Why do we do evangelism? Why do we carry out mission? It is because we have a God who loves and wants all human beings to love him. It is also because we have a God who communicates. He speaks to us through Jesus, through the Bible, through creation, through conscience and in other ways. This God also identifies. He came to be one of us, sharing the pain, suffering, stress and temptations of the world in order to save us through dying on the cross.
However, there is another reason – a very solemn one. A faithful preacher brings the bad news as well as the good. The Bible speaks of both the kindness and the sternness of God (Romans 11:22) and we don’t hear very much about the sternness of God today. It doesn’t fit well with our easy-going, tolerant, individualistic, egalitarian culture. However the Bible teaches and for 2000 years the church has taught that God is:
A God who rescues
HE RESCUES US FROM CONDEMNATION
John 3:17-18 says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.
There is both wonderful comfort and a very solemn challenge in these words. The wonderful comfort is that God doesn’t want to condemn anyone. Jesus died to save us from condemnation.
But the very solemn challenge is that “whoever does not believe [in Jesus] stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
The New Testament teaches that there is no hope outside of Christ, no eternal hope, no hope of heaven. John 3:36 states this clearly: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
There is no hope for those who knowingly and deliberately reject Jesus. I say “knowingly and deliberately” because people aren’t penalised by God for lack of knowledge or understanding. But if someone knows and understands the gospel and realises (s)he should respond to it in faith, but decides not to, there is no eternal hope, no hope of heaven (unless, of course, (s)he has a change of mind and does respond in faith).
The positive message is that those who trust in Jesus can be sure of heaven. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Paul adds: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
HE RESCUES US FROM ETERNAL DEATH
John 3:16 states this clearly: “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.”
Equally clear is 1 John 5: 10-13 “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 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 write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Hell is a reality. Jesus taught about it. Hell is separation from God. Some Christians believe Hell is eternal. Others believe it is a temporary period of judgment followed by what the Bible calls “the Second Death” which they interpret as people totally passing out of existence – even disembodied existence. In other words it is annihilation. Either way, it is a solemn reality which must be spoken of sometimes. And it is a powerful motive for evangelism.
The New Testament speaks about Hell to prevent people going there. God doesn’t want anyone condemned. He wants everyone to share eternity with him, basking in his love and joy and peace. That’s why Jesus died. But heaven is not automatic. We can only be sure of heaven by putting our trust in Christ. Anything less than that is very risky, to say the least. And knowing, deliberate rejection of it means there is no hope.
“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.”
[This is a difficult subject, but one we cannot ignore. It must be clear to you that I would be seriously failing in my duty if we did ignore it. I am happy to answer questions, via my blog. Tony Higton].
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction