What do you say when someone asks you, “Do you mean to tell me that if I don’t accept your religion, I am going to Hell?” Or, “Are you telling me that if I don’t believe in a Jewish carpenter who died 2,000 years ago, I’m going to Hell?” Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, recently published a book contradicting the biblical teaching on Hell. Several years ago Rich Nichol and Jamie Cowen, representatives of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), were asked by a reporter from The Jerusalem Post whether Jewish people who don’t believe in Jesus were going to Hell. In the article (Radoszkowicz, Abigail. “Zaka Gets Donation from Messianic Jews”, Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2003), Rabbi Nichol responded: “Our primary identity is as Jews. We’re not evangelists”. He said that the UMJC “…does not believe that Jews who have not accepted Jesus are doomed to Hell”. What a terrible answer! If the reporter had asked me the same question, here’s how I would have answered it: “B’va-dai! Of course”! Here’s why:
Hell Is A Reality
Hell is a reality. The Son of God, who is the Supreme Religious Authority, had much to say about the reality of Hell. The divinely inspired Word of God, which contains no errors, informs us that Hell, like Heaven, is a real place. Hell is a place of fire (Matthew 5:22). It is described as a lake that burns with fire and brimstone – burning sulfur (Revelation 20:14, 21:8). It is a place of destruction (Matthew 7:13). Messiah told us not to fear those who can kill the body (the First Death), but rather to fear God who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. It is described as the Second Death – the First Death being physical death in this world, and the Second Death (Revelation 21:14) being the final separation from God that takes place after the Day of Judgment. There is no escape or appeal process for anyone who is sent to Hell.
The Purpose For Hell
One of the names for Hell, Gehenna, gives us a fascinating insight into its purpose. “Gehenna” comes from “the Valley of Hinnom”. It was a deep, narrow ravine to the south of Jerusalem where those Jewish people who had became idolatrous during the days of the kings burned their children alive as sacrifices to Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:33). This valley later became the garbage dump for the city. The garbage was dumped there and burned. Over time it became the symbol of the final destiny of the wicked – a place connected to false religion, of things that are no longer useful, only fit to be thrown away, burned and destroyed.
Hell will serve as the ultimate destiny of the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), along with all human beings who have joined them in their rebellion against the Three-In-One God. God is infinitely holy. He is completely separate from all sin. He will not allow the rebellious, the wicked, the ungodly into His presence and into the New Heavens, New Earth and New Jerusalem, where only righteousness will exist. The unrighteous and the unrepentant must forever be removed from the presence of the righteous God, righteous angels and the souls of human beings that have been made righteous. That’s Hell’s purpose.
The Whole World Is Going To Hell
We need to realize that the whole world is going to Hell and here’s why: In the beginning, our first parents rebelled against the Creator. After being warned by the Living God not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they instead trusted the Father of Lies. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they joined the rebellion of the Enemy and the fallen angels. This one rebellious act enabled Satan, sin and death to take control of humanity; and Satan became “the god of this world” (1 John 5:19).
Adam and Eve’s rebellion affected every aspect of their nature. Their body, their soul, their will, their mind, their spirit became corrupted. Their orientation toward God, who is the Source of Life, changed for the worse. Instead of coming closer to God when they heard him walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve ran away from Him. Adam and Eve were prevented from eating from the Tree of Life by being exiled from the Garden of Eden. They were headed toward physical death – the First Death – followed by the Second Death – Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, Hell. That corruption of nature was passed on to all of their descendants like a deadly virus.
Here is the human condition according to King David: The Lord has looked down from Heaven (thoroughly searching with His all-seeing eyes) on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand (they don’t understand enough), who seek after God (they don’t seek Him sufficiently). They have all turned aside (and missed God and salvation). Together they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.
Human beings are “sons of disobedience” – rebellious children. Because of our fallen nature, we are inherently predisposed towards disobedience to God. It’s our “default setting”. We naturally follow this sinful world’s corrupt ways, indulging the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the mind – physical sins and mental sins – and are by nature children of wrath, deserving of the righteous wrath and punishment of an infinitely holy God. Humans are mere flesh – not spirit. We are of this world – not of the next world. We are perishable – not imperishable. The entire world of human beings is perishing and headed for destruction like a rotten piece of fruit (John 3:16). Rabbi Paul made it clear that the people of the nations of the world are excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. They are strangers to the covenants that contain the promises of salvation and reconciliation. They have no hope and are without God.
