How do I Avoid Hell?
The introductory text for our lesson is found in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (ESV)
How do I avoid Hell? We have had some lessons here that portray a very real and vivid of picture of what Hell is and what it is like. Suffice it to say that Hell is a place we need to stay out of. We need to avoid it. It’s real, it’s awful, it’s dark, it’s hot, its scary, and it’s eternal. What does eternal mean? We are mortals caught up in an existence where there is a beginning and an end to everything we see. We live a few decades on this earth and then our earthly bodies grow old and die. At some point in our earthly existence we will wake up one morning and have fewer days ahead of us than we have behind us. In Hell there is no end. There will never be a time in Hell where we can say that there are fewer days ahead of us than we have behind. We sing a song called Amazing Grace which has a verse that speaks about the everlasting joys of of Heaven. ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s grace then we first begun.‘ The same holds true of Hell with the exception that those who are there won’t be singing about God’s grace. When they’ve been there ten thousand years, they have no less days to endure the torment of Hell than when they’d first begun.
The path to Hell is broad and easy. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus said the road to Hell is broad. he says the entrance gate is wide. And He said many more people will travel the wider road and enter the broader gate to Hell.
While we are in Matthew 7, we are going to look a little further. For now, we are going to skip down to verse 21, but hold your place there because we are going to come back and look at the verses we skipped. Starting in V21 of the same context, Jesus went on to say:
Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus says the ONLY people who enter the kingdom of Heaven are those who do the will of God the Father. When this life is over, there are only two destinations possible. It’s either Heaven or Hell.
In John 5:28-29, Jesus taught, “for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Each and every one of us has an appointment where a decision is going to be made.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ”
There is one of two destinations ahead of each and every one of us. There is going to be day of reckoning and everything we have done is going to be examined, and judged either good or evil. Those who have done good are going to be resurrected to eternal life and those who have done evil are going to be resurrected to eternal condemnation. Life or Death. Paradise or Punishment. Heaven or Hell. One of two places. Thus saith the Lord.
As we have seen so far, Jesus stated plainly that we have to do something in order to avoid Hell. So the question “How Do I Avoid Hell” or better “What must I do to avoid Hell?” is the question we are going to answer today in this lesson. But before we do, I want us to look back at the verses we skipped in Matthew 7. Right after Jesus taught that the road to Hell was broad and the gate in was wide, He gave this warning, ”
Matthew 7:15-19, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ”
People are going to come and give bad information on how to avoid Hell. They are going to come in sheep’s clothing, meaning they are going to look harmless and innocent on the outside. But on the inside they are the bringers of death and destruction. They do this by false teaching. Look around you when you are driving up and down the streets. What do you see? All kinds of churches and they all teach something differently on how one is to avoid Hell.
Question: How many ways or roads did Jesus mention in Matthew 7:13-14? How many gates did He mention? One?
Paul wrote by inspiration in Ephesians 4:4-5, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism” When we drive down the streets of this city, we see different variations of faith, many different ways, many different gates.
When we look inside at what they teach we see many different gospels. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-8, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
There’s only one Gospel that was received and anyone who preaches a different one is accursed. He has not avoided Hell. If we want to avoid Hell, we need to understand that there is One body, one faith, one way, one gate, one gospel.
The world says many bodies, many faiths, many ways, many gates, many gospels. It’s confusing out there. How can we know for sure? Is there a way we can be absolutely sure that we are avoiding Hell? We can’t come back and try again. We don’t get any do-overs if we make a mistake and get on the wrong road. How can we be sure we are on that one straight and narrow path? How can we be sure we are entering that one narrow gate? How can we be sure we are living by the one faith and obeying the one gospel? How do we know that we are doing what we need to do to avoid Hell? How can you be sure that I am not one of the false prophets Jesus warned about and that I am not preaching another gospel than the one received? How can we be sure that the things I am preaching will not put you on the broad path leading to the wide gate, the gate to Hell?
We can avoid Hell by correctly handling the word of God. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,* a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Found within the pages of the Bible are instructions on how to handle the word of God. For example:
Jesus taught in Mark 7:6-8. “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Jesus says if we leave the commandment of God to hold to the teachings of men that our worship is for nothing. We are wasting our time. So from this single verse of scripture we can make the application that if it isn’t in the word of God, our worship is vain. So that if we shun the teachings and traditions of men where they cannot be supported by the word of God, we can know we are on the straight way to the narrow gate. We can avoid Hell by rejecting men and listening to God.
