaps, you are one of those who has never taken discussion of Heaven or Hell very seriously. Well, now is the time to get serious. Now is the time for you to do what it takes to be certain that you are going to Heaven when you die.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Jesus is Lord” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend