This is written to those of you who I know and are without Christ. By that I mean you have never fallen on your face before Christ and asked for forgiveness. Many of you are friends—close friends—whom I have talked to about Christ, but you are unconvinced. I would love to be able to push a button, write a check, or perform a task that would make you believe as I do. However, the stark reality that I have to deal with is that many of you whom I love very dearly will die in this state. And, according to my deep convictions, you will not be in the presence of the Lord but in a place of terrible judgement.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Don’t quit reading though. Hear me out. I am not necessarily trying to evangelize you or make you love Jesus. I am trying to tell you how to prepare for hell. Just give me some slack here. Though what I am offering to you is still as far from heaven as the east is from the west, it may do some good. Though you do not believe in heaven or hell, you have to admit: you could be wrong. Yes, I admit, I could be wrong too. But if I am wrong, what awaits me? Eternal darkness? Nothingness? Fine and good. However, if you are wrong, something terrible is coming. I can’t prepare for nothingness. You can prepare for Hell. This is a “just in case you are wrong” letter.
You see, I believe that when we die, we will all present ourselves to God. Let’s put it this way for illustrative purposes. When life as we know it comes to a close, there will be two lines in heaven and two sets of book. One line will stand before Christ, one line will stand behind him. Christ will have two books: one which has the name of those who stand behind him written in it called “the Book of Life”. The other book is for those who stand in front of him called “the Book of Judgement”. In this book of judgement is written all the wrong things that those who have not trusted in him have done. Every selfish act, every sexual sin, every cutting word, and every time you failed to love your children. In short, every sin that you have ever left your fingerprint on will be represented. Your disbelief in God will find a prominent place as it is the reason the ink will have dried on the pages of this book.
If I am right, I will be in a line behind the judge, Jesus. I will have eraser residue all over me. You see, my name used to be written in the same book of judgement. My issues were just as bad as yours (if not much worse). I had many pages reserved in that book. However, there is an invitation given to everyone in the line of judgement. It says that God loves us and does not desire that we should stand in this line and be judged. It says that Christ took the judgement upon himself for all those who will accept it. It says that who ever wants to leave this line and stand behind Christ can do so. I got in the line behind Christ many years ago. Because of this, Christ took a blood stained eraser, turned to my pages in the book of judgement, and erased it all. He then wrote my name in the book of life with permanent ink. Look at me. I have more eraser pieces on me than anyone. But the point is, because of what Christ did and because I trusted in him, my sins are no longer in that book. Because you failed to believe that Christ is God’s eternal Son who died on a wooden cross for your sins, your sin remains in that terrible book. I elected to have Christ take my penalty; you elected to stay in the line of judgement and stand on your own. I elected to have Christ be judged in my place; you have said, “If it is true, I will make my case before the Lord and stand on my own.” Therefore, we are in different lines. While these lines become permanent upon death (i.e. the Bible does not present an after death chance to change lines), in some sense, we are in these lines right now.
However, since you are determined to remain in the line of judgement (which breaks the Lord’s heart and mine), I am trying to think of what I can do for you. I am scrambling here with tears in my eyes as your future is so bleak. Of course, if you reject Christ, there is nothing you can do to avoid the ultimate fate that awaits you: eternity away from God’s love, eternity in torment, eternity in hell. Hell is your decision; it is not the decision of God who loves you. However, I do believe that while hell will be unimaginably terrible for everyone, it will be less unimaginably terrible for some than for others.
In the Bible, Christ says as much. Comparing hell to being whipped, he said that some will receive “many lashes” and some will receive “few” (Luke 12:47-48). Hell will always be eternal. Hell will always be outside of the grace and love of God. But for some it will be worse than for others. I would that you would just trust in the God who loves you and sent his Son to erase your part in the book. I would that your name was written in the “Book of Life” not the “Book of Death and Judgement”, but, again, I have to deal with the reality that you may never change your heart toward God.
For this reason, I want to give you some advice about how to make, what I believe to be, your terrible future, less terrible. Here is how to prepare for Hell:
1. First and foremost, whenever the Bible is being taught, run.
I know that this sounds kind of odd (especially coming from me), but it is true. If you are determined to remain an unbeliever until death, don’t go to church where the Bible is taught, don’t listen to the Bible on your iPod, don’t even pick up a Bible and thumb through it. Stay far away from that book.
Let me illustrate. The other day, I yelled from the living room to my daughter Katelynn to get to bed. Fifteen minutes later, she was still up. I became upset with her. I thought it was a deliberate act of disobedience. However, when I talked to her about it, she said that she did not hear me. Once I believed her, my anger went away. Why? Because she did not actually know that I told her to go to bed. Now, she was still in a little bit of trouble because she already knew what her bedtime was. But her trouble would have been more severe had she not only known what her bedtime was but heard what I said and still disobeyed. The point is the more you hear what I believe to be God’s word and disobey, the greater the offense.
Listen to what Christ says about this:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
2. Don’t try to persuade others, especially children, of your unbelief
Christ said some terrifying word to those who are evangelists of unbelief:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
3. Whatever causes you to sin, get rid of it
I think that this one will be the hardest of the three so far, but if you can do it, it is sound advice. If your television causes you to neglect your family, get rid of it. If your iPad is distracting you from productivity, throw it away. And (and this is going to sound crazy), if your eyes are causing you to lust (i.e. pornography?), cut them out. It is that serious.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where ” ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
This does not mean that if you do these things, your deeds will cover all the other things written in that book, but it does mean that you will have fewer pages in that book than you would otherwise.
4. Take care of your family
Don’t neglect to work hard and provide for them. Whether it is your parents, wife, husband, or children, take care of them with all your might. Love them dearly. Let me get real practical here. Some of you men are divorced and are failing to pay for the support of your wife and children. Don’t do that. Some of you have parents who are elderly and you are more concerned about the advancement of your career than caring for them. These type of things are written in bold in the book of judgement.
Listen to what Paul tells Timothy:
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
5. Don’t give yourself too much credit
If you were in the same line as me, I would simply say “Give credit to God for every good thing”. But I cannot say that to you since you do not follow or believe in God. However (and I am doing the best I can here), you have to do whatever you can to remain humble. Pride will create a full chapter in most people’s section in the book of judgement. It causes your heart to be darkened in so many ways and leads to the sins of vanity, selfishness, and the devaluing of others. Even in your worldview without God, you can understand that you are not essentially better than anyone else can’t you? If you are an atheist, you are the way you are due to fate, not your own ingenuity or efforts. I would that you would give credit to God for all things, but I will have to settle for second—a far distant second—best: just don’t pat yourself on your back too much.
Paul sees the wrath of God as centered on people’s lack of thanksgiving to him.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Again, you cannot thank God, but you can keep from thanking yourself.
I have more to say . . . much more. But I fear that you may become overwhelmed. I may write more someday.
However, although I said that this was not written primarily to evangelize you, I must pass this invitation from God over to you once again. You do not have to stay in that line. As long as you are still breathing, you can join me over here behind Christ. You don’t have to pay anything, give anything, or do anything to join me. Just have to turn to Christ and ask him to erase your pages in that book. God is beckoning you to come.
Listen to this from John 3:18: “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.”
One more thing. The line illustration is not really original with me. John uses a similar theme in a book in the Bible called “Revelation”:
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
I would that your name was written in the book of life.