Christian Living

Spiritual Life

A Scary Thing Happened to Evangelism

Halloween can be a scary time of the year. But I think there is something much scarier, and it doesn’t just happen once per year; it’s happening daily, and it’s increasing in frequency. What is it?

Our motives for evangelism are changing as our culture is shifting – and not in a good way.

Consider the question, “Why should you share your faith?” Today, you’re more likely to hear phrases like, “because my faith is important to me”, or “because I want others to know Jesus like I do”, or even “because the Bible tells me to.”

What’s missing in these modern motives for evangelism?

Think about all the “I”s and “Me”s and “My”s in the quotes above. What about the concern for them? What about the concern for their eternal destiny apart from Christ?

What about Hell?

For many, it feels odd even reading that word because it is so rarely discussed among believers. If we don’t talk about it, we don’t think about it. And if we don’t think about it, the reality of it simply starts slipping away. Pretty soon, the sense of urgency to share Jesus with our neighbors, co-workers, and loved ones begins to slip away as well.

I think we can reclaim that urgency with a few reminders of what the Bible makes clear awaits those who do not place their trust in Christ.

Hell is everlasting punishment

Matthew 25:31-46 paints a vivid picture of Jesus coming in His glory and sitting upon His throne where He gathers the nations.

“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on His left.” (32-33)

A few verses later, He makes the destination clear for those on His left.

“Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (41)

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (46)

Other very strong verses about the future punishment awaiting those who do not trust in Jesus for salvation include 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 and Revelation 20: 10-15.

Hell is everlasting destruction

First, we need to understand what destruction is (and isn’t) in the Bible. We can tend to think of words like obliterated, destroyed, or annihilated. However, the Bible translates this word often to describe something that has lost its purpose or has been ruined. For example, it can refer to “desolate” waste land (Ezek. 6:14), and Jesus uses this word to describe “ruined” wineskins that no longer function (Mark 2:22). We must keep this notion in mind if we are to understand everlasting destruction correctly.

In Matthew 7, Jesus bluntly shares a future of destruction for those who do not follow Him.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Revelation 14:11 paints a vivid image of this destruction that is hard to think about, but dangerous to ignore.

“And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night…” (Revelation 14:11)

The overall picture is striking. Those who seek to find life in themselves ultimately forfeit true life. Only eternal ruin remains. How this should provoke us toward outreach and evangelism!

Other verses that are clear about destruction include Luke 13:3-5, Romans 9:22 and Hebrews 10:27.

Hell is everlasting banishment

Eternal separation from God is probably the most well understood (and most described) aspect of Hell. However, banishment is much stronger than separation. Banishment involves the active and ongoing judgment of God. The Bible describes this aspect of Hell in strong terms.

As we saw above in Matthew 25:41, Jesus doesn’t just say “Depart from Me.” He makes it clear that they are banished to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  In Revelation 22: 14-15, the wicked are forever excluded from wondrous fellowship with God. Jesus describes the experience of those who are banished when He says, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28).

It is banishment to a place where there is conscious torment, an awareness of guilt, and a loathsome understanding that their punishment is just because of their sin.

Many are not aware that the future punishment, destruction, and banishment of non-believers is one of the few topics addressed by every single author of the New Testament. It was of critical importance to them, and it should be of the same importance to us.

When we think about our neighbors, loved ones, and others who do not know the Lord, let’s be respectful in our talk, let’s be authentic in our witness – but also, let’s be urgent in our outreach. Let’s not forget about this oft-forgotten motive for evangelism.

May God grant us numerous opportunities to “save some by snatching them from the fire” (Jude 1:23) as we seek to bring others to Him.

Copyright © 2021 Brock Anderson, used with permission.

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