SAVED—FROM HELL TO HEAVEN OR FROM DEATH TO LIFE?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
One of the most frequently used expressions in Christianity is “saving souls from Hell.” One would look in vain for such terminology in the New Testament. While there assuredly is a literal Hell and there are wicked people abiding there, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is not addressed primarily to saving souls from Hell. There is a reason why this is the case.
Table of Contents
What Is Wrong With the Emphasis on Saving Souls From Hell?
An Incorrect Orientation to Salvation
The Record of the Book of Acts
Why It Is Important to Stress the Gaining of Eternal Life Rather Than Escape From Hell
SAVED—FROM HELL TO HEAVEN OR FROM DEATH TO LIFE?
If next Sunday all the Christian preachers in America were to tell their congregations that when they were baptized in water they were crucified with Christ and raised with Him to the right hand of the Father, and now they are to live by Christ’s Life and to share His sufferings if they are to experience God’s salvation, it is possible over half the “believers” would leave their churches. They have their ticket out of Hell (they think) and that is all they want!
They have not been oriented properly to the Christian salvation.
For many years the church we are pastoring has been fulfilling the Great Commission. We have been going into all the world with our books and tapes, the Internet, E-mail, and sometimes by personal appearance or the personal appearance of members of our church, and have been making disciples. We have been teaching and exhorting people in many countries to obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus.
Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19,20)
Let us state clearly our conviction that there is a literal Hell and there is a literal Heaven. The wicked are in Hell and the righteous are in Heaven, as far as we know. Let no one accuse us of being soft on Hell or sin. We are stricter than the average American preacher when it comes to presenting the fear of God and the need for righteous behavior. Neither are we diminishing in any manner the continuing need for worldwide evangelism.
What we will be stating in this brief article is that the purpose of the Christian salvation is not to deliver us from Hell apart from a change in our behavior, but to change our behavior so we no longer belong in Hell. There is an enormous gulf between these two perceptions of salvation.
We always have emphasized to our congregation the need to grow to maturity in Christ, that ministry of various kinds will emerge as we give ourselves wholly to the Lord. But some are suggesting our emphasis on maturity in Christ is an exercise in self-centeredness and passivity while the great and unfulfilled need is for us to press each member of the congregation to “get out and evangelize and save souls from Hell.”
One aspect of this viewpoint is the idea that if all of us would go out and evangelize, our building would be filled with people, and large numbers of people (it is said) is a good thing regardless of any other consideration. It is maintained that from God’s point of view the more people we can persuade to “make a decision for Christ” the more God is pleased.
The question arose in our mind, “What is the source of this spirit that attacks the fulfilling of the Great Commission?—that is seeking to call us down from building the wall against sin?”
Part of the reasoning continually expressed is that since the Bible commands us to go forth and save sinners from Hell there is therefore no need to wait on the Lord in order to obtain His directions.
But we teach in our church that no aspect of ministry, no aspect of personal holiness, no aspect of judgment, and no aspect of decision making is to be conducted apart from the guidance and enablement of the Spirit of God. We strongly hold to the belief that waiting on the Spirit of God must become a supreme factor in our life and that no commandment of the Bible can be obeyed perfectly, completely, and eternally apart from the enablement of the Spirit.
We take nothing for granted but ask God about everything. (Remember the mistake Joshua made!)
We believe also that God is sovereign in His dealings with mankind. God is in control of every human being, including every Christian—and every sparrow for that matter. We do not have to rush about in distraction trying to save the world. But we do have to be strictly obedient to God’s Spirit as He draws people to Christ.
Our task is to faithfully obey the Spirit of the Lord every day. The Lord’s task is to add people to the Church (often using people as an instrument) according to His sovereign blueprint drawn up when He created the heavens and the earth.
We believe that the Word of God is a Seed that is sown by the Spirit of God. Fifty people may raise their hands and “make a decision for Christ.” The number fifty is dutifully entered in the records.
King David got in trouble with God for numbering the people! Why do we persist in this practice when the Scripture stands against it? Such records may prove to be dangerous in the days of persecution that are ahead.
