Note His jarring words: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
Jesus did not say how many a “few” is, but obviously He meant a small percentage of mankind. With more than seven billion people in the world today, will one-seventh (one billion) go to Heaven? Will six billion go to Hell?
Hell is the hush-hush word today; it isn’t talked about much any more.
Martin Marty, an American church historian, commented, “Hell disappeared and no one noticed.” That summarizes the world’s viewpoint of a biblical doctrine which was stressed in other generations.
Of course, hell is a macabre subject, and we do not enjoy discussing it. We had much rather talk of God’s love and of all His goodness. In fact, hell has become the “H” word which is nearly completely shunned. How long has it been since you heard a lesson taught on hell or a sermon on the theme from the pulpit?
Hell is a difficult subject. To some, the punishment seems much more severe than the crime. To others, it strains credulity. To them it seems like being sentenced to death for jay-walking.
Where do we get the doctrine of hell? Actually, the Bible speaks of it often. Christ himself talked more of hell than Heaven.
The crystal clear account (not a parable) given by Jesus is in the 16th chapter of Luke. He tells of two personalities; one was a rich man called Dives and the other a beggar named Lazarus.
Dives died and was buried, probably with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. His eulogy must have been long and elaborate, telling of all the good and great things he did. But he didn’t know God. After his death, Christ’s very next words are: “In hell, where he was in torment ... ” (verse 23).
What an immediate change. The rich man was now a pauper, and the beggar was exceedingly rich.
When you read of the reality of hell, you find that Dives said he was thirsty and in agony. Then, too late, he became an evangelist when he said, “I have five brothers. Let him [Lazarus go and] warn them so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (verse 28).
The other character in Christ’s account was Lazarus, the beggar who died, perhaps from starvation. There is no record of him being buried. But he knew God. Immediately angels ushered him into Abraham’s presence. (Angels will quite likely usher you and me to Heaven, too, at death if we know Christ.)
Our loving Lord stands today with open arms, beckoning all people to Himself. However, if we refuse Him, then He becomes our Judge. The unbelieving dead of all past ages will stand before a holy God: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. .. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). That is a sobering reference, indeed.
The truth is God loves us, and His love is far more encompassing than man’s. He loves us so much that He will go to the ends of the earth to win us to Himself. His book is packed with references of His love for mankind.
The golden text of the Bible proclaims, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Did you notice that right in the latter half of that beautiful passage are the words perish and believe? To escape perishing (hell) is contingent on believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The New Testament book of Acts, discussing Christ, states: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
On this theme, the apostle Peter wrote, “The Lord is ... not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So, if any of us perish (go to hell), we step over a loving God and past His Son on the Cross.