Hell - Do You or I Have the Right to Send People There?

A friend of mine attended a funeral service of a man whom nobody could claim was perfect.

The service was taken by a fiery older fundamentalist (rather than a newer 'evangelical') type. After the service a family member of the deceased man asked the preacher,

'I just have to ask you: Where do you think my Uncle Ben is now?'

Without even a moment's hesitation the preacher replied:

'Your Uncle Ben? He's in Hell!'

Now, we may initially think, Great that some preachers still face up to what the Bible says, but, hold on a moment, what about the need for pastoral skills? I later heard that a particular lady who heard the caustic remark was greatly upset and offended. She is a lady who had been a 'Christian prospect' – she had occasionally attended church and had, only weeks earlier, asked a minister (not the one who took the funeral service) for more information about the Christian gospel because she had felt drawn to making a response to it. But friends of that lady now say she has really been set back by that experience.

Just after the untimely death of Princess Diana a few years ago, a British Sunday School teacher upset some of his children (and their parents) when he told them,

'Make no mistake, Diana is now in Hell!'

Without a doubt, the comment was seriously misguided. Now I certainly do not claim that this lady was perfect, in fact I know that she was far from perfect (as we all are), but we must realize that the moment we take it opon ourselves to state that certain specific people have gone to Hell, we are – in a very real sense – deciding to send them there ourselves! We are stepping into an area which is God's prerogative and where angels fear to tread!! We must recognize the difference beween having an admirable 'no compromise' approach towards the Scriptures and being very lacking in pastoral skills (that is, having a seriously poor ability to deal with Christians and non-Christians alike in their everyday problems including the need to shine a 'Christian light' for the non-believers. All of this also includes doctrinal balance and discernment).

We lack good Christian discernment when, as a person representing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we wade in where angels fear to tread and are unabashed at mentioning certain recently deceased people – previously known to us and those around us – as now being in Hell..

Let me point out something very interesting about the Holy Bible.....

As far as I can see, apart from the beast and the false prophet, the Bible never ever mentions a single person who has definitely gone to Hell! (I don't think we can include the 'rich man' in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man because that is a parable). I am certainly not saying that nobody will ever go to Hell, but I think it interesting that the Bible gives us the example not to assume that specific people have gone there! On the other hand, in several places (including the Transfiguration account) the Bible makes it plain that certain specific people are definitely saved, including Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Ruth, Rahab, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist and many others too!

Encouraging too that we may find at least one murderer, two adulterers, one prostitute, two people who had a problem with telling lies and one who had a serious problem with his temper in that list! In other words, God does not expect spiritual perfection from His people in this life and He is amazingly merciful and forgiving! This should encourage us all to continue 'pressing forward' toward our final goal – Eternal Life in God's kingdom and in His very company.

But - in the meantime - let us not do what the Holy Bible itself never does and state that certain particular people are certainly in Hell. Let us be under no illusion that when we do so we are – of ourselves – deciding that they should indeed be in Hell and we are taking a prerogative which belongs to God alone.

When asked at the funeral of an unbeliever whether that person is in Hell, I always say,

'We must leave______to God's mercy. He alone knows what is best and He alone is in full possession of all the Facts!'

I think that is a good thing to say, after all, how many of us even know how many repent and make their peace with God on their deathbeds? I happen to believe that it is many.

Robin Brace, 2004.




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