Now let’s tackle that difficult issue of hell. People often ask, “What kind of a loving God would send people into a fiery hell?” That question is usually followed by, “If that’s how God is, I don’t want to know Him.”

Let me give you a word picture that may help you understand this a little clearer. I want you to imagine earth and all of life as a fifty-story high-rise. And since it will bring vivid memories, let’s make it in downtown New York City.

In the basement and coming up through level 1 is an explosion. Fire and smoke are rising and it’s heating up the building. Little by little it’s moving up very slowly floor by floor.

Jesus arrives, and He is the ultimate fireman. He walks all fifty floors and knocks on every door. He tells everyone, “There’s a fire coming and this building is going down. Follow me and I’ll get you out of here.”

One door opens into an office full of people. They tell Him that they will find their own way down and leave once their important business is done. Jesus tells them that the fire is coming up the right side of the building. There is only one way to escape, and they must exit through the narrow passage.

He knocks on another door and finds a couple. They are on their honeymoon and not interested in leaving. They don’t smell smoke and tell Jesus to leave them alone. Jesus pleads with them to get out, but they don’t listen and close the door on Him.

He goes to another floor and knocks on more doors. One man doesn’t even listen to Jesus and continues focusing on his plan for the day.

Jesus goes from door to door, seeking to rescue people. And after the last person who really wants to leave the building gets out, the building is consumed in flames, and Jesus forfeits His life saving the last person.

The only people who remain in the building are there because they chose to be there. The only people who end up in hell are the people who don’t want anything to do with God. They are people who demand to be in control of their own lives and only want their way.

As tears come down the face of the fireman’s Father, Jesus steps back and lets them have their own way. Hell is the place to allow people to have the freedom to reject God if they want to. The Scripture is emphatic that God finds no joy in the death of the wicked, but His desire is that all would repent (change their mind about God and life) and be saved.

What if this is true? What if your neighbors and mine, your friends, the guy who you joke with at work, don’t know about Christ? Does your heart and life act like there really is a heaven and a hell? Do you have a sense of urgency? I wonder how differently we would live if we really believed in a literal heaven and a literal hell. I wonder how much we are distracted by media, movies, life, games, stuff, sports, money, and dreams that really won’t mean much one day.

It’s important to deeply ponder the hope and the reality of heaven and hell. Some of the people who are going to be in hell are some of the nicest people you’ve ever met and some of the most religious.

It’s not going to be full of only axe murderers, wife beaters, child abusers, and other horrible people. You can be in absolute rebellion against God and clothe it with all kinds of religiosity and arrogance. The harshest words that ever came out of Jesus’ mouth were to religious people filled with hypocrisy—the Pharisees.

Jesus tells us there is life after death. This life is not all about you, and it is not about me. It’s not about sports, getting into the right school, or how your body looks. It’s not about our little world of self-fulfillment. We are living in this one, singular point in time, but there is an eternity ahead of us, and we need to live in view of that eternity. So let me help you get really clear on what heaven and hell will be like.

Ingram, Chip. 2017. Why I Believe: Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

We have just completed a 6-Week Bible Study Lesson Series on Chip Ingram’s book, Why I Believe. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book and discuss it each week.

Topics include:

Why I Believe, Lesson #1
Chapters 1, 2
Why I Believe in the Resurrection
Did Jesus Really Die?

Why I Believe, Lesson #2
Chapters 3, 4
Why I Believe the Bible
Don’t Take My Word for It

Why I Believe, Lesson #3
Chapters 5
Why I Believe in Life After Death

Why I Believe, Lesson #4
Chapters 6, 7
Why I Believe in Life Creation
Science or God?

Why I Believe, Lesson #5
Chapter 8
Why I Believe in the God of the Bible

Why I Believe, Lesson #6
Chapter 9
How is that Working for You?