What if they really are going to hell?


This is not a happy post.  Sorry.  Take a long look at that picture.  Those men are about to die at the hands of their own government.  We could engage in a very philosophical debate about whether non-believers all go to hell.  The debate over this subject is such a giant waste of time and I don’t want to add to it more than necessary.  One side would bust out their Bibles and read the words of Christ that say that no one goes to the father except through him.  They would then have that bizzare and disturbing look of satisfaction that some Christians get when they feel they’ve accurately predicted the eternal damnation of another human being.

Some will argue that a person only goes to hell if they are first told about Christ and only then intentionally reject him.  As David Platt points out, this would mean that telling someone about Christ literally creates the possiblity of hell where there previously had been none, which is hard to believe. After that we’ll start talking about whether babies go to hell and that’s where it really gets heated.

My analysis?  I don’t know.  The end.

We don’t really know one way or the other.  Decision: Do you assume they are not going to hell and do nothing?  Or assume they are and we get our tails in gear?  If we live our lives treating the eternity of others with that level of urgency, what harm have we caused?  None.  So why on earth would we run the risk and waste time debating the topic in place of getting out there and spreading the word?  You know… just in case.

What prompted all this?  I saw an article about innocent civilians being gunned down by the Syrian government.  Are these men going to hell because they died never knowing Christ?  I don’t know.  And neither do you for sure, let’s be honest.  And “I don’t know” isn’t good enough in this situation.  And if you’re one of those uber-confident Christians that can say with full authority that these men are definitely going to hell because they didn’t know Christ, then I have a very convicting question for you: What did you do about it?  Stop patting yourself on the back for knowing that answer with such confidence and start convicting yourself to the thought that you knew they were going to hell and did nothing.

Personally, I never lifted a finger.  I see their photo standing their with their backs to me, one of them turned just enough that I can see the fear on his face knowing he is about to die, and I know that I did nothing to change his eternity.  I bet he’s thinking about his eternity.  Why wasn’t I thinking about his eternity when I had the chance?  I’m angry that these men were killed by their government.  But I’m more angry that I was sitting in my posh midwestern suburban home while it happened and did nothing to affect their eternity.

We have a lot of work to do.  A planet’s worth of work to do.  Let’s not sit around debating whether we need to do the work, and let’s just do it.  I’d much rather meet my maker having done more than I needed to, as opposed to seeing him and explaining how I won the debate on not needing to do anything at all.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.


25 thoughts on “What if they really are going to hell?

  1. Ran across this the other day while studying the Beatitudes: Matt 5:7; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
    The outward demonstration of the Christian character is shown in “mercifulness.” This is the missionary and altruistic attitude of the Christian in empathizing with the unbeliever and suffering with him the consequences of his (her) sin and doing everything possible to relieve the tragic results.

    The difference between grace (charis) and mercifulness (eleos) is that the first affects the character of a person and changes it. Only God can affect grace, but we are admonished to show mercy and be “eleemones — merciful,” to alleviate the consequences of sin.


  2. Thank you for a great blog. It is never easy to think about our responsibility in relation to the souls of others. I was raised in a very traditional southern baptist home and later in a non-denominational church as I got older. I was taught for as long as I can remember that if you belong to Jesus, you get to go to Heaven, if you don’t- it’s the Lake of Fire for all Eternity! In fact, at times it seemed as though we were encouraged to see those that weren’t Christians as people that aught to go to Hell. Just because we ALL deserve hell, doesn’t mean that we should ever desire for someone else to go, heck- God doesn’t even want that for us. Hell was created for Satan and his angels. As I’ve gotten older, finished college and seminary, had a few ministry positions and in general just dealt with life a few things have become much more clear. In as much as this Earth is real, Heaven is real. In as much as Heaven is real, Hell is real. However, hell was never meant for us. If we study the scriptures concerning being cast into the Lake of Fire “for all eternity”. The Greek word there (sorry, I don’t have my lexicon handy so i’m writing from memory) actually means “until the end of time.” This occurs nearly every time scripture speaks of man being sent to Hell, this place created for Satan and his angels. So, what does that nuance mean to me? I believe there is a Hell, and I share my saviour with anyone I can because I love Jesus and he loves people. Sometimes hell comes up, most of the time it doesn’t. As for Hell itself, I pray each day that scripture speaks to an end for Hell and an eventual reconciliation of all mankind unto God. He does say in John 12:31-32 “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men unto Myself.” God Bless my friends.


    • Thank you so much for all of this insight and for reading my blog. I agree and I think it breaks God’s heart if anyone goes to hell. I wish never happened. But like you I want to spread the word as much as possible to do my part as best o can.


  3. I am one of “Those” Christians that believes Jesus meant what he said about the sheep and goats. I’ve spent the majority of my life sitting on the sidelines, safely tucked away in my neck of the globe where the worst thing I had to deal with was not being able to afford the latest gadget for my boys.
    However, in my latter years I am not satisfied to sit on the sidelines. I’m not satisfied to be safely tucked away.
    Jesus said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39. I want to lose my life for the sake of Christ.
    This September I am embarking on the next journey of my life. I am applying to YWAM (Youth With A Mission — I’m young at heart!) for a 12-week course to get me ready for the mission field. I have to raise my own funds, so if anyone is looking to support someone, I am looking for those who would support me! Anyone can contact me at ct3sons at yahoo dot com.