Of those fifty, one or two may follow on to know the Lord. However, there may have been others in the meeting who did not raise their hand but the Seed remained in their heart. Years later the Seed began to germinate and brought forth a great tree of righteousness. Why wasn’t this person entered in our records?
One plants and one waters but God gives the increase. The farmer doesn’t sow seed and reap the harvest in the same day!
We believe further that the goal of the ministries and gifts given to the Body of Christ is to build up each saint to the unity of the faith and to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:13)
We believe yet further, from the prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New, that as soon as the Body of Christ has become one in the Father and the Son, the nations of the earth will come to the Light of God in the saints and be saved. Therefore the hope of the salvation of the world is tied directly to the maturing of the members of the Body of Christ.
And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:3)
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
“That the world may believe”!
We are brought to maturity in Christ so the world may believe in Him—that He comes from God.
It takes time to stop and sharpen the axe, but in the end we get the wood chopped sooner.
We are writing this brief paper with the thought that there may be other faithful pastors and teachers who love their flock and enjoy ministering the Word of God to the people, sometimes to a handful of souls, who then are disturbed because their congregation is small or because they are not going out to “save souls from Hell.”
In several other of our writings we have stressed that the goal of the Christian salvation is not eternal residence in the spirit Paradise in Heaven. The goal of the Christian salvation is to build a great house for God, the Church, in which He can find rest and through which He can govern, bless, teach, and be with the saved nations of the earth.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2,3)
The Church has been called out from the world to be prepared to be the hand of God outstretched to the people of the world, not to flee to Heaven to live in golden mansions doing nothing of significance. This is a totally selfish viewpoint and misses entirely the Divine plan for the salvation of mankind.
If we have a true concern for the souls of men, then we will get on with the job of coming to maturity ourselves and bringing as many other people as we can to the fullness of the stature of Christ so that the Lord Jesus can return with us and break the chains of Satan that keep mankind in slavery to sin.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:4)
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
As we have said, we have taught in other booklets that the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, do not point toward Heaven as the eternal home of the saints. There certainly is an actual Heaven but the Scriptures do not teach that we shall live there forever. Search the Scriptures and see if what we are saying is true.
Now we have come to the other end of the problem—what we are saved from. If we are not saved to Heaven, then what are we saved from?
Let us think about some popular expressions that are not found in the New Testament:
- Saved from Hell.
- Save souls from Hell.
- Save souls.
- The unsaved.
- A passion for souls.
- A decision for Christ.
- A desire to see souls saved.
- A concern for souls.
- A devil’s Hell.
We are not claiming that there is no Hell (there certainly is!) or that the concepts listed above are incorrect or not of God. What we are stating is that these expressions are not found in the Scriptures. Whether the phrases are right or wrong, we need to begin preaching and teaching what the Bible says and not what we think it says. Oftentimes a slight deviation from the words of the Scriptures indicates a serious alteration of the Gospel message.
Hell has never belonged to the devil. It is not a “devil’s Hell” in spite of the proclamation of the evangelists. It always has been and always will be God’s Hell. It is God’s prison where He confines the wicked of the earth. The Lord Jesus, not Satan, carries the keys of Hell.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18)
The expression “save souls from Hell” does not appear in any of Paul’s writings. In fact, the term “Hell” is not used in any of Paul’s writings.
How many times are the expressions “save souls from Hell” and “save souls” used in Christian preaching, and yet such terminology is not found in the Epistles?
Obviously our preaching in this area is unscriptural. In fact, a great deal of today’s preaching is not found in the Bible. Maybe its time to sharpen the axe. We need to rethink what we are talking about until our speech lines up with the Word of God.
The New Testament does not emphasize saving souls from Hell. It does warn us concerning the fiery Gehenna and the need for deliverance from destruction in the day of God’s wrath. However, both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize passing from spiritual death to eternal life!
We are supposed to be selling life insurance, not fire insurance.
- “The soul that sinneth shall die,” not the soul that sinneth shall go to Hell.
- The “wages of sin is death,” not the wages of sin is Hell.
We are on the wrong track in our thinking and preaching and we need to seek the Lord until we get back in line with the Word of God. We may think that death is a synonym of Hell but it is not.
