Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Afraid of Hell

QUESTION:

Dr. Newman:

Please can you help me? I felt that God told me I was a Christian many years ago, I was sure of it as He did it in a miraculous way (unless I just imagined it, I pray not)... the last ten years I have tried to be and do good, serve the Lord and try to have relationship with Him. Last June after I felt He told me not to walk away from Him again (I have gone back and forth from Him all these years - never consistently walking with Him)- I walked away anyway in the middle of a trial. Since then I have suffered un-believable fear and torment over hell. 

I feel I really don't want to come back to God and try anymore - yet I am terrified of going to hell. Is there any way He can keep me saved if I reject having a relationship with Him? He hasn't comforted me in this time - I can only assume I've lost my salvation and that I am the person described in Heb 6 v 4-8. 

It is impossible to bring me back which is maybe why I feel so strongly that I just can't walk with the Lord anymore - because I am the person in Heb 6 who loses their salvation. Please if you could help me in any way I would be very grateful. Heb 10 v 26-31 also describes me - I am in that terror state waiting for God to judge me with hell. My life is so un-bearable, only my beautiful son stops me from committing suicide (despite my fear of hell)

Thank you for reading my email. Please also can you pray for me? Hope to hear from you soon, Kind regards

P.S. I have read your article on assurance of salvation - simply believing in Him that He is the son of God etc isn't enough is it? We have to TRUST Him for salvation - I know I believe but I am too fearful to trust. Have I understood your article right or is JUST believing He is who He said He is enough? Thank you so much. 

Jane

ANSWER:

Jane: 

don’t despair! There is hope for you! You are not a terrible person, your situation is not horrible and awful, and your future is not hopeless! I will help you. Forget about suicide; there are other options open for you. Don’t fret about your terror of hell; there is a way around that as well.

Even though we are thousands of miles apart, I can feel your intense pain and torment. Maybe I can help change your perspective on your situation. That is where your pain is coming from. 

1. The first thing to know is that God loves you. God said so, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

This may be where you can begin to look at things differently. You said that God told you in a miraculous way many years ago that you were a Christian. If I understand your words right, you are basing your relationship with God on a dramatic experience you had rather than what God has clearly spoken in His Word. 

In other words, your life is running on feelings rather that by faith in the promises of God.  Our feelings change with the wind. We can feel doubt, comfort, despair, terror, discouragement, joy, anger, etc., and if we let our feelings tell us what is real, then we are in for big trouble. God’s promises are solid. They will never change no matter how we feel. He can never lie to us (Titus 1:2). You can trust Him. He said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). 

Consider also this promise from Christ, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

So then, Jane, the question is this: shall you base your life on your ever-changing feelings, or on the unchanging, dependable Word of God? It is like the old saying, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

Here is a strange thing. When you begin, by faith, to understand your situation based on what God has said, then your feelings will surprisingly begin to change.  The principle is this: feelings follow after our thinking. If we feel fear, then it means we are thinking fearful thoughts. If we feel anger, then we are thinking angry thoughts. Consequently, by changing our thinking, our feelings will change. 

2. Another issue is that you say your Christian life is inconsistent. Our Christian life in this world will never be perfect. We all have our ups and downs and successes and failures. Life is a process, but as we stay in the Bible, prayer, church, the Holy Spirit gradually changes us. God will discipline us, as a good parent will. When we become careless and sin, then confess the sin, and continue to walk humbly before God.

Remember, God is on our side, not against us. Paul stated, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31). Nothing can separate us from the love of God. How do we know? Because God has said it, and that is what makes it true.

3. You also mention that you walked away in the midst of a trial. Jane, you are not alone. Everyone faces trials, gets discouraged, and is tempted to give up. Some do give up, but God never gives up on us. Trials are a part of life, and God has them there for a purpose. 

Peter explained it this way, “In this (our salvation) you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6, 7). It is good to memorize and repeat daily 1 Peter 1:3-9 – or better yet, repeat them every time doubts barge into our mind. 

In other words, God places trials in our life to purify and strengthen our faith so that we can trust Him even more. In the midst of your storms, pour out your heart to God. He cares for you, as Peter said, “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Of course, it is also wise to make corrections in our life and avail ourselves of the resources before us to solve the problems we have. That is how we learn maturity in life. 

