“Any interpretation of the afterlife that negates evangelism & discipleship in this life is erroneous & egregious.” That’s what I tweeted earlier today after yet another discussion about the afterlife, hell, salvation, etc.
As Dallas Willard states;
“Scripture tells us that “it is not his will that any should perish.” But he does permit it. That is a testimony to the great value that God places on human personality. He values it enough that he is prepared for people to be eternally lost if that is what they want. I would be very happy if Hell were not an aspect of it; Hell is a terrible thought. Even among evangelicals we have people who say such an idea is not possible. I don’t feel comfortable saying that myself, partly because of what I see as the clear teaching of Scripture and partly because of what seems to me to make a lot of sense.”
I think the conversation about the afterlife is louder than it has ever been. In fact, I believe that conversation has always drowned out and dominated the conversation about discipleship (Making Disciples). I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, what we think about the afterlife is secondary to what we think about discipleship. Whether one believes that all will be saved, unbelievers will be annihilated, we’ll simply cease to exist, or that there will be an eternal place/dimension of separation/torment, is inconsequential to Jesus’ command to Make Disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) Up to a point…
I agree with Dallas Willard in that there is a lot of sense in scripture regarding the afterlife, the credible existence of hell, etc., and I can see, barely, God’s perfect justice in it. I don’t want anyone to go there. But really, there is only one way we can be sure of that. That way is to make disciples. Regardless of how you interpret the afterlife, the ‘duringlife’ call is to repent and believe (Mark 1:15), love God and your neighbor (Luke 10:27), live as sent (John 17:18), preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), baptize, teach others to obey all that Jesus commanded, and make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20)
And so, I guess after a small ‘crisis of faith’ this morning, I’m content to quiet, not quit, the conversation about hell (Matthew 10:28), the lost (Luke 19:10), those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15), the separation of the goats and the sheep (Matthew 25:31-46), and the unsaved (Mark 16:16). I want to drown out destruction with discipleship. You?
I’ll finish where I started: “Any interpretation of the afterlife that negates evangelism & discipleship in this life is erroneous & egregious.”
A couple of questions:
How crucial is a correct understanding ‘Hell’ to gospel conversation/proclamation?
What scripture texts, besides those referenced above, are important to consider for this topic?