We may think that eternal life is a synonym of Heaven but it is not. The Scriptures mean exactly what they say.
To save souls from Hell is not the Great Commission. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey the Lord’s commandments.
The urgency for missions is not based on the fact that souls are going to Hell. The urgency for missions comes when the Holy Spirit moves on the heart of someone, such as the Apostle Paul, and tells him what to do.
The reason we have departed from the Scriptures is that we are not hearing from God. We are trying to build the Kingdom of God in our own wisdom and strength. Such efforts always result in “Babylon,” in man-directed Christianity.
There certainly is a Hell and the wicked will go there whether or not they believe in Christ. The emphasis on saving souls from Hell is misdirected. Let us proceed to explain, for no Christian teaching is worth anything unless it conforms to the Scriptures.
What Is Wrong With the Emphasis on Saving Souls From Hell?
Let us say there was a father who was also warden of a prison. The prison was a frightful place of torment and there was no escape.
The father had a son who was stubborn and disobedient. The son left home and lived in sin. He was a liar, a thief, a drunkard, and a fornicator.
The father knew that if his son continued in this way of life he eventually would be sent to the prison from which there was no escape.
The father’s heart yearned after his son. He wanted him to cease his wickedness and come home to his father’s house so his father might bless him and make him heir of the family estate.
He was lost to his father’s presence and wealth.
Let us say also there was a friend of the son. He cared nothing for the father or the father’s desire that his son be reconciled to him. But he was concerned that the boy not be sent to the prison in which there is continual torment and no escape.
The father sent a letter to his son saying if he would stop his drunkenness, lying, thievery, and fornication and return home all would be forgiven. He would be received by his father and welcomed back into the family. Otherwise he would be in danger of being confined in a place of torment from which there is no escape.
The father sent the letter by the hand of the friend of the son.
The friend read the letter and thought, “I must save this boy from the place of torment. No matter what else may happen, the boy must not go into that prison.
“I don’t know whether or not the young man will change his way of living but the main thing is to keep him out of prison.
“I know what I will do. I will change the letter and ask the boy to accept the father’s love and forgiveness so he will not be sent to the place of torment. I will remove the part stating it is necessary he refrain from his drunkenness, lying, thievery, and fornication. It might be desirable that the boy change his way of living, but boys will do these kinds of things! The first and most important consideration is that the boy not go to the place of torment. I must save him from that horrible fate!”
The emphasis here is not on the desire of the father to receive back his son or that the son change his way of living. The emphasis is on avoiding the prison from which there is no escape. The son’s welfare is emphasized but the Father’s welfare is not emphasized.
This is the way the Gospel is preached today. There is little stress on a change of behavior, on what God desires. The main point is to save human beings from Hell.
We submit that the emphasis on saving souls from Hell, as being more important than making disciples and teaching them to obey the commandments of the Lord, is coming from Satan.
First because people who through Christ keep the commandments of God are a threat to Satan’s kingdom while those who claim to be “saved from Hell by grace” are not.
Second because it is Satan himself who hopes to be saved from Hell. It is Satan’s plan to arm humanity, particularly the Christians, against the idea that anyone should be put into Hell. The idea is that no individual, human or angelic, should be confined to a place of endless torment. All must be saved from Hell regardless of whether their behavior pleases God.
If Satan can keep the believers busy telling others how to escape Hell (not how to enter into life with the Father through Jesus but how to avoid punishment), there never will be a Church without spot or wrinkle that will threaten Satan’s kingdom.
Also, one day (Satan hopes) the believers will find a way to deliver him from Hell.
This is the force behind the “save souls from Hell” emphasis. It is not scriptural. It is not scriptural because its source is not the Holy Spirit of God but Satan, who is inspiring the adamic nature of man to attempt to shield people from the consequences of the sinful, fallen nature of man apart from any change in their behavior.
It is the same spirit that spoke through Peter, encouraging the Lord Jesus to turn away from the harsh judgment of God that had to be borne because of the sin of mankind.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:21-23)
Satan in Peter would have prevented the blood atonement and also the triumphant resurrection of the Lord—all in the name of “love”!
