One question many people have is "How can a loving God send people to Hell?” If you’re going to reject Christianity because of this, at least learn the truth about what Hell is and who will be there. In this message, we explain how it's true that God is love and people still go to Hell.
All right! Well, here we go! We are wrapping up this series Fact Check. I have a handful of friends from our staff team tonight who are up here on the stage with me. Let me start by framing up the night with a story from yesterday in my own life. I got off work, went home, and walked in the door. It's early evening, and my son is right by the door. He almost greets me. The first question that he asks is, "Daddy, do I have to get a spanking?"
I have no context for why he is asking me this. This is really the first time for this type of moment. He is a 4-year-old kid. In fact, here's a picture of him and his sister, Monroe and Crew. He is looking at me and asking me that, and I look at his mom and I say, "I don't know? Does he have to get a spanking?"
She says, "Yes, we've had a bad day. He hasn't been listening. He has been arguing. I told him, 'When Daddy gets home, you're getting a spanking.'" This was the first time I'd ever had this experience. I've been on the receiving end of this scenario many, many times where I was the little child or kid growing up who was told by his mom, "When Daddy gets home, you're going to get the belt. You're going to get a spanking."
This is Texas, people, so we still spank here. I was very familiar with that experience. I've never been on the other side of what it was like to be the dad who was just getting home and what all the different emotions and thoughts go through the head of that father. If you remember growing up as a kid where they give you spankings, parents say things where you're like, "Is that really true? Is that really how you feel? Because honestly, I'm not convinced."
They say things like this, "Hey, I have to give you a spanking, and this hurts me more than it hurts you." Because as a kid you're like, "I don't know that I believe that. I'm the only one leaving with red lines on my behind, and I'm the one in tears and you're not." But now I'm on the "Dad" side of this where I'm going, "Oh man, I have to give my son a spanking," and all the emotions.
It is true. Parents, it's not a fun thing. Josiah has kids. He knows what I'm talking about. It's not a fun thing to give your kids a spanking. My son, as you saw, he is in the ninety-eighth percentile for height. He is scrawny. He doesn't have much padding on his behind. Getting spankings really is something he doesn't look forward to.
As a dad, I hate when consequences for his actions, his disobedience, leads to me having to punish him or having to spank him. Yet I know that it's a part of raising and growing. Honestly, it gives me a chance to talk through what it looks like to listen to Mommy and Daddy and consequences for our actions. It is a hard and challenging thing as a parent where you have to do that.
Here's my point. Tonight we're finishing this series where we are covering one of the most difficult objections to Christianity. We're putting on the stand, as we have every single week in Fact Check, these different Christian beliefs. Tonight is a really challenging one for a lot of people. That is…How can a loving God allow people to go to hell?
If he is a loving, heavenly Father, just like an earthly loving heavenly father doesn't enjoy or like or want to give even a spanking to his children, how can a perfect, loving, heavenly Father be okay with a consequence for people being eternally away from him, experiencing the horror of hell? How is that possible? Is that even really true?
A lot of people, this is where they're like, "Hey, whatever Jesus is talking about, he can't actually be talking about hell. That's probably not actually true." A lot of people walk away from their faith because they can't get over this objection. So tonight, we are putting to a test or checking the fact that God is love. He is a loving God, and people go to hell.
We're going to be in Luke, chapter 16. If you have a Bible, you can flip open there. If not, it'll be up on the screens. We're going to cover and walk through some of Jesus' teaching on hell. Specifically, I want to answer three things: What is hell? Who will be in hell? and How does hell actually show us the love of God?
If it's true, if you're skeptical, the answer to tonight's fact check has more significant consequences for you, for our world, and for eternity than any other question you will ever ponder. So maybe you're wondering, "Ah, I reject that." I at least want you to listen long enough to say, "Hey, if I'm going to reject Christianity because of what it says about hell, I should at least know what it says about hell because it may surprise me."
We're going to be in Luke, chapter 16, if you have a Bible. I'm going to start in verse 19. Jesus is teaching and he starts with a parable. What's a parable? It's just a story that he gives to make a point or to prove a point. Jesus was a masterful storyteller. He is teaching this group of Pharisees, who were this religious group who thought that they could have a relationship with God because they were good people.
