by Tad Lindley
It always pays to check your sources. Many news outlets on the internet rushed to broadcast the false report that the Catholic Pope, Francis, had stated that there is no hell, before they bothered to check the source. Well it turns out that after the initial firestorm of fake news, the source of the original report appears to be a highly questionable publication. Interestingly, this bit of fake news is really very old news, indeed ancient.
Fake news, old news
If we could go back to a time before there was internet, before radio and television, before newspapers, in fact before there was even paper, there was a fake news report about hell. I present it here for you in its entirety: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 NIV) The devil himself was delivering the fake news to Adam and the woman: there is no hell, you will not surely die, in fact, God is just trying to keep you from having a good time,
Speak to me, sweet lips
When we read on in the Bible we find out that the woman (who was later to be named Eve) was soaking it up. Did you ever have someone egg you on to do something you knew was wrong, but deep down you really wanted to do it? That’s where the woman was; she was hearing exactly what she wanted to hear. Something like this must have gone through her mind, “Speak to me, sweet lips! God must be trying to deny me some great pleasure and that’s not right, and besides that, look at that fruit!” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6 NIV) The rest is human history with its roller coaster ride of triumph and tragedy.
Hell is real and it just got bigger
Hell is not simply something created in the minds of men. The word of God plainly reveals that hell was prepared by God for the destruction of fallen angels, the chief of whom is Satan (Matthew 25:41, II Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6). Isaiah 5 gives us a glimpse into the tragic state of man that resulted from Adam and the woman’s failure to check their source and end up falling prey to fake news. The Lord gave Isaiah this horrifying statement: Therefore, hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure… (Isaiah 5:14) In context it is clear that hell got bigger, because the Israelites were rejecting God, because they were pursuing drunkenness and all manner of sin against God. Read the chapter for yourself and see if I am not telling you the truth.
What if he did say it?
Once again, it appears that the reports of the Catholic Pope claiming there is no hell were an outright lie, but what if he did say it, or perhaps any other person on planet earth says, “Hell is not real.” At that instant, they are putting their word up against the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus described it like this: a blazing furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50), a place where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43), outer darkness (Matthew 25:30), and where the worm doesn’t die (Mark 9:44). These are not the statements of a religious organization or some great thinker, these are the testimonies of God from his word. Nothing any human on planet earth says to the contrary can change the immutable facts of scripture.
Staying out of hell
If you want to enter the kingdom of God and make the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again (John 3:1-7). It starts with belief in God (Mark 16:16, Hebrews 11:6), producing repentance in our life (Acts 2:38, 4:12), water baptism (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-4), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:11). That is the entrance into the kingdom. Hell is real, and heaven is real. Adam and the woman fell for the fake news, but Jesus made a way for us to overcome our sin, and that is the Good News!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.