Recently, every member of my family got sick. It was an awful, helpless feeling watching my kids burning with fevers and coughing so hard they threw up. It was made even worse when I also fell ill. As I tried to soothe my wailing toddler in the middle of the night, I felt like wailing with her as my body was wracked with a 103-degree fever. I remember thinking, “This is what my hell would be like”—unending, uncontrollable pain for both me and my loved ones.
The world at large would like to pretend that hell is just a concept, not a real place. It would be a bummer to think that when we die, that’s it—no afterlife to look forward to—but it’s bone-chilling to live with the thought that perhaps, at the end of this life, eternal suffering awaits you.
God did not design us to go to hell. He gave us a gorgeously intricate world, and humans were flawless in every way. The plan was for us to live forever in paradise on earth, but the first people, Adam and Eve, sinned. They did the one thing God told them not to do and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their punishment for this crime? Death and separation from God—eternally. As it says in Romans, “The wages of sin is death” (6:23).
That verse goes on, however: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23). Even back in the Garden of Eden, God promised a way out of hell for his people when he said, “I will put enmity between you [the devil] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [the Savior] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God promised to send a Savior to take away the sin of all humankind, and he kept his word when Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and rose again to take away the sins of all people—those who have faith in God and those who do not.
Now, when believers die, they instantly awake in the glory of heaven. They get to live forever in God’s presence, along with other people who also love God. No more getting sick! No more depression or anxiety or fatigue! As it says in Revelation 21:4, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Can you think of anything better?
On the other hand, people who do not believe in God are instantly in hell when they die. Hell is the one place where God is not. It is a place of unending horror, where Satan is in charge and there is no relief from agony. Matthew 13:41,42 says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Can you think of anything worse?
We sometimes think that sharing the good news about Jesus will offend others or make us look awkward, but consider this: sharing the gospel is the single most loving thing you can do for people.
The threat of hell is real, and the clock is ticking. None of us knows how long we have to live on this earth—so get out there! Don’t be afraid to speak freely about the love of Christ to everyone, from the cashier at the grocery store to your most intimate friend. God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), and so do we.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s make heaven crowded!