They were like, "Hey, we're pros." On their business card it says, "Professional religious person." They're like, "That's why God is going to accept me." Over and over, Jesus is like, "That's not how God works." He launches into a conversation about heaven and hell with that group. Here's what he says. He starts and tells this story.
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day." Side note. In this time, someone who was wealthy was often seen as blessed by God. So if you were rich, it was because God's blessing was on you. If you were poor, it was because God clearly was not for you.
This guy was wearing purple. Only the who's who got to wear purple because it was such an expensive thing. So this guy was dressed to the nines and very rich. Culture would've assumed wrongly, "Oh man, God is clearly for that guy." _ "At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores." _
Jesus sets up a very clear contrast: super rich, super poor. _ "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side." Abraham's side is just a phrase that Jesus' audience would've understood as paradise. Father Abraham was the founder of the faith, if you will. Abraham's side or Abraham's bosom your translation may have is just a word for paradise. It's like heaven today, before the new heavens. It's just basically that he is taken to heaven.
"The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up…" Hades. He is in hell. _ "…he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' _
But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Jesus is such a brilliant storyteller. He is even foreshadowing his own raising from the dead, where he is going to rise. The thing I want to really highlight as we launch into what the Bible say about hell, who is there, and how it shows us the love of God is there are a couple of things that we see inside of this passage.
1 . What is hell? Basically, Jesus says, "Hey, there's a place called heaven. There's a place called hell." He gives two scenarios, two deaths, and two different destinations, one of which was hell. One of the things that we learn underneath the first point of, "What is hell? is… Just to get a big framework for what the Bible teaches about hell. It's a place that's absent of anything good.
Abraham says, "Hey, you received your good things in life. He was bad. Now it's the opposite." James, chapter 1, another book of the Bible, says everything good in life comes from the Father of lights. Heaven is a place where everything is good. Hell is a place where there's total absence of anything good.
In other words, people would be like, "Hey, look. I'd rather go to hell with my buddies and have a beer with the Devil than be up there playing a harp on a cloud." That's because they don't understand what hell is. There are no buddies in hell. There's no having a beer with the buddies. They have a fundamental misunderstanding because all of those are gifts and good things from God, and those are not present in hell.
Hell is the absence of anything good. Secondly, hell is the separation from the presence of God. Second Thessalonians, chapter 1, verses 8 and 9, the apostle Paul is writing, and he is describing hell. Here's what he says. " _[God] _ will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel _ [good news] _ of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…"
Heaven, by definition, is the presence of God. Hell is the separation from the presence of God. The third thing that you see… This may be a helpful distinction really quickly. We're told hell is a place of torment, not torture. There's a big difference. Torture is external. Torment is internal. If I'm experiencing everlasting torment, they're internal things.
Maybe it's, "Hey, I'm covered in shame and guilt. I'm covered in anxiety. I'm covered in fear. I'm covered with loneliness…paralyzing, crippling." It's internal. This is what it says in the verse. "In Hades, where _ [the rich man] _ was in torment…" Torture is somebody on the outside poking you with a stick. Torment is an internal experience.
Generally in the Bible, and most scholars believe, over and over when Jesus says… He describes hell as a fire, he describes hell like utter darkness, a place where the worm never dies. He describes it as a gnashing of teeth and some really graphic language. Most people believe he is being metaphorical. He is saying, "It's as terrible of a place as you can imagine."
In other words, it's hard to reconcile, "How can it be total fire and total darkness? Because fire brings light in the darkness?" The point is they're both imagery. Most people believe Jesus is just describing a scenario where it's terrible because you're removed from the presence of God. That darkness is total darkness, figuratively, because there's no presence of God. God is light.
So whatever it is, torment, and I'm not trying to invalidate the horribleness of hell. I mean, it's terrible. But there's a way in which it involves self-torment on the inside. Hell, finally… There are degrees of punishment. We don't have time to get into this right now, but one other thing to know about hell is that it involves degrees of punishment. Read throughout the New Testament, Jesus over and over repeats, "Hey, based on the severity of someone's actions and the life that they lived, there will be corresponding punishments in their life."
