If Hell is Not Your Punishment
When I was young, the word bad took on an additional meaning. I suppose it was due to Michael Jackson’s hit pop song by the same title. Whatever the reason, the word was changing.
Up until then, I knew of only one meaning for the word, “having a wicked or evil character.” But, thanks to the pop culture of that time, it now can mean the total opposite. In those days, we would compliment another’s bike or skateboard by saying that it was bad. We didn’t mean to say that it was evil, we meant that it was pleasing to see.
There are many words that have had their meanings altered throughout our history. This happens as culture groups emerge and influence society. It has happened for years – even before the American pop culture was born.
In more recent years, the same thing has happened with the word hell. An emerging culture took this word a bit further than it was originally defined. In the Bible, this word refers to a place of punishment of the wicked after death.
However, it has been used figuratively to refer to anything that is severely uncomfortable to someone. For example, someone who suffers a grave sickness might call that sickness their hell. I suppose that early on, those who used the word this way did not really mean to suggest that it was as bad as the biblical hell. Yet, as most word meanings develop over time, the word hell became less of a figurative word while used in the same way.
Unfortunately, these cultural changes sometimes influence the church in a bad way (that is, not in a good way). This has been the case for some preachers. As the word hell was used to mean things other than the spiritual place of punishment, these preachers have reread the Bible with new meanings.
So, as Christ has come to save people from hell, these preachers would preach that He has come to save people from things like poverty, sickness, drugs, low paying jobs, ugly spouses, speeding tickets and more. In fact, if the word hell means anything that makes you uncomfortable, the list can go on and on.
The harm in this is obvious. If you change your hell, you can then change your savior. To the one who is poor, Jesus is money. To the one who is sick, Jesus is healing. To the one who is married to an ugly woman, Jesus is the pretty girl. To the one who needs a better job, Jesus is that better job.
This is not to say that Jesus cannot or will never ordain that you get a promotion or be healed from some sort of illness. It is to say that those things are never Jesus. And Jesus is never them. If your hell is poverty, Jesus is not your savior. If your hell is ugliness, Jesus is not your savior. However, if your hell is the same as that in the Bible, a place of punishment for the wicked, then Jesus can be your savior (1 Tim. 1:15).
He is not into making you a “better” person, He is into making you a perfect person, a holy person. Sometimes, he uses sickness, poverty, and even ugliness to remind you of which savior He is.