“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”MATTHEW 5:30
One of the less preached topics from church pulpits is the topic of hell, and many Christians will often go out of their way to avoid any mention of hell when they share the gospel. More often than not, people will say, “I don’t want to scare or pressure someone into heaven” or “I only want to share God’s love.” The truth is our role as Christians is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ point blank and in its entirety. How can anyone fully appreciate the good news of Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross without understanding what He saved us from; eternal separation from Him in the lake of fire, also known as hell.
It may surprise you to know that Jesus spoke more about the subject of hell than He did about heaven. That alone should be a red flag to every Christian about the urgency to inform others about this place of eternal torment and suffering. Some even claim that hell is not a real place and pass it off as a metaphor that Jesus uses to refer to something different. In Luke’s gospel (Luke 16:19-31), Scripture records what some consider to be a parable, which Jesus often used to teach at a level that people could understand. However, I believe, like many others, that the story Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus is a real account. Why? Because Jesus names Lazarus explicitly.
As the story goes, and I am paraphrasing, of course, Jesus tells about a rich man who enjoyed all the indulgences of life from living in a luxurious home, fine dining, and staff to wait on him hand and foot. Jesus also tells about Lazarus, a poor man whom we could safely assume was homeless and in poor health with his body full of sores. Lazarus would sit at the rich man’s gate hungry and hoping for some scraps from the rich man’s table that never came. Jesus said that Lazarus died, and angels took or escorted him to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and found himself tormented in Hades, a synonym for the Hebrew word Sheol where the dead reside.
Notice how the rich man and Lazarus represent the two extremes of society, the “haves” and the “have nots.” All around the world, poor homeless people starve while the wealthy pass them by with not one bit of compassion, and by wealthy, I do not mean rich because any amount of currency is wealth to those who have none. We see in the account of Lazarus and the rich man that death is not a respecter of persons or stature, as both men died at or near the same time.
We also see the words of Jesus, who said, “So the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16), playout where the poor man is now rich in paradise and the once-rich man is now poor and in torment. That does not suggest that all poor people go to heaven and that all rich people stand condemned. It speaks to us today that anyone who chooses to follow Christ will be in His presence forever. However, those who reject Jesus as Savior and Lord, no matter how rich or poor, will suffer the same fate as the rich man in Jesus’ account. That is why we must warn those who travel the broad road that leads to destruction, to hell (Matt. 7:13).
Jesus shared that the rich man cried out to Abraham for pity, asking that Lazarus be allowed to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue, for he was in anguish from the flames. However, paradise and hades were separated by a great chasm, and neither side could cross to the other. The rich man then asked that Lazarus be allowed to warn his five brothers so they would not suffer his fate. “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them,” replied Abraham. The rich man said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” Here is Abraham’s response. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31).
Abraham’s statement rings true today for even after Jesus conquered the grave and rose from the dead, people still refuse to believe and repent.
No matter how much the rich man pleaded, it was too late for him to warn his five brothers. If we place this account in modern-day, it begs the question: Did anyone, any Christian, bother to forewarn the rich man about hell, that he was on a spiritual dead-end road? We have every opportunity on this side of eternity to warn others about the eternal fate of hell. That is why it is imperative not to avoid discussing it when sharing the gospel. It is not “scaring people” into heaven; instead, it is an act of love to share with someone the full truth, the good and bad news, the reality of both heaven and hell.
The second of the two greatest commandments that Jesus reiterated tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we would certainly warn ourselves of any impending harm. Therefore, so we should also warn those whom we love as Jesus loves us about the reality of hell. “Heavenly Father, help us to be steadfast in our faith and keep us diligent to share the gospel in full with those whom you entrust to our care of discipleship, for we ask this in the blessed and holy name of Jesus, amen.“