Finally, here's what hell is. This will be really helpful for some of you because I'll be as bold to say, I don't know that you want a world without hell. Why do I say that? Hell displays the justice of God. Hell displays and puts into perspective and puts an account for every action and every evil and every harm and every messed-up thing inside of our world. It will all be held to account. In other words, nobody gets away. Even if they get off scot free, if they committed the crime, they will settle.
Every crime and every sin will be paid for in hell. Every injustice in our world will be paid for in hell. Why do I say that you wouldn't want it? You think about the horrific actions that took place in the Holocaust, where millions of Jewish people were shoved into gas chambers and killed and exterminated. Imagine that they'll never, ever be held accountable. They'll never have to give an account for the horrific actions of murdering all those people. Man, that's crazy.
In hell, every crime, every sin, all of the cries of our world for justice will be settled either there where every sin is paid for, or on the cross. Our world cries for justice. I mean, you look around. All the time, people are going… Man, where there's injustice, something inside of us goes, "That is wrong. The fact that that person wasn't held accountable or that there's no justice over what they did." Why do I say that?
This is a picture of a guy who recently has been all over social media and the news and the public conversation, and appropriately so. His name is Ahmaud Arbery. A couple of months ago, he was seen out jogging in a neighborhood and two people thought he was up to something and they decided to make a citizen's arrest. He lost his life because of the exchange and the interaction that took place there. It's an unbelievable tragedy.
Every time a life is lost, it's tragic. Then afterwards, there was no investigation. The two people who shot him were not taken to trial or they were not put in a jail cell. They weren't held accountable. The demand and our world cried out, "This is unjust." Because there's something inside of us that wants to see justice take place for every action.
In hell, every single crime or sin will be settled for. There is never a person who traffics sex slaves or rapists… All of the actions of people will be paid for in hell or were paid for on the cross. Hell brings about and shows us the justice of God in a world of injustice. That's kind of a framework of hell.
2 . Who will be in hell? Which is as important of a question, if hell is true, that anyone can ever ask. Or how can I not be there? Hell is filled with people who refuse to worship God. Those who make up hell are those who reject God, the one true God, the God of the Bible. They reject God and they refuse to worship him.
Romans, chapter 1, says this is what the wrath of God looks like. People who say, "God, I don't want you in my life. I don't want to worship you as God. I don't want you to be God of my life." God says, "I'll hand you over to letting you be the God of your life. You're not going to like where it leads, but I'll hand you over."
That's what it says the wrath of God is displayed or looks like in Romans, chapter 1. It says this in Romans, chapter 1, verse 24. After saying, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven…" "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…" God is saying, "Man, you want to be your own God? You can be your own God. You're not going to like where it leads."
But the person who says, "Hey, I want to do what I want to do. I speak my truth. Nobody can tell me what to do. There is no God out there who I'm confined by. I'll do whatever I want to do whenever I want. God, I don't want you in my life." God eventually says, "Okay. I'm not going to force you into heaven. I won't force you into a relationship." Hell is filled with people who reject God.
It's been said, maybe those in hell, had they the opportunity to even get out, they wouldn't want to get out. They don't want to be in heaven, because that's where God is. If they didn't worship and didn't love God and didn't want to do anything with God in this life, why would they want to in the next?
Imagine with me, could it be true that those who make up hell, they're not anxious to get out. They still don't want to worship God. The rich man, never in the story… Did you recognize this? He never says, "Hey Abraham, let me out of here. Please, let me out of here." The only thing he asks is, "Hey, I want Lazarus to be my errand boy and go get water for me."
He still is so self-centered and self-absorbed, all he thinks about is himself. He is still worshipping himself and expecting others to perform acts of worship on him. Could it be that hell is filled with people, where as C.S. Lewis said the door is locked from the inside. They don't want out. They reject God and they will for all of eternity.
C.S. Lewis said this. It's where I got to quote from the door being locked on the inside, which you know what that means, right? When somebody is in their house, the door is locked from the inside. In other words, people may try to get in or try to get those people out, but they're the ones locking people out.
He said about hell, "…the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end…" Those who will go to hell. "…that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. […] They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded…" "I want to do what I want to do. I don't want any God and I never will." They've rejected him and they're self-enslaved.
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" "I will not force you to love me. I will not force you into relationship with me. I will not force myself on you. I will give you the extent of your freedom. You can choose to reject."
The question I think for all of us on that side of the question is, "Are you the person who is saying, 'God, thy will be done. You are the God of my life. Your will be done in my life.' Or are you saying, 'God, my will be done. I don't want you in my life. I don't want anything to do with you in my life.'"
Because God, to that person, eventually says, "Thy will be done. I won't force myself into your life, and I won't force you into heaven. You can have separation from me and rejection of me if that's what you want." People often ask me, "Well, what about good people? What about people who lived pretty much good lives, like Gandhi? Gandhi did a bunch of things. You're telling me just because he didn't accept Jesus as God and worship the God of the Bible that Gandhi is in hell? What about good people?"
The Bible, as crazy as it is, says there is no such thing as good people. There was only one who was good. Jesus, in Mark, chapter 10, verse 18. This is Jesus speaking. It says, "No one is good—except God alone." Most of us think, "Well, I'm not perfect, but I'm a pretty good person. I'm better than most, on average."
By heaven's definition, heaven's standard it says, "No one is good." If you've ever lied, if you've ever stolen, if you've ever cheated, you've ever gossiped, you've ever spoken harshly or with anger in your heart toward someone, all of those. The Bible would say it makes you someone who is no longer good by heaven's definition and heaven's standard. This is why good actions and being a good person won't get you in, because biblically no one is good.
So why does God allow people to reject him? Why would he allow anybody to reject him? Why would God allow someone to not want to have a relationship with him or to refuse to worship him? Why? Couldn't God just force everybody? Yes, he will not force you to love him. He will not force you to be in a relationship with him. You can't force love anyway. Here's an example.
Ladies, you'll resonate with this. If a guy comes up to you, and we'll use Ramsey over here. If a guy comes up, he's like, "Hey Rams, I love you and I want to be in a relationship with you and I want us to date." This was a good guy. You liked him. He was a friend of yours. You're like, "Hey, oh man," Let's say his name is Barry.
You're like, "Barry, I have to be honest with you. I've never seen you that way. I really don't have feelings for you. I like you as a friend. You're like a brother to me." It's like the death nail, Barry, in your heart. That relationship is going nowhere. But let's say he is persistent and he comes back, and he is like, "Our story is going to end like The Notebook or something. I'm going to keep going to her. I love you. I want to be in a relationship with you."
He keeps coming back and he keeps coming back. If eventually, he comes to you and says, "Hey, I love you so much I'm going to force you to be in a relationship with me," if you're an average girl, what should go through your mind would be, "Hey, this guy is crazy! I'm about to get a restraining order. This thing is done. I don't want this person in my life at all!" That type of obsessiveness and forcefulness would be nuts.
If he came by gunpoint and he said, "I love you so much I'm going to force you to love me," you wouldn't love him, and it would be terrible. God, in the same way, is not going to force anybody to love him and force them to have a relationship with him. He loves people more than any of us will ever love people. But just like in that scenario with the dating relationship, Ramsey would head for the hills and get out of there, because that guy is crazy.
God is not some crazy person who will force you into a relationship and force you into love with him. So those who spend eternity in hell will do so because they have rejected God. Just like in that scenario, if that guy really did love Ramsey, he wouldn't force her into that relationship. What would he do? He would leave her alone.
"You have rejected me, and I do love you, so I'm not going to force you. I will leave you alone." God, in the end, is saying, "Man, I do love. Even those who reject me, I love. But I will not force them to love me back, and I will not force them into relationship. I will leave them alone, even if it means for all of eternity."
3 . How does hell show us the love of God? I started saying that hell is separation from God. Hell is a place where those who reject God will be. By the way, rejecting God doesn't always look like you saying, "God, I'm rejecting…" It looks like you saying, "I deserve to go to heaven because I'm a good person."
If you say that, you have rejected God, and I'm about to explain why. Because God says, like he told the Pharisees, "That's not how heaven works. You don't get in through being a good person. There's no such thing." But that type of person would be rejecting God. Now how can hell show us the love of God? Because that seems incompatible.