Which leads me to my next point. Paul wrote this instruction to the church in Thessalonica in 1 Thess 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” Paul says don’t take anybody’s word for it. Prove it, put it to the test. I am just a man. I am just standing up here trying to be a mouthpiece for God. Don’t take my word of any of this. Check the things I say out against the word of God. Look the verses up I show you. Study them, study their context, test them, prove them, make sure I am preaching the word of God and not the commandment of men. Many false prophets are gone out into the world. Don’t set in your pews till you leave this earth and not check these things out for yourselves. Don’t leave your Bibles on the bookshelf and listen to the preacher thinking he is going to give you good advice.
We avoid Hell by testing the things we are taught against what the word of God says and holding fast to the word of God.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written” We can avoid Hell by not going beyond what the word of God says.
John wrote in Revelation 22:18-19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” The Tree of life is our salvation. The Holy City is heaven. Those who tamper with the word of God, leaving things out, adding things to it will not be enjoying eternal life in heaven. We can avoid Hell by not adding to or taking away from the things God has commanded. We must know what the Bible teaches. We must know what God commands through His word. We must obey it, not leaving anything out which pertains to Christianity and not adding anything to what pertains to Christianity. Anything less than God’s word is not enough. Anything more than God’s word is too much.
We can avoid Hell by being Christians only.
Have you ever heard of a hyphenated Christian? When someone asks you what kind of Christian you are what are they really asking? Well, are you a baptist? Are you a Methodist? When we look in the New Testament, what kind of Christians do we see? Do we we see Catholic Christians? Do we see Presbyterian Christians? Mormon Christians? Amish, Mennonite? Or do we just see Christians. We don’t read of any of these kinds of branded Christians because they weren’t around in the first century. They came along afterwards. The Christians we read of in the New Testament were just Christians.
The Christians in Corinth tried to become hyphenated Christians and Paul put a stop to it.
1 Corinthians 1:10-14, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas [Peter],” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
The Corinthian Christians were quarreling and dividing up into groups. Some of them were following after the things Paul said. Others were following after the things Peter said. Still others were following the things Apollos taught. They wanted to be Apollos Christians, or Paul Christians or Peter Christians instead of being just Christians. Paul said that when they did that, it divided Christ up among them meaning none of them had all of Christ. Christianity is no different today. When we follow after the teachings of men like Joseph Smith, John Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther and identify ourselves with these men or others like them instead of Christ only, then Jesus is divided up among them. None of them have the whole of Jesus Christ. A portion of Jesus Christ is shared with these men. It was wrong for first century Christians to do that. So, How can that be wrong then and right today?
Paul asked a rhetorical question, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The answer to that question is a resounding “NO”!!! It was wrong to divide Christ in the first century and it is just as wrong today. The Bible, the word of God, properly applied does not make hyphenated Christians. It makes ‘Christians only’ and ‘only Christians’ We can avoid Hell by being the same kind of Christians today that we read of in the pages of scripture. We can avoid Hell by being ‘just Christians’.
When we use the word of God and only the word of God; and when we examine the faithful first century Christians written of in God’s word; if we believe what they believed, became Christians the same way they became Christians, obey what they obeyed, worship the same way they worshipped, and use their lives as our pattern for faithful living we will be today what they were then; ‘Christians only’ and ‘only Christians’. We can avoid Hell in exactly the same way today that the new testament Christians living in the first century did. If we do what they did, we will be what they were; new testament Christians living in the 21st century.
We can avoid Hell by being saved the same way the first century Christians were. Adding nothing to, and leaving nothing out of the word of God; How were the first century Christians saved? How did they avoid Hell?
On the day of Pentecost following the ascension of Christ about 3000 people were baptized, Acts 2:37-41, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, [They believed Peter and they were convicted in their hearts] and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” They were told to repent and be baptized or the remission of sins and to save themselves. About 3000 of them did that very thing that day. Now if that worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for us? Those 3000 people avoided Hell when they repented and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. We can avoid Hell by doing the very same thing.
But wait. Is that all? Are we finished? Is our ticket punched to Heaven? We can answer that by asking if the new Christians on Pentecost were finished. Were they done? Was their ticket punched to heaven? There’s a whole lot of God’s word left. We don’t want to leave anything out. So what we have so far is Belief and conviction (they were cut to the heart. They certainly had to believe in order to be convicted of their sins). We have Repentance, which is a sorrow of heart that leads to a change in behavior. They were told to save themselves and were then baptized for the remission of sins. What did they do after that?
Acts 2:42-47, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (they were assembling together), to the breaking of bread (The Lord’s Supper) and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together (they were assembling together) and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Benevolence/Giving of themselves). 46 And day by day, attending the temple together (They were assembling and working together as a group, confessing Jesus to the Jews and evangelizing) and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ”
These brand new followers of Christ had believed, and were convicted of their sins, repented, had been baptized for the remission of their sins and were afterwards assembling together, working together and helping others by giving of themselves, confessing and teaching Jesus Christ in the temple, evangelizing and partaking of the Lord’s supper. The were being saved. They were avoiding Hell. It’s all there. Acts chapter 2 is one of the most complete accounts of how one becomes a Christian and is added to the body of Christ and then goes on to live faithfully that we have in all of scripture. That is how they avoided Hell at the beginning of the Lord’s church.
