Where have all the hell and damnation preachers gone? Have they all died and left this planet to soft and seductive preachers who are out to rob your pocketbook? (Rom 16:17,18). There was a time when preachers had a backbone and used it to preach the unadulterated, unfiltered Word of truth. Sadly, those days are gone and we are left with sophisticated storytellers who don’t have your soul in mind when they preach.
The centerpiece of the “Sermon on the Mount” is found in Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” When Jesus says that unless people’s righteousness exceeds that of these two, seemingly very well established, pious, popular, powerful and particular ritualistic religious groups, that they will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven, what exactly is He saying? If one is absolutely not going to enter the kingdom of heaven, then what is the only alternative? Hell itself.
The same can be said for His famous conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, wherein He states: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). If one cannot enter the kingdom of God because he refuses to obey the divine directives for entrance into it – in this case being born again of the water and the Spirit (verse 3) – then what is the only other alternative for his eternal destination? Hell – plain and simple. Jesus didn’t come right out and say “Unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he’s going to go to hell,” but He gave no other alternative. There’s a right and a wrong, and there’s a heaven and a hell. Do right and go to heaven, or do wrong and go to hell. There is no alternative destination, deduction, or even hinted at implication inherent in His statement. If one is not born again of the water and the Spirit, then they will not wind up in heaven, but in hell. Jesus said so, and there can be no mistaking His message.
Therefore, is it wrong for a gospel preacher to preach that if a confessed believer does not repent and is baptized in water specifically for the forgiveness of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), that they will end up in hell? Absolutely not. The opposite is true. Any preacher who does not preach such has neglected his duty to preach the Word in and out of season (2 Tim 4:2-5). That’s exactly what Jesus did with Nicodemus. And if that’s wrong then Jesus sinned. And if Jesus sinned then your faith is in vain! (Heb 4:15)
What did Jesus do when His own disciples came to Him and suggested that He might possibly want to consider “toning it down a notch,” when it came to what He was teaching, because some of the pious, powerful, and highly ritualistic religious people who heard His message were offended by it (Matt 15:12)? After all, they certainly had no trouble understanding exactly what He was saying about them, or, about what fate awaited them should they continue to worship according to the doctrines and commandments of men (Matt 15:1-14 f; Mk 7:1-13). In fact, instead of “toning it down a notch” at His disciple’s request, He “turned it up a notch” at His divinely best (Matt 23)! Remember, Jesus is our example to follow (1 Pet 2:21)
The holy and eternal word of almighty God is divinely designed to cut, shred, dig and slice, deep into a desperate sinner’s heart. This is why the Bible refers to itself as “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17), “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Do those divinely-inspired descriptions sound like the word of God should somehow NOT cut and pierce when properly used? Of course not. And preachers are commanded to personally and persistently cut, thrust, and parry with that spiritual sword at every opportunity (2 Timothy 4:1-5), in order to cut through the confusion and deception of man-made doctrines, and pierce to the heart those who have been deceived by them (2 Cor 10:3-5). Faithful preachers like Peter and Stephen have always done so – despite the outcomes; outcomes which were sometimes wonderful (Acts 2:37), and sometimes horrible (Acts 7:54-60), but still they did what God wanted. And if they hadn’t – or if they don’t – then no one could ever be saved.
In the words of the beloved Apostle Paul, as penned to the first century congregations of the “churches of Christ” (Rom 16:16) in the Galatian region (Gal 1:2), “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Gal 4:16)? “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). In the most simplistic terms, I had rather be your enemy and the enemy of the world for preaching the Word of truth, than be the enemy of God for preaching lies and half-truths!