I’m dancing around a problem these days. I have an acquaintance who is headed for hell. Furthermore he is ill and I suspect he doesn’t have that much time left. His background is completely non-Christian. His father was a Unitarian minister, the parents divorced and he attended Berkeley in California in the 1960s. He knocked around the world playing in bands, and he believes that as a Flower Child all will be rosy and happy when he dies.
He knows I wrote a book and I said I would print out a chapter for him because it is not yet ready for the presses. He asked for something on philosophy or psychology. He was not all that interested in religion or information about God.
So consider this portion of a verse. Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.
This man is not evil. He doesn’t rape, steal or murder at will. He does not beat up small children or march with rioters in the streets. He just has no place for God in his mind or his life. Yet he thinks that because he has committed no great sin heaven will be open to him where he can live a life of love, joy and peace with all his old buddies, playing the guitar and singing on the beach by a nice campfire. Something like that.
But the hard truth is that heaven is God’s hometown. If you end up there it is because God wants you and you want Him. You just don’t slip in unnoticed because you haven’t bombed a church somewhere or set fire to your neighbor’s laundry. Heaven, and by extension hell, is serious business.
Hell is not all torment, screaming, and flames. Parts of hell are in complete isolation where there is barely a scrap of light and not another single person, a place of total loneliness. If you want to hear something you’ll have to do your own screaming. There may not even be a single demon to contend with. Other parts are wastelands, like the burned out cities with sticks and rocks left from a firestorm. Or complete quiet. Or unremitting noise.
But most of all the decision about where you go after you die is not in your hands. You only have free will on this side of the grave. If you made the wrong choice here, it is too late after you die to change your mind. Everyone has everlasting existence; not everyone has everlasting life. The difference is in the decision we make for God now.
Free will lulls us to sleep, makes us comfortable in this life, allowing us to enjoy an uneasy peace. You may be saying to yourself, “Oh I’ll get saved before I die. NO problem. I just want to have some fun first.” But the truth about life is that it often ends without warning, not on your schedule but someone else’s.
Three thousand people entered the two towers in New York City for a normal work day on September 11, 2001 and nearly that many died before noon. The calming notion that you have any time left for decision making is a cruel ruse. Put God back in your mind, and back into your life while you still have a chance.