I remember the day when I realized that I wasn’t going to Hell. I grew up in a fearful tradition. One that had no assurance of salvation… we would only know once we were standing at Judgment Day. Verses would always be resounding through my head, warning me to be wary because God was just looking for a reason to send me to Hell. Verses such as:
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Heb 10:26-27 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, (27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Php 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
God was to be feared because He was looking for an excuse to burn me up. I remember as a child, every night as I was falling asleep I would repeat, “I love God and Jesus” over and over again. My thought process was that if I didn’t repeat this then a sin might enter my mind as I was falling asleep and I’d be condemned to Hell. This is not something my parents taught me to do… in fact to this day they don’t know that’s something I did. That fear came from the culture I grew up in. Hear enough fire and brimstone lessons and you start to smell smoke. It’s like when a psych student gets a hold of the DSM-IV for the first time. By the end of the day, they’ve diagnosed themselves with half of the disorders in the book.
During that time, there were so many things I didn’t understand (not that I’m a fountain of wisdom now). I wondered how Paul could say:
2Ti 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (7) I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (8) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Why did Paul know that he would go to Heaven before he died? Where did he get his assurance? And then there were some of the songs we sang: Blessed Assurance, When We All Get to Heaven, Sweet By and By, and Mansions Over the Hilltop. The vast majority of the songs we sang were about getting to Heaven… but I never felt like I was going to make it. After all, I was a sinner. Occasionally I would knowingly sin… but wait… then there is no more sacrifice. I knew a girl when I was in college that gave up on God completely because of Heb. 10:26. In high school, she was a very devout Baptist… but she and her boyfriend started having sex. One day she read that verse and became convicted that she had sinned willfully and could never again have forgiveness so she gave up on God completely.
However, all through the scriptures, we are told that if we endure we will be saved. God assures us many times that we are His children. He doesn’t look for excuses to condemn us… just the opposite, He looks for excuses to forgive us! Why else would He send His Son to die in our place?