Fact: The air in a wild fire is filled with so much smoke that it is un-breathable. The temperature is so hot; the air around you will burst into flame from the oxygen alone.
Fact:In the past the U.S. Military has used deafeningly loud hardcore rock music as a form of torture.
Fact:When drowned sailors' bodies were found in the 1800's and later, there were boot marks on the bodies’shoulders. Other sailors climbing on them, drowning their shipmates as they tried to get to air had caused this.
These images, when combined, conjure up a collage of hell.
My religious upbringing focused a lot on avoiding hell. The old term for this across the country is "fire and brimstone." Avoiding hell was the motivator for good behavior, repentance, and perpetual vigilance against the snares of the evil one. Scripture after scripture was quoted in church services and revivals with such fervor, the places where the damnation was preached were themselves electrified with fear, pain, and the promise of redemption.
I hope you didn’t go through this intense of an experience. . Yet, there is a question that still may be a part of your belief system that after many years still nags at my brain and perhaps my soul. The question is this,"Am I trying to accept the gift of eternal salvation from God through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, or am I trying to avoid damnation and hell"(John 3:36)? For me, this is a complicated question. In my gut, I know that I'm trying to do both. If I believe in both and am trying to avoid one while seeking to enter the other, this could be problematic.
I've been baptized and have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, making a forever commitment (Acts 19:3, Ephesians 4:5). In my emotional and mental wiring, I still have this need to try to do things for the simple reason that I don't want to go to hell. This is another way of saying that heaven is attained by our acts rather than given by God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Yet, I know this is not true. Aaaarrgghhh! This double-mindedness, even with prayer, reflection, and the support of other Christians is frustrating.
Challenge - We think we wander an unmarked landmine field to get to heaven.
You are a mess. I am a mess. Everyone you know is a mess. We are human. We come to our Savior as a mess and confess our sins and messiness. We ask for forgiveness. He knows we are human and that means mistakes and failures. He knew it before He got on the cross, while He was on the cross, and after He rose after the cross. He made this sacrifice so that there would always be a sacrifice big enough to pay for our shortcomings. We will not avoid hell or pay for heaven. The path has been laid out and it requires following Jesus. That is not about earning, it is about loving and living a life that recognizes His sacrifice.
This set of beliefs is so hard for me and for others to accept. I have never been loved so much that someone would die for me (Romans 5:8). A person who does not even know me suffers and dies for me so that I have the opportunity to spend eternity in paradise. Hard stop. I don’t know anybody willing to make such a radical sacrifice except for Jesus.
There is not a person like that. There is a god like that, the God. He can do that. He created the universe and all that is in it. He made me and wants me to be with Him forever. I can't bridge the gap on my own, so He does it for me. All the wailing, reading of scriptures describing the fires of hell, or condemnation of evil acts will never bring me closer to God if they are not offset by the fact that I will never be good enough to come home to the Father without Jesus (Jude 1:21, Romans 6:23). I can't earn it or avoid it, I have to accept grace and follow the path.
Hell is a great distraction from God. If Satan keeps you running away and focused on trying to do your best to not land in hell, he keeps you spending less time reliant on God and hearing and believing in God's love. What a trick. That's why he is called the Prince of Lies.
Hell is real. Satan is real. He offers many things in order to join him in his eternal damnation. One of those offers is to focus on him by trying to avoid him. Where are your eyes truly focused when you are attempting to avoid hell? They are not focused on God. They are not focused on the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior. They do not seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sent to us by Jesus after His ascension. Changing your focus to God does not gain you heaven. Eternal life is given to us as a gift. Focusing on God, however, does bring your heart, mind and purpose into alignment on the desires of God.