On many occasions God does give us a love for people. We feel His love moving toward individuals to whom we are to be ministering. Such Divine love is very different from the “passion to save the lost from Hell” that is enjoined on believers, who ought to be fed the Word of God until they are ready to bear fruit.
The minute a baby is born he is commanded to go out and get more babies. How about feeding the baby until he or she is old enough to get married?
There is no doubt in our mind, because of personal experiences we have had, that God at times permits a believer to feel the Divine passion, the Fire of Divine love that is always ready to receive the sinner who turns to Christ and begins to think, speak, and act in a righteous manner. But such Divine passion comes in God’s time and in God’s way to bring about God’s purposes. It is not a duty that is to be laid on each convert, a duty to which the majority of believers are unable to respond but which only sears their conscience, deadens their faith, and denies them the food they must be fed if they are to grow to maturity in the Lord.
The Christian Church must always proclaim that the wages of sin is death and that there is no deliverance from God’s wrath except through the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition the Church must address itself to changing the converts into new righteous creations through Christ’s grace. If it does not, then it is just selling fire insurance and cares little about God’s desire that His children walk in holiness and obedience to Himself.
Why don’t we preach the Bible instead of the traditions of men? We have made a business out of “saving souls” with our “four steps of salvation.” The Holy Spirit of God uses ten million steps of salvation.
We are presenting a packaged salvation, a canned forgiveness that operates by the wisdom and power of the flesh and sometimes is practiced for the glory of man. It lacks the breadth of God, the knowledge of the Lord, the timing of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness, holiness, and genuine compassion of the Holy One of Israel.
An Incorrect Orientation to Salvation
Nowhere in the New Testament is the salvation that is offered through the Lord Jesus Christ described as deliverance from Hell—nowhere!
The wicked are always assigned to Hell. The wicked belong in Hell.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. (Psalms 9:17)
People who continue in sin are worthy of death.
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:32)
If the Lord Jesus came to deliver the wicked from Hell and death apart from their conversion into upright, holy behavior, He would be working against the righteous judgment of the Father.
If a wicked person were released from Hell because of professing belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, where would he go? He certainly would not be allowed to enter the new Jerusalem.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
The wicked cannot enter through the gates into the new Jerusalem because they practice wickedness. They do not keep God’s commandments. Would we change this “by grace” and turn the holy city into the suburbs of Hell?
Where would the wicked go? To some area where there are other wicked people who also have been released from Hell and death because of their belief in Christ?
The reason that nowhere in the New Testament is the salvation that is offered through the Lord Jesus Christ described as deliverance from Hell is that this is not the nature or purpose of the Christian salvation.
The Lord Jesus came to find and to save the lost. Jesus came to save us, not to deliver us from the penalty of Hell. We belong in Hell as long as we practice wickedness.
What does it mean to be saved? It means to be delivered from wickedness so the Father can receive us to Himself and to the inheritance assigned by the Word of God to the sons of God.
There is a total difference between viewing the Christian salvation as a pass from Hell to Heaven, and viewing the Christian salvation as the re-creating of the human personality so that the individual can be received of the Father. The one is not scriptural and is destructive. The other is scriptural and results in all the rewards and blessing we associate with being saved.
Somewhere in the early history of the Christian Church the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was changed from the making of a new creature, into deliverance from Hell and the obtaining of eternal residence in the spirit Paradise. This mythology, akin to and derived from the other religions of the world, has persisted to the present hour and accounts for the spiritual immaturity of the Christian people.
It is time now for the message we preach to be changed from that which is not scriptural and destructive to that which is scriptural and redemptive.
But isn’t our purpose to save people from Hell and death? No, it is not. The wicked always will be in Hell and death. That is where they belong. If they were released into God’s Paradise then Paradise would be filled with Hell and death. Isn’t that true?
When we come to the sinner and tell him that if he will accept Christ he will not go to Hell when he dies we mislead him completely concerning the plan of the Lord for his life. We start him off on the wrong foot, with an incorrect view of what God is requiring of him.
What we should be saying is this:
- You are a sinner and cannot come to God as you are.