What is true of the nations is also true for the Chosen People. We are lost and headed for Hell. Non-Messianic Jews are without Temple, without sacrifices, basing our religion on a broken covenant that cannot save. The Son of God said to Jewish people that since He had now come into the world, He was the Way – which means that there is no way to get to the Father other than by transferring our loyalties to Yeshua. Messiah, who cannot lie, said that He is the Truth – which means that no other worldview is capable of saving us. The Son of God, who is never wrong, said that He is the Life – which means that apart from being connected to Him, people will be destroyed in Hell (John 14:6).
Yeshua said to a group of Jewish leaders (men who believed in God, knew the Torah, went to the Temple and offered sacrifices): Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24). Simon Peter stood before the Sanhedrin and declared to the leading priests, scholars and rabbis that Yeshua is the only source of salvation (Acts 4:12). It doesn’t get much clearer than that!
Rabbi Paul made it crystal clear that if during our earthly life we personally confess with our mouth that Yeshua is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. But the inverse is equally clear: If during our lives on Earth we don’t confess with our mouth and believe in our heart, we will be lost! The Rabbi from Tarsus had great sorrow and unceasing grief in his heart because he knew that his Jewish people who didn’t believe in Messiah were going to Hell.
Now that the Son of God has come, believing in the Father but not the Son is not enough! We must be loyal to the Father and the Son. The Father spoke from Heaven declaring that Yeshua is His beloved Son in whom He is very pleased. God declared Yeshua to be the Messiah by raising Him from the dead! Dare you contradict God? Who is the liar, but the one who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23). And if, apart from loyalty to the Messiah, the Chosen people are lost, where does that leave Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, New-Agers, Secular-Humanists, agnostics and atheists? Embracing these religions, philosophies and worldviews will keep you on your way to Hell. Rabbi Paul made it clear that Jews and Gentiles are equally lost and must come to God on the same terms – His terms.
We Can’t Save Ourselves From Hell
Not only are human beings corrupted in nature, alienated from God, under the authority of Satan, without hope and headed to Hell, but we are completely incapable of changing this situation on our own. We need to be born again, but we are incapable of replacing our fallen nature with a new, godly, divine nature. We are in a state of spiritual death, dead in our trespasses and sins. And dead people are incapable of giving themselves life! Dead-in-our- trespasses-and-sins human beings can never be good enough, righteous enough or religious enough to reconcile ourselves to God, transform our nature and avoid the Lake of Fire.
Only God Can Save Us From Our Sins
But what we are utterly incapable of doing, God is completely capable of accomplishing! God had a plan to make salvation possible. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord provided a substitute, an innocent animal whose life was sacrificed and whose blood was shed. Those who had faith in the one true God, and offered a sacrifice, could be forgiven. Centuries later, the Lord made covenants with Israel. If we were loyal to God and obeyed His Word, offering the sacrifices that enabled us get close to God, we could be forgiven. We could avoid Hell. But those sacrifices were temporary and were effective only when accompanied by faith, and only until the Final and Perfect Sacrifice came – the Lamb of God, the sacrificed Messiah, who is able to fully take away the sins of the entire world!
God the Father sent the eternal, self-existent Son of God who was with the Father from Heaven to Earth, and He became a man. He allowed Himself to be whipped, beaten, spit on, humiliated, stripped naked and crucified! By dying in our place, by bearing our sins on the cross, by satisfying all the claims that a holy God had against us, by taking on Himself the curse for our violation of God’s laws, becoming the ultimate sin-offering, the problem of sin has been fully and eternally resolved. Because of the Son of God’s ultimate sacrifice and the perfect atonement He accomplished on the cross, God’s ability to forgive all of our sins is infinite and complete. Because of His one perfect and final sacrifice, whoever believes in Yeshua has forgiveness for all their sins. Not one of our rebellious acts remains to be held against us to drag us down to Hell!
We Can Be Saved From Satan’s Authority And Destiny
When we are reconciled to God, our rebellion ends and we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We are removed from the authority of the god of this world and given citizenship in a new kingdom. We no longer share the destiny of the fallen angels in the Lake of Fire.
We Can Be Saved From Our Corrupted Nature
Without being born again, we can’t enter the Kingdom of God – we will wind up in Hell – but with this spiritual rebirth, we will experience life in God’s eternal Kingdom. When we come to God on His terms, God creates a new nature in us. We are no longer dominated by our old sinful, willful, rebellious nature that was hostile to God. When we are born again, we are given new life, a new heart, a new mind that is compatible with a holy God, a new nature that delights to serve Him. Instead of being children of wrath and disobedience, we become the children of God – the Almighty’s very own beloved sons and daughters!
