The ancient philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, pondered this question: Why do so many creative people — those considered to be great artists and geniuses — seem to struggle with some form of mental instability or mental illness. The Greeks called it “divine madness,” and it was brought to the fore this week by the shocking suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Continue Reading…
Several events in recent months in the United States have raised the question of whether or not the death penalty should continue to be allowed as a form of punishment in America. Some states have said that it is becoming more difficult to obtain the drugs used in lethal injection. In Arizona, Oklahoma, and Ohio, there have been ‘botched’ executions — where the person sentenced to die was not killed in short order according to procedure. These cases garnered a lot of media attention and renewed calls for the death penalty to be abolished. There have also been cases where a person on death row has been found innocent of the crime they were put there for. In fact, a recent study determined that at least 4 percent of all people sentenced to death are actually innocent.
Currently, there are over 3,000 people on death row in the United States. Can you imagine what it is like sitting on death row? Waking up every day in a cell knowing that each minute that passes puts you closer to the time when your life will be terminated by a lethal injection or an electric shock? Can you imagine living every day with a countdown ticking in your mind?
You might shudder at the thought of that kind of existence. However, every person born into this world is sentenced to die. We are all under a death penalty. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Whether you want to accept it or not, your life — and the life of every person alive — is slowly winding down to a point of termination. Continue Reading…
Heaven seems to be a pretty popular place nowadays. Books that tell the stories of those who have died, gone to Heaven, and come back to tell about it, fly off the shelves. The Heaven is For Real movie, based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name, opened at number one at the box office when it was released. And, according to a Religion News Service article, 74% of Americans believe there is such a place as Heaven, and in another, recent survey, 62% of Americans say they are going there.
But what about Hell? Well, 59% of Americans believe Hell is for real and 1.5% of Americans say they are going to that place of torment after they die. Vassula Ryder, author of the best-selling book Heaven is Real but So is Hell, said, “The devil’s most powerful tool is convincing us that he — and hell — do not exist. He works subtly and silently, feeding our doubts and inadequacies, sowing dissension and creating chaos and confusion in our lives. Evil is real, and we have to know how to respond to it.”
Although we much prefer the pleasures and goodness of Heaven, we must accept that Hell, too, is for real. In fact, some authors have claimed that they have experienced Hell. In one book, A Day in Hell, the author writes, “Darkness enveloped me as if thick, black ink had been poured over my eyes… Reaching to my left and my right, up and down proved the black endlessness of my confines. Cold permeated my bones — an icy, water-type cold, in that it surrounded all of me, inside and out.”
In another book, 23 Minutes In Hell, the author said he was imprisoned in a tiny cell where demons viciously tore at his flesh. He said he experienced insatiable thirst while hearing “screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment.”
Perhaps because we do not like to be reminded of negative experiences, these books do not become as popular as books about Heaven. But that does not mean that Hell is any less real.
Another book, however — in fact, the bestselling book of all time — speaks extensively about Hell. Yes, the Bible tells us that Hell is a real place of eternal fire, eternal darkness, and eternal torment. In fact, it has often been observed that Jesus Christ, the loving, miracle-working Son of God, spoke more about Hell than any other Biblical figure. Listen to these words by Dr. Tim Keller: “Jesus speaks of ‘eternal fire and punishment’ as the final abode of the angels and human beings who have rejected God. He says that those who give into sin will be in danger of ‘hell fire’. The word Jesus uses for ‘hell’ is Gehenna, [which refers to] a valley in which piles of garbage were burned daily as well as the corpses of those without families who could bury them. In Mark 9:43, Jesus speaks of a person going to Hell where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ Jesus is referring to the maggots that live in the corpses on the garbage heap. When all the flesh is consumed, the maggots die. Jesus is saying, however, that the spiritual decomposition of Hell never ends, and that is why ‘their worm does not die.’ If Jesus, the Lord of Love and Author of Grace spoke about Hell more often, and in a more vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else, it must be a crucial truth.”
In light of this “crucial truth” — that Hell is for real — what will you do? Perhaps, you are one of those who has never taken discussion of Heaven or Hell very seriously. Well, now is the time to get serious. Now is the time for you to do what it takes to be certain that you are going to Heaven when you die.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Jesus is Lord” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
Listen (and read) this Gospel Light Minute X broadcast in 50 languages by clicking the links below.
This past week, the bodies of the people who were killed in the tragic shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, were returned to the Netherlands. In a solemn ceremony, the country mourned their great loss together as each of the plain wooden coffins were removed from the plane. Thousands of people lined the 160-mile route from the airfield to a forensic facility where the bodies will be identified and then returned to their families for proper burial.
We can only imagine how awful it must have been for the family members of those who were killed in the incident to watch as coffin after coffin was carried from a plane to a waiting hearse. Imagine how it would feel to be grieving over a loved one who has died and you don’t even know if you will be able to recognize that person’s body when you receive it or if you will receive it at all. Imagine waiting at the airport to greet a friend when they arrive and they never come.
These experiences of grief, suffering, and pain are common to the human race. It is almost as though it is par for the course of life on Earth.
However, what if I told you that there was a place where such experiences are not simply unlikely, but completely impossible. Imagine if there were a place where it is impossible to die, to grieve, or to cry. A place where it is impossible to lose someone you loved. A place where there are no plane crashes, or sudden deaths, or accidents.
This place is not just a fantasy. It is a real place — it is called Heaven. The Bible describes Heaven in the book of Revelation. Heaven is a place where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Why are certain negative things that happen on earth not allowed in Heaven? The Bible tells us why when it says, “there shall in no wise enter into [Heaven] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.”
All of the ugly, vile, sinful things that happen on earth will be impossible in Heaven. The question is: Will you be there? Continue Reading…