  4. Those of us who do know Christ should do all that we can to spread the Word. That being said, God loves all His children, and has prepared a way for each of them to have an opportunity to know Him. If not in this life, in the next. I don’t believe anyone “goes to hell” for not doing or knowing something they hadn’t had an opportunity to learn about.


  5. bunnyb1802 says:

    Some hard truth there Jim. Ok, hands up. I don’t do as much as I could back home here. No, it’s not a second option. We are called to be salt and light whereever we are. But I’ve always struggled with sharing my faith anyway. It’s that not wanting to look foolish (pride), it’s feeling under-prepared and that I won’t be clever enough for all the arguments (lack of knowledge and conviction), it’s fear of what people will say or do (fear of man as opposed to fear of God). You hit me where I live, Jim. I am a proud coward who allows people to perish for lack of her own knowledge and not passing knowledge on to those surrounding her.
    I don’t see Syria in my future but I know where I am now and that there are people around me who don’t know God, about who He really is. So in order to combat those failures of cowardice, fear and ignorance, I need what the disciples were given at Pentecost.
    Food for thought and also action – pray for the power of the Spirit, repent of those things that stop me and look out for opportunities to bring the gospel.
    As you point out, we are blessed indeed to be in a training ground that doesn’t require us to lose our life, maybe just our reputation or to feel a fool for God. If it’s a choice between a bullet or a mocking laugh – and how fortunate to actually have that choice! – then I know which I pick.
    Thanks Jim. This is calling it as it is. Equally, if I’m totally honest, I can’t see me setting the world alight with my testimony. I pray I’m wrong and that the Spirit truly does ignite me. Feeling slightly depressed now but then, I shouldn’t be. I’m not facing a wall waiting for a bullet to go into my back and end my life.


  6. bunnyb1802 says:

    This is certainly convicting although I’ve never been of the “grab my 10lb King James off my desk and spout chapter and verse to show I’m right” brigade. The subject of hell makes me uncomfortable, as it should all people – Christian and non-Christian!

    It’s convicting because actually I tend to hide behind ignorance. If I don’t see it, don’t think about it then I can’t be challenged on it. But actually, as you point out, yes I can be challenged.

    I suppose my question though is, what can I do? I don’t live in Syria. I don’t know anyone to write to in Syria. Forgive me, I’m being literal here. You could make the point that I should be making an impact where I am and you’d be quite right. But what can one do when one is the other side of the world? How do we make that impact, apart from praying, supporting missionaries who go there? Not all of us are called to be a missionary so how do we spread that word and take part?
    That, I guess, is my frustration because I don’t want to just feel bad about the point that you make. I want to do something about it but what practically can I do?
    Conviction has to bring action of some sort.

    I’m interested to know your thoughts. Great provoking post though, Jim (may I call you Jim?).


    • You may absolutely call me Jim. Thanks for your question. Let’s draw something out here. You say, essentially, “Sure I can bring the good news to people around me” likes it’s a second best option. But it’s not. It’s actually not an option at all. It’s our job to do that. We want to avoid falling into the trap of “Because I cannot do everything I will do nothing.” Here’s a thought: Perhaps the only reason you have not been called to Syria yet is because you haven’t spent enough time here at home on more friendly ground bringing the gospel to non-believers right on your block. Something to consider. Today, you don’t have the resources, ability or knowledge to bring the gospel to people in Syria or China or wherever. But who’s to say God won’t equip you to do exactly that as some point in the future? If that’s a possibility, I’d want to be ready and I’d start training myself right in my own back yard, so to speak. And I’d be eternally thankful that I was given a comfortable training ground as opposed to a hostile baptism-by-fire experience. Those are my thoughts. So where do we start? How can I help?


    • If you don’t mind my interruption, Jim… Bunny… you start right where you are. You don’t have to go to Syria to find those who are lost. You can find missionaries/organizations already in Syria and give to that cause… You can pray for those in Syria. You can pray for the persecuted church. And, you can pray for God to show you what He would have you do about it.


  7. This the first time I have thought no. No Like button. Only because the content is too strong to “like it.” But thinking and rummaging? Oh yes. These are strong images, a sharp focus, inside where it matters.


      • Rummaging … and looking for something I can’t see too clearly. Might have missed it somewhere. Like every missile needs – the old guidance system. The picture of shock and awe seems to be here. Along with lots of people scattering. Just wondered if I have missed the guidance bit? Think it was when BunnyB waved his 10lb King James at me – it kind of brought that bit to mind and I started looking through again. 🙂


  8. “We have a lot of work to do. A planet’s worth of work to do. Let’s not sit around debating whether we need to do the work, and let’s just do it. I’d much rather meet my maker having done more than I needed to, as opposed to seeing him and explaining how I won the debate on not needing to do anything at all.”

    Word, my brother.


    • Proud to be called brother by you. Sometimes it’s about being carrot. Sometimes it’s about being a stick. I’m glad we have people like you, footsteps like yours, to follow.


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