The Soapbox

A Personal Commentary by Mark Eidemiller

"HELL: The Fifty-Cent Tour"

You've seen them.

The location: Portland, Oregon. Downtown, near - actually, under - the west side of the Burnside Bridge. The phenomenon called Saturday Market. Quite incredible, all the booths filled with the goods and crafts of hundreds of dedicated people. Among them, making a living on the tips and "kindness of strangers" are the entertainers, the street performers - everything from piano players, tap dancing kids, one-man bands, face-painters, balloon-twisting clowns, Jamaican bands, bad Irish singers .... and one particularly bad Elvis impersonator.

Now, just across the street - S.W. Front Avenue, a.k.a. S.W. Naito Parkway - is Waterfront Park, stretching alongside the Willamette River. There are the kids. The Generation X'ers, the Deadheads, the punkers and grungers, the skateboarders and the rollerbladers, the runaways and the hitchhikers, the recycled 60's children drenched in patchouli oil and marijuana smoke, heads buried in their drum circles and swaying to the never-ending rhythm. Also, quite incredible.

But wait! What's that in between?

Oh. It's them.

Maybe you've seen them. They wear those shirts, the ones with the letters you can see from a block away. The sharply contrasting colors, the graphic representation of flames around the last of the four words displayed: JESUS SAVES FROM HELL.

Some people pass them with dirty looks, others with condemning comments - "They should be ashamed of themselves! Bigoted, narrow-minded, zealots! Where is their tolerance for diversity!"

How do they respond to this barrage of hate?

Personally, I just shrug it off and love 'em through it.

Yeah, it's me wearing the JESUS SAVES FROM HELL shirt. My wife Karen's got one, too. We wear them a lot, and not just to Saturday Market. They get a lot of exposure, and so a lot of comments.

But it's interesting, the types of people who respond negatively to our shirts. So far, it boils down to two groups.

  • GROUP ONE, the "Just Say NO" people. These are the ones who will flat out declare, "There is no Hell!" Some of them even put on a seraphic smile and proudly proclaim, "We're all children of God - we're ALL going to Heaven!" Add in those people who think that reincarnation is the way, putting their hopes into past and future lives, and those who just don't want to acknowledge the concept of life after death.

  • GROUP TWO, the "Animal House" crowd. These people, lost in their own deception, believe Hell is going to be one eternal party: "Hell's gonna be a blast, man! All the biggest names: Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Tupac Shakur, John Belushi, Mae West, maybe even Elvis and Sinatra. They'll all be there! Hell's gonna be the mother of all parties!" Then they grin and announce, "All my friends are going to Hell, and I wanna be with 'em!"

Oh, yeah. Sure. Party on, dude!

Group One denies there is a hell. When you're falling off a cliff, denying there's hard rocky ground below doesn't negate the fact that it is there, and the fall-er is going to be introduced to it REAL soon.

So what's the deal? Why do people feel this way about Hell?


I can relate to that. Who doesn't get a sick feeling when they hear, "The boss wants to talk to you," or "You have to go to the Principal's Office"? when we've done something wrong - or, worse yet, when we haven't?


Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." In this scripture, "destruction" means "ruin" or "annihilation." That's rough.

Denial also shows itself -

  • Through insecurity - "If I just say there is no hell, then I can go on living like I am."
  • Or through false religions - take your pick - "We're all good people, aren't we? We just gotta think good thoughts!" or "Heaven's right here on earth!" or "I'm a little God - Benny Hinn said that!" or "Heaven and Hell's just a state of mind!" or "I gave ten grand to that tv preacher, and he blessed me right there! Said Heaven was guaranteed! And my back doesn't hurt anymore, like he promised! Doesn't that prove it?"
  • Or they try to turn the tables back on God the Righteous Judge - "How can a loving God punish me just for gettin' down with my girl? We love one another! We're gonna get married when I get enough money, anyhow!"

And let's not forget Group Two. If they understood what Hell was really about, why it was there, and what the Bible says about what's ahead for them, they'd be on their knees in a heartbeat, repenting.

So let the tour begin!

  • FACT: The Bible says Hell was originally created for angels who had sinned.

    "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)

    "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." (2 Peter 2:4)

    "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 1:6)

    Man became eligible when he joined the fallen angels in sin.

  • FACT: Hell is a place of actual fire and eternal burning.

    "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." (Isaiah 30:33; see also Matthew 3:12; 13:38, 50; 18:9; 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5; Jude 1:7)

  • FACT: Hell is also called the "lake of fire".

    "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:10-11)

    "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." (Revelation 19:20)

    "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10)

    "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15)

    "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

  • FACT: Hell has a general location: "below" or "beneath".

    "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." (Proverbs 15:24; see also Proverbs 9:16-18)

  • FACT: Hell is a place of torment.

    In the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) - the rich man testifies from hell itself, "I am in agony in this fire." (Luke 16:24). He fears his brothers are destined for there, and pleads that Lazarus "May testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." (Luke 16:28)

    In Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48, there are mentions of suffering in hell, including the repeated promise, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

  • FACT: Hell is also a place where both body and soul are destroyed.

    "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

  • FACT: Hell is a place of darkness.

    See 1 Samuel 2:9; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30.

  • FACT: Hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Weeping is best translated "shrieking" and the word gnashing as "grinding." In hell man will have a literal body with "teeth" and will scream and grind his teeth in anger and pain. See Matthew 8:11-12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28.

  • FACT: Hell is the absolute opposite of Heaven.

    Heaven is - eternally, forever and ever -

    • To be in the presence of the Almighty Creator, God of the Universe;
    • To be in the presence of pure unimaginable love, peace, and joy;
    • Facing eternity without pain, suffering, or tears;
    • Sharing eternity with family and friends who also chose to go that narrow way.
    Hell is - eternally, forever and ever - the opposite -
    • No love.
    • No peace.
    • No joy.
    • No family. No friends. All alone.
    • Every day is filled with loneliness and isolation, pain and suffering.
    • Every day is filled with knowing that tomorrow will be the same. No relief.
    • No hope. No hope.

Let's bring it all together, by using a passage from Johnathan Edwards. "[Hell is] a spiritual and material furnace of fire, where its victims are exquisitely tortured in their minds and in their bodies, eternally according to their various capacities by God, the devils, and damned humans (including themselves), in their memories and conscience as well as in their raging and unsatisfied lust, from which place of death, God's saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return."

Pretty tough language, don't you think?

The truth is often very hard to hear, especially when it goes against personal preferences - or, shall I say, against personal pleasures.

Hell is a choice.

Every choice we make, good or bad, has a corresponding consequence, also good or bad. The choice may occur in a moment or over a lifetime, but the consequences are inevitable.
  • A couple involved in a lifestyle of "sexual freedom" contracts herpes. It seems one of the partners cheated on the other.

  • A young man seeks comfort in the arms of other men. After years, he discovers he has AIDS, and his last six months are filled with visions in the mirror of an aging, withering skeleton of what he used to be.

  • A teenage girl, experimenting on the urging of her boyfriend, gets pregnant. The boyfriend can't take the thought of having a kid, so splits. The girl chooses abortion. She is scarred forever by guilt and condemnation, and every happy little baby she sees is a painful reminder of what could have been.

  • A man choosing drink over sobriety loses his job. Rather than getting the hint and seeking help, he continues to drown his sorrows in alcohol, and ends up driving his car over an embankment. The accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down all the rest of his days.

  • A 39-year-old crack user sells her body on the streets to support her habit. Wishing to escape the pain of day to day existing, she overdoses one Christmas night.

  • A man desires to give his family the "best things in life." He spends long hours at the office, weekends on the road. One afternoon he returns to an empty home and a letter on top of the television, and a business card from a lawyer.

What goes around, comes around. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:7-8)

Some people who have gotten this far haven't liked what I have written. Doesn't matter. I've often replied to those who deny there is a Hell, "In the end, one of us will be very disappointed."

John Lennon dismissed Heaven and Hell in his song "Imagine." Frank Sinatra made "My Way" his theme song through life - his Way, not God's Way.

Now they both know the truth.

Are we willing to risk eternity with God Almighty in Heaven for "a season of fleshly pleasure" here on earth?

Your choice.

Want to know the way out? Click here.

Any comments? Feel free to email me.
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