And if it worked for them, will it not work for us? They were being saved. We can be saved by doing the same things they did. We can avoid Hell the same way they did. If we do what they did, we will be what they were. Christians… saved and added to the Lord’s church.
They heard the gospel, they had faith, they were convicted in their hearts. They asked what must we do? They repented, they were baptized, they then went on to worship, giving of themselves and teaching others about Christ. They were being added to the body of the saved, the church. They were being saved. These people now had hope where before they had none.
In Conclusion: How do we avoid Hell? The Answer is the same for us as it was for them. And this is important because when we look out into the world today, we see many different explanations on how one gets to heaven. Remember, Jesus said one road, one body, one gospel. If we’ll set all of that aside and just do it like they did, we can be assured beyond any shadow of a doubt that we’ve got it right. We can be sure that we are on the right path if we’re on the same one they were. We can be sure we’re going thru the narrow gate if we enter the same gate they did. We can be sure we’re obeying the right gospel when we obey the same one they did. We can be sure that we are being saved when we are saved like they were. We can be sure we’re avoiding Hell if we avoid it the same way they did. We can walk this path with no doubts, no misgivings, no second thoughts. The path they walked in the first century is the path that must be right and that cannot fail. And that’s the path I want to be on. I want to walk the path that cannot fail because I know I can’t come back and do it again. We only have one life to live and we only have that life to find and walk the one path, and enter the one gate to heaven. Because according to word of God, ALL THE OTHER GATES LEAD TO HELL.
In Acts 2, They heard the gospel of Christ. Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart”
Matthew 11:15, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That is a verb. It means to ‘listen’. It means to comprehend and to understand. It means to pay attention to and to heed. The Christians in Acts 2 listened to Peter. They understood his words. They paid attention. We know this because of what happened next.
Have you heard the Gospel? Have you listened to it?
They were convicted of their sins. Acts 2:37, “…they were cut to the heart…” They came to the realization that they had sinned. Paul was convicted of his sin on the road to Damascus. The Philippian jailer fell to his knees before Paul. They realized that something was very wrong and that they were in danger.
Have you been convicted of your sins? Have you ever been pricked in the heart. Have you ever trembled or fallen to your knees? Have you ever been sorry for your sins?
And upon this personal conviction they all asked the same thing. What must we do? They understood that something needed to be done. They understood that if they wanted to avoid Hell, they had to do something.
Acts 2:37-38, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Paul in Acts 9:6, “So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
The Philippian Jailor in Acts 16:29-30, “And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
God demands justice for sin. All sin carries the death penalty. Jesus, who did nothing wrong, paid that death penalty for us so that we could have hope. Jesus Christ had to die before we could live. Jesus Christ gave His life for you and me. Our sins made it necessary for Jesus Christ to die on that cross if we want to live. WE, YOU AND I are as guilty of the death of Christ as those who crucified Him in the first century. We are as guilty as those who drove the spikes. We are as guilty as Pilate, Herod and the Jewish high council. We are as guilty as those who spit on Him. We are as guilty as those who scourged Him and mocked Him, and beat Him and reviled Him. WE, YOU AND I, are guilty and we do not deserve to live. We deserve to die and be cast into the flames of the lake of fire forever and ever.
Have you ever looked inside yourself and realized that you are lost with no hope? Have you ever asked, “What must I do?” Have you ever looked inside yourself and been ashamed and honestly asked, “What are my options? Where do I go next? What can I do?” How can I have hope again?
Thankfully, there is hope. Thankfully by the grace and love of God, we have a way of being declared “not Guilty”. We can be forgiven. Thankfully by the grace and love of God, we can avoid Hell. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And then the introductory text of our lesson today, John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” So we see from these two verses that we have to believe in and obey the Son of God if we want to avoid Hell. We saw the people in Acts 2 did to avoid Hell, let’s just see what the Son of God says we have to obey. Since He is the one we must obey, we’ll just take a look at that and see if it’s the same thing they did in Acts 2 on Pentecost.
Jesus says we have to believe in Him in John 3:16. We already covered that. So what’s next? Is that it? Is there anything else Jesus says we must do?
Matthew 10:32-33, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”
Luke 13:3-4, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. ”
Mark 16:16, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ”
Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
These are all things that the people in acts 2 were doing. The things Jesus taught His disciples were teaching people the very same things Jesus taught them while He was on earth. Everything we see in these verses were things the Christians in the first century were doing. And when we walk the same straight path they walked, we can know we are on the right one. When we enter the same narrow gate they entered we can be certain it is the right one.
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”