Among Jesus’ most unpopular teachings is his unambiguous assertion of the existence of hell. There are 162 references to Hell in the New Testament, and 70 of these were spoken by Jesus himself. And yet, according to a Pew study, 37% of Christians in the United States do not believe in hell.
Jesus’ teaching on the existence of hell clearly establishes the personal responsibility that humanity seems so keen to shirk.
Now let’s take a look at the verse that contains today’s difficult teaching.
"Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 28.
The role we allow fear to play in our lives is significant. Like so many things, it exists for a reason and has a rightful place. We were created with the ability to fear in order to protect us from wandering too close to cliffs where we could slip, fall, and die. This metaphor applies to an infinite number of situations we encounter throughout our lives, but also has spiritual implications that span eternity.
We fear so many things. Our fears often reveal our values and our standing in the spiritual life. The more we trust God the less we fear. The more we value eternity the less we fear in this life. But when our values and priorities get distorted, we begin to fear the wrong things. And when we fear the wrong things, we make poor decisions.
So, what is Jesus saying to us today? Hell is real. And if you are going to fear something, fear that.
The saints spent a great deal of time contemplating eternity in the presence of God. They spent time pondering the last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Our unwillingness to turn our minds and conversations toward these things says something about us that warrants further exploration.
Whatever the existential nature of hell may be, Jesus teaches with unmistakable clarity that it does indeed exist, that it is within our power to avoid, and that it is worth avoiding.
This teaching is a chance to reassess what we value, what we fear, and whether or not we value and fear the right things.
Watch the video!