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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Matthew 7:13-14

                        "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy

                         that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For

                         the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those

                         who find it are few." (Christ's words in Matthew 7:13-14)

Let me just start this editorial off by asking a question - Is anybody going to hell? I'd like you to think about that question as I offer you some more thoughts to be considered on our topic of "hell" today.

With our question in mind, I'd like you to consider the society we live in today. Isn't it safe to say that it's about the most permissive society this old world has ever seen? That it's the most tolerant of aberrant behavior, regardless of whichever form that behavior takes, of any society heretofore? Sure seems that way to me.

As far as religion goes, I doubt that there has ever been as many philosophies and doctrines available for people to follow as exists now. A person can find just about anything they want to believe in that scratches their "itching ears." On the flip side, they can believe in nothing at all if they're so disposed. And now here is where I'm going with this: the largest majority of them, either category, believe that they are still alright with God.

Why I say that is based upon some polls that I found very interesting and I hope you do also. The first one I'm going to mention is a street poll taken by a radio station in the Dallas area (a few years back) wherein they sent a reporter out on to the streets with a microphone to ask one simple question: "Who's going to hell?"

The reporter made a random sampling of about 500 people, asking his one question, and the results of his polling is what I found interesting. Approximately 98% of those polled said that they didn't know anybody whom they thought was going to hell. 98%! In carrying that thought on out, do you realize that's almost everyone?

Well, that poll got me interested enough to see if any others had been taken along this subject line and, sure enough, there were others. Here's some more interesting figures resulting from polls regarding heaven and hell. A Fox News poll of a few years ago found that 91% of Americans believe in God. Of that percentage, 87% said that they believed in heaven. I find that interesting, in of itself. However, only 74% of Americans believe in hell.

Let's look at a Gallup poll taken around the same time as the Fox News poll. They said that 90% of Americans believed in God yet only 81% believed in heaven. As to the existence of hell, only 70% said they believed there was a hell.

The Gallup poll delved a little deeper into this topic and said that, of those who professed a belief in heaven, 79% thinks that they're going there, 15% weren't sure and 6% figured they were going to hell. Now, pay attention to these percentages shown by our polls.

Another poll taken in California (where else?) showed that, of all those contacted in this poll who said they believed in heaven and hell, only ½ of 1% thinks that they're going to hell. Looking back over the results of the polls I mentioned, I ask again - "Is anybody going to hell?"

Well, we know what the pollsters say, now let's look at what the Bible says about hell. You know, many people think that hell is just a place that preachers have dreamed up to scare people and get control of their lives. That's not what God says about this place.

Jesus talked a lot about hell, didn't He? In Matt. 10:28 He described hell as a place where both the body and the soul will be destroyed. I think that we can safely say that it's not going to be a happy place to be because He tells us in Matt. 13:42 that it consists of a "furnace of fire" and that there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." A description that's repeated several times by Christ. By the way, the Greek definition of the word "gnashing" refers to a grating of the teeth as if in pain or suffering. No, I don't see any happy campers there, do you?

And, you won't be alone there as Matt. 25:41 tells that those sent there, the one's on His "left hand," will join the devil and his angels as this is the place "prepared" for them and their followers. I could go on about the description of hell as other Bible writers also talk about it, but suffice it to say that hell is a terrible, terrible place to have to spend eternity. That means forever!

In referring back to our poll results did you notice that there are more people who believe in heaven than believe in hell? Perhaps people just don't want to believe that such a terrible place exists and therefore can't contemplate anyone being sent there. Yet, more believe in heaven than hell for the opposite reason: that heaven is such a beautifully described place that everyone likes to see themselves as going there. Here's an interesting thing for you to consider at this point - that the New Testament has as much, if not more, material that warns people of hell than promises them heaven.

Not only does the Bible very plainly teach that hell is a real place, that it is there for a purpose, the eternal home of the disobedient soul, it also tells us who the occupants will share space with. Besides the devil and his angels, were your soul to be one of those on God's "left hand," and sentenced to hell, let me tell you who you'd be rubbing spiritual elbows with. See, the Bible tells us who's going to hell and it doesn't appear that God considered any poll results before telling us.

In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 we get a detailed breakdown of hells occupants - "fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with men (homosexuals), thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners." We know that's where they'll be located because it tells us in that passage that they won't "inherit the kingdom of God." If these aren't destined for heaven, there's only one other place for them to go.

Another passage that answers the radio reporter's question regarding "Who's going to hell?" is found in Rev. 20:15 where the occupants of hell are lumped in to one grouping: "whomsoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (You might also read Rev. 21:8 and 22:15)

Recall our opening scripture from Matt. 7:13-14? Let me take you to a verse just a little ways past that passage and thereby show you who the "few" are that will occupy heaven. Note verse 21 where it reads: "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." The operative word - DOES!

Ron Covey

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