“REPENT! YOU’RE ALL GOING TO HELL!!!”
Sounds kind of like the thing you’d hear from one of those street preachers on a soap box in the States. But one day I was walking with a Christian friend in Kobe, and we saw a car going by with some kind of message going over a loudspeaker. Usually when you see that in Japan, it’s some kind of politician trying to get votes at election time. But I heard something about Christ being mentioned, so I asked my friend what it was about, and he said, “They’re basically saying you’re all going to hell and need to repent.”
“I see,” was all I could say.
I can’t say that it’s something I would do. Quite frankly, I strongly question its effectiveness, especially in this country. On the other hand, one thing that Christians need to take into consideration is that there are often two sides to the messages of God. And the message is not always happy, happy, joy, joy.
Joseph certainly learned this. He received messages from God to give to people, and they certainly weren’t all happy, happy, joy, joy. For the cupbearer, Joseph gave a message of forgiveness, and restoration. Though the cupbearer had angered the Pharaoh, he was going to be forgiven and restored to his former position. For the baker, however, there would be no forgiveness from Pharaoh, only judgment, and death. I’m sure Joseph wasn’t filled with joy that he had to give such a message to the baker, but he did. Because it was the truth.
The same was true with God’s message to Pharaoh. There was good news, but there was also bad news. There was going to be 7 years of abundance in Egypt, but that was going to be followed by 7 years of famine. I’m sure Joseph didn’t think Pharaoh would be overjoyed to hear about the years of famine to come. But he didn’t hide this from Pharaoh. He told him everything, the good and the bad. Because it was the truth. And because he told Pharaoh the truth, Egypt was able to prepare for the famine to come.
Just as there were two sides to the messages that Joseph gave, there are two sides to the Christian message. Yes, there is forgiveness, restoration, and joy found in Christ. But there is also judgment and punishment to come for those who don’t believe. When we share God’s message to people, are we giving both sides of the message?
Perhaps the most famous passage in all of scripture is John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
People love this passage because it tells of God’s love for us, and how we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ. But there’s another side to that verse. It says, “whoever believes in him shall not perish.” What about those who don’t believe in him? The answer is very clear. They will perish. They will be separated from God forever when they die. In case you missed that point, John makes it crystal clear two verses later.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:18
Time and again, you see both sides to the message of the gospel. Forgiveness and salvation for those who believe. Judgment and wrath for those who don’t.
So what am I saying? Tell the people around you, “You’re going to hell?” Well, yes.
When we share the gospel message, people need to be aware that there is a problem. That there is sin in their lives, and that because God is holy, he must punish sin. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23
There is no way we can skip this part of the message. Why? Because we’re preaching a message of salvation. And how can we be saved if there is nothing to be saved from. People need to be saved if they’re drowning in the ocean, not if they’re standing safely on dry land. People need to be saved if they’re trapped inside a burning building, not if they’re standing safely outside it.
People need to hear the gospel message because they are not safe. They’re trapped in their sin, and they’re going to hell. You can say that anyway you want to. Eternal death. Eternal separation from God. It all amounts to the same thing.
So why am I not all for the people in their cars blaring out over the loudspeakers “You’re going to hell?” I suppose it’s because as one person put it, they’re trying to “scare the hell out of people.” And Jesus wasn’t in the business of trying to “scare the hell out of people.” He was in the business of trying to “love the hell out of people.” When you look at all his interactions with sinners, he always reached out with love to try to turn them from their ways. That said, Jesus repeatedly talked about hell and judgment throughout his ministry. But it should be noted that despite the fact that he did so, sinners were still attracted to him. Because they sensed he really cared about them. I strongly doubt the passersby get that sense from the people driving by blaring out on loudspeakers, “You’re going to hell!”
Are you afraid of what people will think of you if you give them the whole truth? It was because Joseph gave Pharaoh the whole truth that Egypt was able to be saved from the famine. And if you give people the whole truth, it gives them the chance to be saved too, but from a fate much worse than just physical death. But in order to do that, we must give them the whole testimony of God. What is it?
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I John 5:11