We Must Boldly Proclaim The Good News To Everyone
If we know the way to escape from Satan, sin, death and Hell, we must devote ourselves to bringing this Good News to the world, prioritizing our efforts to the Jewish people first (Acts 1:8, Romans 1:16)! Keep in mind that the Good News includes the Bad News – that mankind is corrupted in nature, alienated from God, captive to the Enemy, headed to Hell and incapable of saving ourselves. Why would people welcome the Good News if there is no Bad News? Why would they come to the Savior if there is nothing to be saved from? We must engage in bold, truthful, courageous evangelism, which includes proclamation about Satan, sin, death and Hell! What Messiah has whispered in our ear, each one of us is to shout from the tops of our houses! There should be no hemming or hawing, no evasiveness, no nuancing or denying the facts.
But we deny the Good News when we invent theologies that suggest that transferring our loyalties to the Messiah is unnecessary – theologies such as the Two-Covenant heresy, which teaches that Non-Messianic Judaism is good enough for Jews; or the “Unconscious Christian” heresy, which teaches that human beings don’t need to consciously place their faith, trust and belief in Yeshua; or Universalism, which teaches that everyone goes to Heaven, no matter what they believe.
We deny the Good News when we say to a non-Christian: “I respect your religion” but at the same time don’t make it clear that their non-Christian religion won’t save them. What we should say is: “I respect your right to have your own religion. It’s wrong and won’t save you from Hell, so I advise you transfer your loyalties to the Three-In-One God of Israel”.
We deny the Good News when we are challenged by an unbeliever about whether or not he is going to Hell, and we say something false like: “I’m not the judge. I don’t know what will happen to your soul”, instead of saying: “Based on the Word of God, if you died now, you would die in your sins and go to Hell”.
We deny the Good News when we justify our unwillingness to engage in evangelism with statements like: “I don’t push my faith on other people. I wait until I am asked”. And what if you are never asked? Did the Lord’s representatives wait until they were asked? Don’t wait until you are asked! You’ve been commanded to go and declare – not to wait until you are asked!
Objections To The All-Inclusiveness Of Hell
What about those who have never heard the Good News? God can’t send them to Hell. That wouldn’t be fair! God is not obligated to bring the message of salvation to everyone or even to anyone. He would be righteous even if no one heard the message and no one was saved! Not hearing the message is no excuse and claiming ignorance will not save anyone. In a Biblical passage that is sometimes quoted to suggest there is hope for those who have not heard (Romans 2:14-15), Paul also tells us that the Gentiles are expected to know that there is only one powerful Creator, and that there is no excuse for not knowing and believing in Him (Romans 1: 18-20). God has written His moral laws on every human heart and given everyone a conscience, and everyone is expected to live according to those moral laws. But all have missed the mark and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). No one is good enough! No one is moral enough! The Gentiles are “under sin” (Romans 3:9); enemies of God (Romans 5:10); and shut up in disobedience (Romans 11:32). However, the Lord is merciful, and those who follow the light they are given, are given more. If someone is truly seeking truth and God, God will send someone to him. Let’s endeavor to be that someone!
Are You Saying That Most People Will Go To Hell? Yes. The reality is that the majority of humanity will go to Hell. Only a remnant will be saved. The Son of God, who knows the truth, assured us that the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. The gate is small, and the way is narrow, that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
What about children who die young? If they are not the children of believers, they are in trouble. In Adam (the progenitor of fallen humanity) everyone dies – not lives. Age makes no difference. Neither the phrase nor the concept of an “age of accountability” is found in the Scriptures. But I have found where King David taught: I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5) – that from the moment of the conception David had a sinful, rebellious nature. The only hope for children is if they are children of believers, based on 1 Corinthians 7:14: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. God considers the children of Christians and Messianic Jews to be holy, set apart for special purposes. So, let’s reach the parents and their children and help them find salvation in the Messiah!
When you are asked: “Are you are telling me that if I don’t believe in Jesus, I’m going to Hell?”, you should boldly declare the truth. The world has a right to know what we believe and why. They have a right to a straightforward, simple, clear answer to the question, “Are people who don’t believe in Yeshua going to Hell?” They don’t need nuance. They don’t need hemming and hawing. They don’t need a convoluted, theological answer. Simply declare the Bad News as well as the Good News. Tell them we are saved from Satan, sin, death and Hell by coming to know the Three-In-One God of Israel, and transferring our loyalties to the Father, Son and Spirit. It is as simple as that! And encourage your pastor to boldly talk about these things, and let him know that you will support him for his courageous stance!