4. You mention trust – that you are too fearful to trust. But Jane, I ask you this, “who or what can be better to trust in than God?” While we were still enemies and sinners before Him, Christ died for us. Now we are His children. How much more, then, does he love us and is personally concerned about our welfare (cf. Romans 5:1-11). 

Does it make good sense to fear the one who loved you so much that He took your place in Hell? 

Jane: trust God, not your feelings, and set a plan into motion to solve your trial. Talk to your pastor and Christian friends. Find the social support in community. If you need be, go to a wise counselor. Here are two cautions about who to talk to: make sure they will keep things confidential, and second, make sure that they are wise enough to give you good advice. 

5. This brings us to the verse that you are using to scare the wits out of yourself: Hebrews 6:4-8. Let me be firm on this: the verses have nothing to do with a saved Christian losing their salvation. Nothing. 

The first thing we examine in understanding the verse is the context of the book. The background is that Hebrew Christians were being persecuted, and the group was tempted to throw overboard this whole notion of salvation through Christ. They wanted to give up and turn back to their Jewish religion, which would not save anyone.

In persuading them to stay steadfast in their Christian faith, the writer explained how Christ was superior in all respects to the old Jewish beliefs. Christ is superior to the prophets, angels, Moses, priesthood, and has power over everything. He is saying that only Christ can save, and certainly not keeping by religious rules and trying to be good. 

Now, the point he is powerfully pounding home is this: if you reject Christianity, there is no other way to be saved. Christ is the unique and only way for anyone to be saved. It is the same thing Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is no other religion on earth or in heaven that can save a person. Christianity is exclusive, the one and only way to be saved. 

That is the point of the verse, and also of the other verse you mention: Hebrews 10:26-31. There he is saying, “For if we go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth (i.e. if we keep on looking for another way of salvation after we learn about Christ), there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (i.e. if we don’t receive Christ as our Savior, then there is nowhere else to turn for salvation. He is the only way)” (Hebrews 10:26).

It is like being stranded in a Sydney airport when all the flights but one are canceled to a particular place, say, London. You say to the ticket agent, “Are you sure there are no more flights to London? There is only one?” The agent replies, “Sorry madam, there are no more flights. There is only the one. No other flights go to London. You must get on this one flight or stay behind in Sydney.”

6. Jane, I hope this helps you. I would encourage you to read several other articles on these issues. For example, in the Q&A section, the article, “Once Saved, Always Saved” is a good one. Others in the table of contents section include various subjects that would be of help – such as the ones on salvation, eternal security, and sin. 

7. Finally, you mentioned the issue of the difference between belief and trust. In the way John uses them, they are the same. To believe for salvation means to trust fully in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save us completely from the penalty of our sins and give us eternal life. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). 

We are promised this, about our salvation, that, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Furthermore, we are promised that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). 

Look at it this way: the Bible says, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14). 

Jane, Jesus Christ paid all the penalty of all our sins for all time for all those who personally receive Him as their Savior by faith. There is nothing we can add to our salvation, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). He paid it all; all we can do is receive the pardon He offers to us. 

Our faith does not save us, but the death of Christ actually saves us. By faith we receive the offer of salvation He extends to us. Belief, trust, or faith is simply believing God will keep His word, and casting out total hope and trust on His promise. 

Salvation is like this. When I get on an airplane to fly to Manila, Philippines, I am casting my whole trust on the pilot to get me to that city. I cannot trust myself, because I cannot fly the plane nor find Manila by myself. In the same way, we trust the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save us from the penalty of our sin and grant us eternal life – to be reconciled to God. We never trust our good works – and certainly not our feelings.

And, Jane, you can know for sure that you are saved. John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Here is a little prayer that can guide you into salvation. The prayer doesn’t save you, but God looks at the intention of our heart. I often suggest that people say something like, “Father in Heaven, I know that I am a sinner in need of salvation. I cannot save myself. I believe that Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sins and to give me eternal life. I believe that only through Christ can I be saved. I ask for and accept your free gift of salvation. Please come into my heart and be my Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

You might want to thank God for saving you. For any sins you have committed, simply admit them to Christ, relax, and turn and walk humbly before Him. He will forgive you, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Remember that this is how we restore fellowship after we are saved. It is not a statement on how to be, “resaved.”

I hope this helps, Jane. 

All the best, and God bless,

Dr. Newman

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