- No matter how hard you try to make yourself presentable to God you cannot succeed. You were born in sin. The guilt of Adam’s sin as well as your own sin has cut you off from God.
- The Lord Jesus shed His blood on the cross of Calvary to satisfy God’s judgment concerning the guilt of your sin. If you will put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, God will forgive your sin.
- God will give you eternal life by placing His Spirit within you.
- You will be born again, meaning Christ has been born in you.
Now we come to the part that is critical to our correct orientation to salvation.
- You must repent, you must turn away from your life in the world and begin to serve God.
- You must be baptized in water as a sign of your repentance. Water baptism portrays two facts: it shows you now have taken your place with the Lord Jesus on the cross; it shows also that you are now part of the resurrected Lord Jesus and have risen with Him to the right hand of the Father. From now on you must regard yourself as dead to sin and the world and risen with Christ into the Kingdom of God.
The individual who has accepted the false gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save us from Hell apart from any change in our personality, goes through life waiting until he dies so he can go to Heaven. Meanwhile he tries to do good but fails more often than not. He has not been oriented correctly to the Christian salvation.
The individual who receives the true Gospel, that Christ came to save us from sin, goes through life as one who is dead to this world but who is living daily in Christ at the right hand of the Father.
The believer who pictures himself as forgiven and ready for Paradise is not undergoing the daily transformation that itself is salvation. He is waiting for death to verify and establish his salvation, not being changed into a new creature in the present hour. He has a wrong vision of the Father’s purpose and program.
The believer who pictures himself as dead with Christ and risen with Christ is overcoming sin each day. He counts himself as dead and risen. He experiences every kind of tribulation so that through these he might press into the Kingdom of God.
Salvation is a process of continual judgment and deliverance from sin. This is why Peter speaks of fiery trials and then tells us it is difficult even for the righteous to be saved.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (I Peter 4:12)
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (I Peter 4:17,18)
The purpose of the fiery trials is that we might cease from sin. They are Divine judgment on our sinful personality.
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; (I Peter 4:1)
These comments from the fourth chapter of I Peter make little sense in terms of the view of the Gospel as deliverance from Hell when we die. But if we view salvation as the working out of our dual position of crucifixion with Christ and resurrection with Christ, and tribulation as being a judgment on our crucified adamic nature, then the fourth chapter of I Peter makes perfect sense.
Water baptism saves us by giving us a good conscience toward God. Our sins are forgiven because we have died with Christ on the cross. We now are risen with Him and are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
The quick, cheap gospel of deliverance from Hell by grace forms the great bulk of the Christian preaching of our day. “Count how many decisions for Christ you can get!” The expressions and concepts are false. The result is a crowd of people who do not know the Lord and are not coming to the Lord.
They have been drawn to the churches by carnal means and they must be kept in the churches by carnal means.
They are not growing in Christ, meaning they are not learning how to reject evil and choose good.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)
They are not travailing in birth because Christ is not being formed in them. They constitute the majority of the Christian “believers” of our day, but they are not being saved. They have begun their Christian walk with an incorrect understanding of the Divine redemption.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Hebrews 3:14)
Our participation in Christ is always conditional, always dependent on our maintaining a joyous trust in God throughout our discipleship.
The Record of the Book of Acts
Let us turn to the Book of Acts to see if the Apostles preached reconciliation to the Father (according to the allegory we presented above) or if they preached escape from the torments of Hell.
Let us note, first of all, that the term “hell” does not appear in the Book of Acts after the following verse:
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. (Acts 2:31)
This means that none of the apostles or evangelists, as recorded in the Book of Acts, presented the Gospel of the Kingdom as an escape from Hell. They did not talk about Hell. Hell is not the issue.
The New Testament preachers spoke of how the world will be judged in righteousness by the Lord Jesus.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
They declared that the blood of Jesus forgives the sins of people when they turn away from wickedness. They then are free to choose to live in righteousness before God.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
Whoever will turn from his sins (repent) and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of his sins will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Be converted from your sinful behavior so your sins may be blotted out.
Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:26)
The Gospel is not merely fire insurance but an exhortation to turn away from sin.
