Where will You Spend Eternity?
Recently someone sent me an email asking why we don't tell people how beautiful God is and how much he LOVES them! The enquiry had stemmed from a question we use on some of our outreach material - 'Where will you spend Eternity - Heaven or Hell? They felt that Heaven vs Hell was very confronting and hard to grasp and wondered how people respond. I had a similar question asked today in our outreach, just put in a different way (more on the outreach in a separate post).
The following mini-article, with slight editing for clarity, is what I replied to this lady (and tried to explain to the lady in the outreach today). I pray it will help those with similar concerns to understand where we are coming from and why we share the Gospel as we do.
Now from the outset, I just want to say that none of us can ever say, spiritually speaking, we are 'there' yet. Least of all me. There is still a lot I don't know. It seems the more understanding I get, the more I realise how little I understand. But He gives us more Grace. So this is not coming from a position of knowing it all. It took a long time for the Lord to give my husband and I revelation and understanding from the scriptures that this is truth. I simply ask that you would do as the Bereans did, who "examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true". (Acts 17:11) May the Lord bless you as read it.....
Only telling people "God loves you" is NOT the Gospel
The reason we are not telling people initially how wonderful God is and how much He loves them is because, whilst true, strictly speaking that is not the Gospel. Now please don’t be offended by this. I would like to explain why we preach as we do. We are NOT hell-fire preachers. Lol. However, we also will NOT water down the offense of the Gospel. And the Gospel is offensive to those who are perishing. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Can't understand God's love without the Cross
Yes, God loves His children. But how will people understand God’s love for them, unless we first explain about the cross (Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”). God’s love for us is revealed in the cross of Christ. If our Gospel does not centre on the cross, then it is a false gospel.
How will people understand God’s love for them, unless we first explain about the cross.... And how can we explain the cross, without talking about WHY Jesus died on the cross
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 "...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Can't understand the cross without understanding why Jesus died
And how can we explain the cross, without talking about WHY Jesus died on the cross, which was to take the punishment of sin that we deserve upon Himself (1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 2:24) And that punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23)… eternal death, which is hell. Jesus, his disciples, the Apostle Paul and all the early church preached about God’s judgement upon the sinner and the reality of hell.
Can't understand God's punishment without understanding sin
But how do you explain to the lost that they are going to hell for their sin, unless you first explain what sin is. 1 John 3:4 says “…for sin is the transgression of the law.” And this where the rubber meets road, so to speak. Tim and I travelled in a travelling Tent evangelism ministry for almost 6 years, as well as our personal one-on-one evangelism and various events that we have organised since leaving the tent, long before we came to Parkes and started this outreach. And I can tell you from our experience, and others we know, as well as from the early church fathers and even from scripture itself, that almost all sinners think they are a good person. (Proverbs 20:6 “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness.”) And nearly all will say they are going to heaven. Why? Because they think they are a good person. So only telling people that God loves them only reinforces their view that they are going to heaven, because now they believe that God thinks they are a good person too. Now ... scripture tells us that there are none who are good (Romans 3:11-12 “…there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)
How you tell people about sin?
So how do we help people see that they have sinned against a Holy God and warn them of the coming judgement. Just telling a person that they are a sinner doesn’t make sense either, for the same reason above. They think they are a good person. To explain sin, we use the law. Which is actually what the law was designed for. Not to make us right with God, but to act as a mirror and show us that we have sinned against a Holy God and in need of His forgiveness (Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:24).
Once someone sees their sin against God, where their conscience bears witness they have sinned against a Holy God, the Holy Spirit uses this and brings conviction of sin upon them (John 16:8). As we share the love and mercy of God expressed in the Good News of Christ’s death on the cross and His victory over death in the resurrection, they can then repent and put their trust in Christ and receive His forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life.
We do people a disservice if we only tell them of God’s love and not about His justice, holiness and righteousness.
We do people a disservice if we only tell them of God’s love and not about His justice, holiness and righteousness. At best we create false converts who fall away when God doesn’t deliver the wonderful life that we promised. At worst, we only prop them up in their delusions (that everyone goes to heaven), all the way to hell. Yes heaven and hell are confronting topics. Which is why we use it. Most people don’t think about their impending death, much less where they will spend eternity. This [material] and our outreaches are designed to make people think, and warn of the judgement to come and that there is hope for eternal life, found only in Christ. No-one knows when they are going to die, so this might be someone’s last or only opportunity to hear the message of the Gospel. Do we really want to give people a false hope and leave them in their sin, or are we willing to tell them the truth, that “people are destined to die once and after that to face judgement.” Hebrews 9:27
As for how people respond…. in my own personal evangelism, this question [Where will you spend eternity - Heaven or Hell?] is quite often one of my opening lines and will normally result in a wonderful witnessing conversation (as I explained above). Some people have said they “needed to hear that today.” Others are still set in their own ways, but at least they got to hear the Gospel message. Jesus said in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”. We preach the Gospel, and leave the results to God. We can’t save anyone. We are only His messengers.