I’ve continued to wonder through the years, “Who on earth would believe, honestly, such a thing? And if they did, why would they want to come under the Lordship of such a God?” I could see how this kind of teaching could drive away unbelievers from faith in the God of the Bible. Praise be to Jesus, I was nonetheless drawn into a new Life with Him. I became a believer despite that glaring ‘idea’ of millions of unbelievers falling continuously over the cliff (of physical death) into eternal hell. I echoed Simon Peter, “To whom shall I go? You have words of eternal life.”
The burden of this ‘belief in hell’ has so hounded me that at last I’ve resolved to put thought to paper. Of course, who am I? I’m not a Bible scholar. I’m no one compared to all the great Bible teachers of today and yesterday. Why can I not see it the way they apparently do? I’ve in no way solved the dilemma, even for myself, but it is a topic of such immense importance in evangelism (and Christian life!) that I feel compelled to start the conversation in my corner of the world. And, I’ve discovered what an unpopular conversation it is! There is a surprising defensiveness among some Christians for their hell beliefs and others just do not want to talk about it. However, it is just too heavy on my heart – I have to speak up.
What is going on here that we can contend that such a reality exists without being overcome by holy fear? In addition, if we really believed this was the destiny of non-Christians all around us, wouldn’t there be weeping and begging and endless sorrowful prayer? Would you not make an outrageous commotion to save someone from a burning building? And even being burned alive on earth is temporary suffering.
Please don't think that I believe I am the only one that has found answers in this way. That is just how He works. I was so amazed with what I found that I doubted - really scratched my head and wondered. I mean, what about, er, the rest of the world? Most already are convinced about eternal conscious torment and the rest are building on false teachings. Was I alone? I asked in prayer for an answer: Was I alone in what I found in the Bible? If it were true teaching, wouldn't others have also studied and discovered it? And the answer came soon - yes, there were others and the study I did was actually reinventing the wheel.
But I was glad! At the outset of my study, it was just me, the Holy Spirit and the Blue Letter Bible (with Greek and Hebrew references) and yet I (stay-at-home-mom and housewife) found - and sometimes almost word for word - the same conclusions as Bible experts with historical and language degrees! (Such as Edward Fudge, see The Fire That Consumes) Wow, I was really impressed with myself for a moment there. But it had to be the Lord teaching me Himself.
The question was then: now what? My burden was then to share what I found with others - even if it was a terrible assignment. Who wants to hear about hell? Especially that they and the whole church have been getting it wrong for centuries. Yeah, that goes over well. No matter, off I went to talk to who would listen - and I suppose even when they didn't want to listen. Sometimes I still wonder if I'm a bit off, but God's word is solid ground and I can find confidence there. And I trust Him to keep teaching me - I mean, I still haven't figured out how to love as He loves or abide in Him always - so I'm really just an infant in the faith after all.]