THE GREAT MYTH:
The people who will go to hell are those who do more bad things than good things.
HUMAN MERIT IS NEVER ENOUGH TO AVERT HELL
After death, there are only two eternal states: HEAVEN and HELL.
The common notion, even among many who regard themselves as Christians, is that if there’s a preponderance of good deeds in a person’s life, he’ll go to heaven... and if there’s a preponderance of bad deeds he’ll go to hell.
But, according to the Bible, this is NOT the criteria God uses in determining who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Some ‘bad’ people will go to heaven (like the thief who died on the cross beside Jesus). Some ‘good’ people will go to hell (like the pious religious leaders rebuked by Jesus).
A person goes to hell for relying on his own merits rather than on Christ’s merits, regardless of how ‘good’ he may be. Rejecting Jesus Christ – saying the Savior isn’t needed – is what condemns a person to hell.
HELL IS THE GREATEST RISK WE’LL EVER FACE
The greatest irony in life is that most people believe in hell and yet give relatively little thought to how to keep from going there. Hell is our greatest risk and it deserves our greatest attention.
For lesser risks, we have extensive analysis systems for insurance policies, risk-management programs, product safety boards, etc. But regarding the risk of hell, most people casually think that if they just ‘do more good than bad, it’ll probably work out.’ That’s not the way it works!
Anyone who isn’t sure of averting hell is playing a game with God more dangerous than Russian roulette. There’s time to accept God’s offer as long as we live, but at any moment death could come and seal our eternal destiny (see Topics 56-59).
WE MUST NOT JUDGE OTHERS REGARDING HEAVEN OR HELL
The Bible says that God alone is the judge of who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell, and we must not make any judgments about individual people.
Each of us can know whether we’re personally going to heaven or to hell, but we don’t know about the relationships others have with God now or may yet have with him before they die.
Our role is to tell people about God’s good news (see Topic 52), not to judge or condemn them. Jesus said that some people who’s lives are now highly regarded by society will end up in hell, and some people who’s lives are now a total mess will end up in heaven.
Our eternal destiny has nothing to do with how good we are, but it has everything to do with how good Jesus Christ is and with whether or not we acknowledge and appropriate the fact that he’s offered to be our substitute.
GOD’S JUSTICE ISN’T BASED ON FAIRNESS
Our American system of justice is shaped largely by the work/reward and fairness principles of our capitalistic culture. But, as explained on pages INTRO6 and INTRO7, these marketplace concepts don’t apply to God.
God doesn’t equate justice with work or fairness. To illustrate the point, Jesus told the following story (Matthew 20:116), quoted here exactly as he said it:
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a land owner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius [a day’s wages] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
‘About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
‘He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.
About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
‘‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
‘He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
‘When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going to the first.’
‘The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
‘But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
This story told by Jesus illustrates God’s character – he’s holy, love and just – and it explains why he’s not always fair.
Justice motivated by LOVE is better than justice motivated by FAIRNESS!
Here’s a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
‘Bad’ thief on cross will go to heaven
Some ‘good’ religious leaders will go to hell
Some people who call themselves Christians and do the Lord’s work will end up in hell rather than in heaven
Matthew 7:1-2, Romans 14:12-13, I Corinthians 4:1-5, James 4:11-12
We shouldn’t judge others, God alone is the judge
For help, see Topic 29.