Hell? No, We Won't Go!
by Tom Goodman
July 9, 2008
As you read this, our youth mission trip to Grand Cayman should be half done. In addition to 8 hours a day teaching biblical skills and basketball drills to kids, we've scheduled some time for Caribbean fun, too.
One place that's not on our list, though, is Hell.
Yep, there's an actual spot on the map in Cayman called Hell. It's an acre of black rock that looks like it's been blasted with intense heat. There's even a post office there where outgoing mail is postmarked from Hell. When I
served as pastor in Grand Cayman, tourists always wanted to see Hell. So, I'd take them down Hell Road (which I always thought should have been named "Good Intentions," but I digress). I'd always sigh as we pulled into the tacky tourist
trap complete with a dude in the parking lot dressed in a red devil outfit and shops selling T-shirts branded with bad puns on divine punishment.
Really, I'm not humorless. It's just that the more you read the Bible, the harder it is to make wisecracks about hell. The Bible says that "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27, ESV)
There is urgency in these words.
Death is an inevitable reality for us all, and after that comes the judgment, where some "will wake up to have life forever" while others "will wake up to find shame and disgrace forever." (Daniel 12:2 NCV)
But "shame and disgrace forever" does not have to be our future. Back in the 1920s in the U.S. Senate, an argument between senators became particularly ugly and one man told a colleague to go to hell. The astonished senator appealed for a sanction
from Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who was presiding.
Coolidge, who had been idly leafing through a book, looked up and said to the offended senator, "I have been checking the rules manual, and you don't have to go."
In the Apostles Creed, the believer celebrates: "I believe in the forgiveness of sins" and therefore "I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting." It's the truth of the one line that opens us up to the truth of the other line.
"I have set before you life and death," God said. "Now choose life." (Deuteronomy 30:19, NIV).
Note: To learn more about the topic of heaven and hell, purchase a copy of my book, The Anchor Course: Exploring Christianity Together. If you live in the Austin area, you can check out
a copy for free at our church library. I will lead another small-group study of The Anchor Course in September.)
Weblog: At my weblog, "Get Anchored," every Sunday I post a new "Song of the Week," and every Tuesday I post some entertaining and informative "Links to Your World."
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