And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. [2 Peter 3:7-10 (NLT)]
Although more people prefer to believe in heaven than in hell, the Bible tells us that hell is as real as heaven. It exists whether or not someone likes the idea of a place of eternal punishment or refuses to believe in its actuality. The Bible uses words like fire, brimstone, pits of darkness, torment, anguish, weeping and gnashing of teeth to describe it. I won’t pretend to know what hell is like but, based on Scripture’s description (whether literal or figurative), hell doesn’t sound like any place I (or anyone I know) would deliberately choose to be.
As Christians, do we believe in heaven and hell? Do we truly believe in judgment and that Jesus is the only way to salvation? Why, then, do we seem so casual about sharing the gospel message? While fear of hellfire makes a poor basis for people’s acceptance of Jesus, concern for their final destination should be good motivation for our evangelism.
Pretend we’re at the train station. We see someone laying on the train tracks but he tells us there’s no need for concern since there’s no train coming. Although we don’t know exactly when it will arrive, we’re sure there is a train and that it is moving down that track. If we truly believed him to be in the path of that speeding train, what would we say or do? Would we walk away and quietly wait on a nearby bench or would we try to convince him to come to safety? Would we try to pull him off the tracks? If we are sure someone will spend eternity separated from our loving God, what will we do to keep that from happening?
Last April, the news aired video of a man collapsing onto the subway tracks. A utility worker spotted his fall and jumped off the platform to rescue him. The barely conscious man was scooped up and lifted back to safety just seconds before a train sped into the station. Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t ask us to step into the path of a speeding train in our witness. He does ask us, however, to clear the tracks the best we can. We do that simply by sharing the Gospel message.
If we understand what lies ahead for those who do not know Christ, there will be a sense of urgency in our witness. [David Jeremiah]