It's like, well, that's so harsh, that punishment. How does that show the love of God? Because what Jesus did on the cross shows us the length to which God was willing to go so that no one would have to go to hell and that God doesn't want anyone to go to hell. He has proven it and shown it. He is so passionate about no one spending eternity apart from him that he was willing to go to the very farthest length possible, which is giving the life of his own Son on a cross.
There is no greater payment that he could've given. He goes to such an extent in order to prove, "This is how much you're worth to me." That Jesus was willing to experience separation from God, crucifixion on the cross in order that you and I would not have to experience hell. He went through, as it were, hell, which is separation from God, so that you and I won't have to. That's how much you were worth to him. It shows us how valuable you are to God.
Why do I say that? Remember in economics? Did you ever take economics? Yeah, you did. I know you took economics, this guy. Hey, in economics, there's a principle that the value of something is determined, not by what somebody says arbitrarily it's worth. It's determined by the price someone will pay for it.
So if I say, "Hey, this phone is worth a million dollars," it's not worth a million dollars unless someone is willing to pay for it. The value of a thing is determined by the payment it will bring. When it comes to you and me and humanity as a whole, how valuable are you to God? The question is…To what length is God willing to go in order to pay for you? To pay for the penalty and the consequences of your sin? The length is the own life of his Son.
There is no farther distance that he could've gone. That's how valuable you are to God. This past week, it was Mother's Day. I decided I'm going to get some flowers. I've never gotten the professional flowers for my wife, who is a mom. I looked at the price tag. The price tag from Costco to Flowers Direct is shockingly different. It's like multiples of one another.
I was like, "Oh man, I don't know if I should do this." Then I was like, "Well, she did give birth to our children. It feels like it's worth it." In that scenario, it was worth it to me because I was willing to pay the price. When God looked at you and looked at our world, it was worth it to him. He said, "No matter the price, I will pay it. That's how valuable they are to me."
Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Listen to me. What if every time that he spoke of it, it was because he was a loving God wanting to warn you, "I don't want you to go there." Jesus spoke of hell more than anybody else. If you like Jesus, he is the guy who brings it up over and over. Half of his parables are about the subject of hell.
He brings it up time and time again. What if it's not because he is some brimstone, angry God out there with a temper tantrum, but he is trying to warn you, "I don't want you to experience eternity separated from me." Every time, it's a loving Father warning us. If I was to ask this room, "Hey, is it possible for a loving Father to yell at their kids?" What would you say?
Ramsey, you're thinking about it. She's still thinking about Barry, I think. No, if I was to say that. Let's just run to it. I think a lot of people would say, "No," but the better question would be, "What's the context?" Because there could be a scenario where it is totally appropriate to yell at your kids.
For example, two days ago, my almost 2-year-old daughter was running out into the street. She was running, headed toward the street. Of course I did what any loving heavenly Father did, which is I'm yelling and running after her, "Come back here!" She can't see the truck that's coming around the corner and what's headed toward her or what she is headed toward.
Like any loving father, of course I'm yelling out, warning her. Every time you see Jesus mention it, and he mentions it more than anybody else in the Bible over and over and over again, it's because he is a loving God who is warning and doesn't want anyone to go there. Second Peter, chapter 3, says, "Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
God loves people. He loves you. He loves everyone more than anybody else on the planet does, and he wants no one to spend eternity apart from him. Of course, we would expect him to bring it up over and over. On that cross, Jesus endured horrific physical pain, but even more so, spiritual pain because he was separated from God.
You may not know this, but it wasn't just the being crucified. He also, we're told, was forsaken by God, as though God almost turned his back. The relationship was cut off as he was crucified on that cross. Jesus, on the cross, cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Their relationship was cut off.
To have a relationship cut off is always painful, but the degree of the intimacy of that relationship is directly related to the degree of pain when that relationship is severed. What do I mean? Let me explain. If my neighbor's cat dies, I'm like, "Ah, that's sad. I didn't really know the cat, and I guess that's kind of a bummer. There you go."