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:2)
The doctrine of the resurrection was a very important aspect of apostolic preaching and teaching. The doctrine of the resurrection has been obscured today by the unscriptural emphasis on the “rapture” of the believers into Heaven.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31)
Do you see how the emphasis is on repentance, that is, on turning away from sin and embracing righteous behavior? Do you see that forgiveness of sins always must be accompanied by a change in behavior? Do you see that no stress is laid on escaping Hell but rather on the resurrection of the dead?
The reason no emphasis is laid on escaping Hell is that sinners always belong in Hell. The Christian salvation does not change the fact that sinners belong in Hell.
Whenever the New Testament speaks of Hell, it has to do with conduct, never with receiving the Lord Jesus.
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. (Matthew 18:9)
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)
The rich man was not in Hell because he rejected Christ but because of his selfishness.
When we preach Christian grace as escape from Hell, and Christian grace as an alternative to righteous behavior, then we have completely perverted and destroyed God’s plan to make new creations through Christ.
It is true rather that Christian grace is the Divinely given alternative to the Law of Moses (not to righteous behavior) and the Christian salvation is the Divine plan for changing sinners into righteous people so they do not belong in Hell.
Can you see, therefore, the great error in presenting the Gospel as a way of avoiding Hell? This would be to change the Gospel into a method of getting around God’s righteous judgment. It is the enemy who is encouraging people to seek to find a way around God’s judgment.
Satan defines grace as a substitute for righteous behavior, as a way of being acceptable to God without turning away from the world, sin, and self-will.
Satan rejoices at the thought of a grace that would enable him to enjoy all the blessings of God and eternal life and yet preserve his own way of behaving. Is this what you want? If you do, there is little love for God in your heart. Salvation is to you a plan whereby you can live your own life apart from Christ and still escape the torment of Hell. This is the antichrist spirit.
Why It Is Important to Stress the Gaining of Eternal Life Rather Than Escape From Hell
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize the gaining of life.
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; (Deuteronomy 30:15)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
In the beginning Adam and Eve lost the right to eat of the tree of life.
Numerous passages of the New Testament speak of the gaining of eternal life and warn that continuing in sin will result in death. The warning is addressed to Christians.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
The penalty for continuing in sin is spiritual death, that is, to be cut off from the Life of God that is in Christ.
Deliverance from Hell is not something we can experience today. Eternal life is something we can experience today.
To save a person from torment does not benefit God or His Kingdom. To bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life is to return the individual to the Presence of God, for eternal life is the Presence of God in Christ.
The Christian salvation is the process of gaining eternal life. To gain eternal life we enter the following dimensions of salvation:
- We receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus as we turn away from our sins and place our trust for salvation in the Lord.
- We learn to live in the Spirit of God rather than by the efforts of our fleshly mind and adamic soul and body.
- We turn over the throne of our personality to the Lord so that the Father and the Son may govern us from within.
- As we press forward in deliverance from sin, in learning to submit every action of life to the Spirit of God, and in receiving the will of God until our greatest joy is to do God’s will, we enter more fully into eternal life.
- Those who choose to live increasingly in the Spirit of God will one day have their body adopted by God and made alive by God’s Spirit. Then their entire personality will be filled with Divine Life and crowned with the authority and power of Divine Life.
Those who continue in sin will receive the destruction of their personality in the Day of the Lord. They have not sown to the Spirit of God and so they will reap corruption. They have slain their own resurrection by continuing to live in the flesh.
The proper concern of the Christian is what he will receive in the Day of the Lord, at the time of the resurrection of the dead. Grace and mercy will not determine what we receive in that Day. It is what we have sown that will determine what we receive when we are raised from the dead.
Notice the emphasis on salvation in the Day of the Lord in the following passage;
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)
The incestuous Corinthian believer may or may not have been in danger of going to Hell when he died, but he certainly was in danger of his spirit not being “saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” even though he was a member of the church in Corinth. It is what we shall receive in the day of resurrection that is the issue.
Numerous “believers” in our day are living in the flesh, confident that they have their pass out of Hell. But they are going to reap corruption in the day of the Lord!
