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heaven-or-hell

A few years ago I posted the story Highway to Hell, a reference to the AC/DC tune, and it turned out to be my most read blog post of the year. It seems people have a fascination with Hell, even those who would say they don’t believe in it. In that post I intimated that many people, given the choice, actually choose Hell. Most people have a difficult time wrapping their minds around that concept. How could someone choose Hell? Why would someone choose Hell? As strange as it seems, there are those who blatantly, defiantly, stubbornly say what AC/DC put to music:

Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme, ain’t nothing I’d rather do. Going down, party time, my friends are gonna be there too, yeah. I’m on a highway to Hell.

Whoopee!

The recent election led me to revisit this topic. Apparently one of Hillary’s mentors, as well as someone influential in the rise of current president Barack Obama, was a man named Saul Alinsky. Known for his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky had some interesting thoughts about God and Hell. From his famous book:

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins–or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment, and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom–Lucifer.”

If that homage to Satan wasn’t enough, here’s what Alinsky had to say in a 1972 Playboy (go figure) interview:

“If there is an after-life and I have anything to say about it, I will, unreservedly, choose to go to Hell. Hell would be Heaven for me. All my life I have been with the have-nots. Over here if you’re a have-not you’re short of dough. If you’re a have-not in Hell you’re short of virtue. Once I get into Hell I’ll start organizing the have-nots. With a smile. They’re my kind of people.”

So, you see, there are people who would choose to go to Hell. Those who would choose to laugh with the sinners rather than cry with the saints. Only, based on my reading, I don’t believe there will be any laughing going on in Hell. Take this story from Luke chapter 16:19-31.

Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus, while alive on earth, lived a miserable existence, sickly and poor, while the rich man lived a life of “gaily living and splendor.” Upon their deaths, Lazarus was carried away by the angels to Heaven, where he resides in the comfort of Abraham’s bosom. The rich man, however, ends up in Hades, being in constant torment there.

At one point in the story, the rich man cries out to Abraham, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.”

I find the rich man’s request bizarre. Here he has an audience with Abraham, and instead of asking to be removed from Hell (“get me the hell out of here” would seem appropriate) he instead asks for cold water to relieve his agony (“I don’t mind staying here, just give me a cold drink and I’ll be fine”). It’s as if those in Hell have chosen to be there and would rather remain. As Alinsky said, “Hell would be Heaven for me.”

As a follower of Christ, one of the most important things I am commanded to do regarding my interaction with the rest of the world is to “preach the gospel” or good news of the Savior. I take that command seriously, but often wonder if the message is falling on deaf ears. What if there are those that just don’t want to hear the good news? Living in America it’s hard for me to believe that everyone who lives in this country isn’t already familiar with God, Jesus, Heaven, Satan and Hell. What if there are those who don’t want to be saved and know exactly where they’re headed, but simply don’t care?

I’ve heard it said that being a follower of Christ is like preparing for Heaven. Following Jesus is taking step after step closer to God, so that when you finally arrive in His presence, you will already know Him. I suppose the converse could also be said; living a life apart from God while here on the earth is preparation for Hell. Each step you take away from God today is preparing you for an eternity away from His presence. If you don’t want to know God now, why would you want to know Him for eternity?

I remember a time in my life when the anthem that is Highway to Hell was one that I sang with much glee; forcefully and with compassion. Almost as if shaking my fist at God and everything He stands for. I remember a time when I would flippantly answer the benign question, “Where are you going?” with the response, “To Hell if I don’t change my ways.” I was arrogant and cocky and I wasn’t about to let anyone tell me how to live my life.

The simplified version of the two world views is that a life of following Jesus is one of restrictions and boredom, whereas the life not following Him is one of freedom; with no restraints. Or put this way in the song:

No stop sign, speed limits, nobody’s gonna slow me down. 

Those heading for Hell are going of their own accord. What can I do to stop them? They seem to revel in the knowledge that Hell awaits them. Their lyrics are prophetic; there aren’t any stop signs and no one is going to slow them down. God allows each of us the true freedom to follow Him or not. He allows us to shake our fist at Him, to our eventual doom. He only wants those that truly love Him to spend an eternity in His presence.

What Mr. Alinsky and many like him don’t understand is that Hell won’t be like it is here on earth. When you choose to separate yourself from God here, you only do so in a limited way. He still remains in control and due to His restraints on Satan, the world remains a tolerable place to live. In Hell, God removes himself entirely from the picture and the result is, well, hell. Ask the rich man from Jesus story.

So, what to do? Strother Martin’s famous line in Cool Hand Luke goes, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.” I realize that’s true. Should we then just give up? Jesus tells us to preach the gospel. He doesn’t say to share it with only those who will listen. Just preach the good news. Simple as that. He’ll take care of the rest. After all, He kept sending people my way and I finally listened.

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