If my neighbor dies, it's way more sad, because we have a much stronger relationship. If my wife dies, it's horrifically sad and painful in my life. The degree of the relationship is directly related to the degree of the pain in that loss. Jesus experienced a level of pain out of that relational cutoff deeper than anything anyone has ever imagined because he was in perfect eternal relationship with the heavenly Father.
Then we're told he was made sin for you and me, took the wrath of God for every sinful action you and I have made, and was separated from God. He went through hell so that you and I wouldn't have to. Isaiah, chapter 53, says this, " _[Jesus] _ was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole." Perfect, innocent God beaten so that you and I could be whole.
"He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him _ [Jesus] _ the sins of us all." God loves you to such an extent…this is how it shows the love of God…that he is willing to say, "Man, I love you so much, I'll lay even my own life down. I'll take everything wrong about this world, every sinful action that you've ever done, every punishment that you deserve that every person out there deserves, and I'll take all of it."
The full weight of all of that, the Bible says, went on Jesus on that cross. He was crucified for every look at pornography, every premarital sex act, every time that you and I gossiped about another person, every time that we were rude, selfish, self-seeking, and everything messed up candidly in my heart.
You may think that pastors have it all together. I'm not a good person. I honestly think I'm better than most people, which even reflects that I'm not a good person. There are parts of my heart… I lust after women who are not my wife. I have thoughts about how other people don't do enough for me. I'm selfish. I get angry. I have things in my life that I wish weren't there. I don't deserve to have a relationship with God.
Despite all of that, on that cross, everything wrong that I've ever done in the past, in the future, all of it was paid for by Jesus. Because that is how great the love of God is. He didn't want anyone to spend eternity in hell. He doesn't want you to spend eternity in hell. The way you can avoid that is by accepting, not rejecting, God's gift in your life of dying on the cross, dying in your place, dying for your sins.
Do you guys know what the name Lazarus means? This is why Jesus is such a fantastic storyteller. He is so brilliant. Do you guys know? It means the one God helps. You can go look it up. You can Google it. This isn't some pastor trick. Go look it up. The name means the one God helps. Think about that. How brilliant is it?
Who is going to spend eternity with God? The one God helps. You can't get there on your own! You'll never get there on your own! Your good actions won't enable you to deserve a relationship. The bad things you've done don't keep you out of having a relationship with God. It is you accepting the help of God that, "If I'm going to have a relationship with you for all of eternity, it's going to be contingent on you and what you did in my place, on the fact that you paid for everything wrong in my life, everything wrong I've ever done.
You said if I just trust in you that whoever believes, John 3:16 says, not whosoever behaves, shall have eternal life. "…whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." That invitation and that offer is extended to you, and all of humanity, but you will not ever get there if you just assume, "Hey, I can get there. I deserve to be there on my own."
You are not the one God helps. Only those who receive the help and the free gift of God in Christ will spend eternity with God. If you've never had a moment in your life where you trusted in that gift, tonight is your night. You're not saved by saying magic words of a prayer. A prayer is only something where you go to God. People will be like, "Did you pray the prayer?"
A magic prayer or saying doesn't save you. The prayer just reflects a belief and a posture of your heart that goes, "Man, I think I'm a sinner. I think I'm messed up. I'm not a good person, God, but I believe that you gave your life on the cross. You died for me despite the fact that I didn't deserve it. I trust not in how many times I go to church or read my Bible or good things that I do, but only in what you did.
You're the only reason why I could have eternal life. I'm trusting only in that God, and I believe that because of what you did for me, I stand with you. I don't have to worry about where I'm going to spend eternity because it'll be with you." In your own way you're acknowledging, "I'm a sinner. God, you loved me so much you died for me. I believe that what you did, dying in my place and rising again from the grave, has given me forgiveness of sins."
It's not good people in heaven and bad in hell. It's forgiven people in heaven and everybody else in hell. That invitation is offered to you tonight. Wherever you are, in the quiet of your room, maybe you're with other people. You just need to step outside and go, "Do I believe this? Do I believe this?"
In doing so, if you decide to receive that free gift forever, you don't have to wonder where you stand with God. You don't have to wonder where you go when you die. If you haven't, you don't have to wonder candidly either, because you're going to spend eternity apart from God because you're rejecting God's help, God as Savior, and the reason why Jesus came.
In conclusion, hell is a place where the justice of God is revealed. Those who reject the free gift of God and reject God will be there. Hell displays how loving God is, how much God loves you and me and what he was willing to do, the lengths he was willing to go to. Let me close by saying this.
There was a guy. I'm going to give you a quick history example that illustrates what Christianity teaches. His name was George Wilson. He was a guy around 1829 in Pennsylvania. He robbed a mail carrier. So he decided to go up to a federal mail carrier. He robbed him, the mail carrier. He was captured and put on trial and convicted.
He was found guilty of a federal crime, and he was sentenced to death by execution, to hanging. George Wilson was sitting in jail. Some of his friends… He was well-connected. He had people in high places. They went to the president of the United States… This is a true story. You can look it all up.
They said, "Hey, George Wilson is in jail. Can you issue him a presidential pardon?" Presidential pardon is the only way if there's a federal crime that you're getting out of your sentence without paying for your crime. So they go to him, and for whatever reason Andrew Jackson decides, "I'm going to extend a presidential pardon to George Wilson so that he won't have to die."
George is told, and he is brought to court. They say, "The president has extended this pardon to you." George says, "I don't want his pardon." We're not really told why. It's kind of a mystery. Some people think it's because he didn't want to acknowledge guilt or acknowledge, "I was guilty of that crime." Or he just wanted to, "Stick it to the man, and I don't care about any of you guys," but he didn't accept.
He says, "I don't accept it. I don't even care." This forced the question in the court where you go, "What do you do if there's a presidential pardon that's issued, can someone reject a presidential pardon?" It led to another court. They ran it up the courts. Eventually, it went to the United States Supreme Court. There's United States v. Wilson. It's a classic court case. If you went to law school, you may be familiar with it.
Here's what the Supreme Court ruled. From Chief Justice John Marshall, "A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…" So basically, it's an act of grace from the president. "…but its delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and…we have no power in a court to force it on him."
Here's what the Supreme Court ruled. A president cannot force someone to accept a presidential pardon. George Wilson can choose to reject it. A pardon, if it is not accepted, it is not applied. George Wilson was executed by hanging because he decided, "I reject that pardon." The Bible teaches something very similar.
God has extended a divine pardon to all people everywhere if they're willing to accept the free gift that Jesus died in their place. In many ways, it's a far greater pardon than that one. Because the president in that scenario just writes up a pardon and says, "Hey, you're off the hook." In the Christian scenario, or what happened scenario, is that God said, "Hey, somebody has to pay for this sin. I'm not going to force it on you.
I'm willing to extend a pardon to you because I'm going to crush my Son on a cross and pay for all of the sins of humanity and all of the sins of the world around us." That he extended to every person, a divine pardon. The choice is yours. Are you going to accept it? Because if you do not, it will not be applied. But it's not because it's not extended by God, just like it was by the president. It was extended. It just wasn't accepted.
Every person listening right now, and just in the world in general, has been extended a divine pardon by God saying, "I have paid for it, but you have to accept it or it will not be applied." He is a loving God. He doesn't want anyone to go to hell. He was willing to go to such great lengths, to go through hell, in and of itself, if it were so that you and I wouldn't have to. Let me pray.
Father, thank you that…thank you seems silly, honestly…that you would endure eternal death in our place and suffering at a level that none of us will ever know so that all of us could spend eternity with you. Father, I pray for anyone listening right now who has never trusted in what Jesus did on the cross.
They still think their good actions or their bad actions are the way they can have a relationship with you. I pray that you would pierce through that fog and let them see it as a lie. That is a lie from hell: that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. It is only forgiven people. The only way to get that forgiveness is by receiving the free gift of what you did on the cross.
We're unworthy, God, and yet you love us and gave your life for us. You paid it all for us. Would you allow people tonight, for the very first time, to trust in that? Would you allow those of us who have to walk in light of that, to share our faith in light of the fact that everyone around us will spend eternity somewhere? It doesn't have to be apart from you. Father, we love you. We praise you that you paid it all. We worship you in song. Amen.