Can you see now why the great issue of salvation is not escape from Hell but entrance into Divine Life? How many individuals have been handed their ticket that releases them from Hell and admits them to Paradise (they believe), only to find in the Day of the Lord that they will be given back precisely what they have done while living in the world? Whether or not they have received Christ as their Savior, if they have lived in sin and self-will, in spiritual death, they shall reap corruption in the Day of Resurrection.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7,8)
This is precisely what is destructive about presenting the Christian Gospel as escape from Hell—it misleads the convert into believing that how he behaves after “accepting Christ” is not critical because now he need have no fear of Hell. The truth is, however, he shall reap precisely what he has sown. If he has practiced the deeds that belong in Hell he will be placed in Hell. God is not mocked!
The Christian salvation is not a device whereby those who belong in Hell find themselves in the Paradise of God!
We have to seek life each day. There is more abundant life for us if we will seek the Lord. We must lay hold on eternal life. To walk in the Spirit of God results in eternal life but to continue in the flesh is to kill our Divine Life.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)
The above verse was written to Christians.
If we have lived in the Life of the Spirit of God, then, when we die physically, we will continue in eternal life in the Presence of the Father. But if we have lived in the death of the flesh, then, when we die physically, we will continue to exist in separation from the Presence of the Father.
The Father is seeking fellowship with us. Fellowship with the Father is eternal life. There is joy in the Presence of God when the prodigal changes his behavior and returns home, not when an individual “accepts Christ” so he will not (as he believes) be tormented after death. There is no joy in the Father’s heart when a person “accepts Christ” and then continues in his or her worldly ways, in spiritual death, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will!
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
What does it mean to be lost? It means to be lost as a child of God—lost to fellowship with the Father. We have judged ourselves unworthy of eternal life, of becoming part of Christ, of being made a new creation. To be saved is to be restored to fellowship with God. The “lost sheep” of the house of Israel are those Jews (and elect Gentiles) who, because of worldliness, sin, and self-will have lost their fellowship with God. They are prodigal sons.
Whoever is willing to place his trust in the Lord Jesus, turning away from sin and praying for grace to live a righteous, holy life, will be delivered from the power of sin and will be spared in the Day of Wrath.
Satan cares little whether people are in Heaven or Hell. What Satan hopes is they will use their God-given talents to turn stones into bread (seek to get rich), to worship Satan, and to behave presumptuously without looking to God for every detail of life.
This is what Satan desires for himself—to be wealthy, to worship himself, and to do whatever he desires without seeking to please God. Because of this he always is in Hell and always will be of Hell and bring Hell with him wherever he goes. The same is true of all people whose desires are the same as his whether or not they profess to be a Christian. They belong in Hell and it is not our mission to rescue them from Hell until they are willing to turn away from the ways of Satan.
The purpose of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is to reconcile people to God—not merely to deliver them from torment but to bring them into the fullness of God’s Presence and His plan for their life.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (II Corinthians 5:20,21)
After we have been saved and filled with the Spirit there is a fullness of God to be sought.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
The Lord Jesus did not come in order to grant us escape from Hell but to destroy the works of the devil.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
Hopefully the reader has a heart for God. Hopefully you desire above all else that God finds satisfaction in you as a son or daughter and that you may be able to serve Him each day of your life. This is salvation. This is eternal life. This is what the Lord Jesus came to bring about—a family of children who love God and long to do His perfect will every moment of every day for eternity.
Such a family is the reward earned by the Lord Jesus as He suffered and died for us. He shall see this result of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Let us not be among those who come short of the glory of God by placing an emphasis on escaping Hell rather than on coming to know the Lord.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)
“That I may know him”! Let this be our strongest desire and motivation.
Let us encourage one another to know the Lord. Let us lay hold on eternal life and the fullness of the inheritance that has been offered to us. Let us be among those who grow to maturity in the Lord, accepting the crucifixion of our adamic nature, and thus become a tree of life from which the peoples of the earth can draw life and healing.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (II Corinthians 4:11)
This is the message of our church and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
(“Saved— from Hell to Heaven or from Death to Life?”, 3801-1)