In these days of Sensitive Theology and New Age Enlightment, that's become a popular thought. Comfort food for the soul. A positive, feel good message that declares, "Don't worry! The pearly gates will swing open for us all!"
Actually, it's true-God doesn't send anyone to hell. People are capable of getting there on their own. No travel agent is needed to buy a one-way ticket to the hottest of all hot spots.
Just for a minute, imagine that God did send people to hell. Picture Him angry, red-faced and puffing, grabbing sinners by the seat of their pants and pitching them into the flames. See Him gathering the unsaved, pushing a button and-WOOSH!-out drops the bottom and look out below!
If that was God's temperament, I wouldn't blame Him one bit.
My husband and I are blessed with sons. Despite the squabbles, the trail of sports equipment and the forever-pile of mud-stained clothing, our sons are our complete and utter delights. Our boys...our joys.
Like most mothers, I qualify as a "Mama Bear." Anyone who has studied wildlife will testify that Mama Bears have a rule: don't mess with their cubs. Those who do, get swatted.
Speaking as a Mama Bear, how angry would I be if someone treated one of my sons the way they treat God's son?
What if someone repeatedly rejected one of my sons? Rejected him to the point of not even acknowledging his existence? What if he was constantly scoffed at and made fun of? What if his words were always being mocked and twisted? What if his name was spat like a curse word? What if his friends were persecuted because of association?
Believe me, this Mama Bear would be operating in SSM-Serious Swattin' Mode.
The perpetrator could be a fantastic person by worldly standards. They might contribute generously to worthy causes and treat most people very nicely. They might be highly admired in their field, a dear friend to whales and a pleasant, sought-after party guest.
Not my party, though. If someone spends their life rejecting one of my sons-and refuses to make amends- their big toe isn't crossing the threshold of my front door. They aren't going to sit and make merry at my dinner table. As for an invitation to my son's wedding feast, get real-an invitation to the wedding feast of someone they've deliberately ignored or ridiculed? What a ludicrous expectation!
Yet, people expect that from God. People who are parents! People who lynch the baseball coach because they don't think their child gets enough playing time. People who snarl like Dobermans when their child is excluded from a birthday party. People who explode like a lab experiment because their child is reprimanded by a teacher.
Do they honestly believe that God is going to smile and wave them into Heaven, shrugging off the fact that they never accepted His child-the one who suffered terribly as He shed His blood on the cross?! For them?
Truly, as a parent, I would understand completely if a loving God sent people to hell. Considering the way His precious son has been mistreated, He's got every right to be an angry, fed-up Papa Bear, swatting people left and right, up and down, inside and out.
But...because He is loving, God is slow to anger. From Nehemiah 9:17, we read "But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." (NIV)
What's more, God is so loving that He's eager to open His home to the rejecting-scoffing-mocking-word-twisting, persecuting people of this world. He doesn't want anyone to buy a ticket to hell-not when His son has already purchased them one to Heaven.
If only they would accept this free ticket to first-class eternal glory!
Scripture teaches that many-most-will not choose the road to salvation. I think this breaks God's heart, but like any loving parent, he won't stand idly by, condoning His son's suffering and sacrifices to be for nothing. He'll allow people to face the judgments they brought on themselves.
Any parent-believer or not-should easily grasp this! I don't see us granting pardon to the vicious school bully who is finally put on permanent suspension. I don't hear us screaming "Equality!" for the drug dealers who push their trash on our children. We expect justice to be rendered on those who have hurt our babies. We agree that the guilty parties deserve punishment, and have no one to blame but themselves.
God, though, is supposed to operate with a different set of rules. When it comes to the suffering of His son, the loving God is expected to just...let it all go.
Awhile back, a popular psychic-medium was a guest on a news show, discussing belief systems and the afterlife. "We're all going to the same place," he assured millions of viewers. "We'll just have different ways of getting there."
Apparently, he had this on good authority. Apparently, dead people had shared this info with him.
Not everyone buys into his discussions with the dearly departed, but many are happy to accept his belief on eternal destiny. "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3)
Well, we're not all bound for the same place. Many will shake and rattle those pearly gates, wishing desperately for what lies within. If they're allowed a glimpse, here's what I think they'll see: