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Spiritual Life

More on the Brownsville Revival:

Part Two

Part Three

What Happened to Brownsville's Fire?

More Church History

More Spiritual Life

 
REVIVAL

Brownsville Revival: Five Years Later, Part 1

By Steve Rabey

Christianity.com - More people believe in hell today than in the 1950's. This is not without qualification though, for the hell of today isn't nearly as hot as the hell of past generations. The danger of such a notion of hell is that it camouflages the horror of the real thing.

Hell, it seems, is making quite a comeback these days. It made the cover of U.S. News and World Report, January 31. What was initially surprising in this article by Jeffery Sheler was that more people believe in hell today than in the 1950's. This is not without qualification though, for the hell of today isn't nearly as hot as the hell of past generations.

In days gone by, the descriptions of fire and brimstone written about on the pages of scripture were taken quite literally. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus describes the fate of unbelievers as those who "shall be cast out into the outer darkness..." Later, Jesus says that those who are committed to a lifestyle of lawlessness will be "cast into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

On yet another occasion in Mark's gospel, Jesus informs all that "if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire...where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

While the particulars have been variously interpreted throughout church history, in sum, the depictions of hell taken from the Bible reveal it to be the final state of people who have not entered into a right relationship with the living God. That place is unambiguously horrific.

But today's hell, in which the majority of the population believes, is more "an anguished state of existence" rather than a real place of perdition. As one scholar wrote, "Once we discovered we could create hell on Earth, it became silly to talk about it in a literal sense."

The danger of such a notion of hell is that it camouflages the horror of the real thing. In so doing, it diminishes the story of God's profound love and relegates the saving efforts of God in human history to the status of pithy fairy tales good for little more than putting the kiddies to bed.

In spite of the growing popularity of understanding hell as "whatever you make it," God didn't send his son to redeem mankind from a state of mind, low self-esteem or a lack of material prosperity. He came to resolve the human disobedience issue (called sin) once and for all such that all who truly believe would be qualified to reside in the presence of a sin-hating God.

In a manner of speaking, there is a dress code for heaven, and that code says only perfection will be allowed in. Since there is not a single person who has ever lived who could qualify, God himself took on human form to live in the midst of the same challenges and temptations among which we all live, so he might do it perfectly on our behalf. Succeeding, he offered his perfect life for our imperfect lives.

The prophet Isaiah informs us metaphorically that the dress code has been satisfied. "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord...for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness..."

Any who attempt to enter heaven without the goodness only Jesus can offer will be turned away, not to a state of mind, but to a place where the torment is beyond the goodness and mercy of God. For the person who dies without Jesus, life on this Earth will be as close as they ever get to experiencing heaven. For the person who dies with Christ, this Earth will be the closest they ever get to experiencing hell. Maybe that will help you understand why that pesky co-worker seems relentless in inviting you to church or why that annoying cousin of yours can't seem to talk about anything but Jesus. You may not believe in a real hell where there is constant agony and suffering, but chances are you know someone who does. And because they do, they want to make sure you have every opportunity to avoid an eternity of misery. They're not trying to be obnoxious, they are showing you how much they really care.

More on the Brownsville Revival:

Part Two

Part Three

More Church History

More Spiritual Life

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