Should we always talk about hell in evangelization?
Should we always talk about hell when we evangelize? No.
Before you cancel me or spread false rumors about my theology, please know that I do believe in hell, and I do think it’s something worth discussing. It’s just not something people should emphasize every time they share the gospel.
When did Jesus talk about hell?
It should be noted that neither Jesus nor Paul regularly appeal to hell when teaching the gospel. If they already doing so is another matter.
In the ministry of Jesus, there is a nuanced position that some might think. He mentions “hell” (γέεννα) in a limited range of texts. Occurrences are almost exclusively located in Matthew. Both texts of Mark and Luke are repeated in Matthew.
What patterns do we see in the way Jesus talked about hell? In either case, it is not aimed at a broad audience with the primary concern of explaining how people “become Christians.” Instead, Jesus generally reserves the talk of hell for three situations.
First, Jesus uses hell to emphasize the seriousness with which sin must be fought (Mt 5; Mark 9; cf. James 3:6). For example, he says,
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your limbs than for your whole body to go to hell” (Matthew 5:30).
Second, Jesus alludes to hell as a way of emphasizing the supreme authority of God. So in Matthew 10:28 he says,
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy soul and body in hell” (cf. 18, 9; Luke 12, 5).
The third set of texts is remarkable. These verses are the only ones where Jesus uses hell as a threat against a specific group of individuals. In Matthew 23:15, 33 he says,
Misfortune to you, scribes and hypocrites pharisees ! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you…. Serpents, brood of vipers, how to escape condemnation to hell?
It does not target the general population. He expressly rebukes those who are supposed to represent God as teachers but lead people astray from him. These men were careless shepherds whose misguided agendas corrupted the character of His sheep.
Did Jesus use hell in evangelism?
There is much more to say on this subject. Understanding how Jesus spoke about hell is a crucial starting point that should not be overlooked.
Regardless of how we understand Jesus’ use of the language of hell, we can conclude one thing:
This makes not resemble the methods of evangelism we see recommended today by countless churches and ministries.
There is a place to talk about hell. This is in the Bible, it is therefore a truth that deserves to be known and taught. But talking about hell disproportionately or inconsistently with the Bible’s approach can be confusing.
(It’s interesting that articles like “Why Hell Is Part of the Gospel” by Greg Gilbert assert that hell is a biblical teaching, but they don’t show How? ‘Or’ What Jesus and others use it to explicitly preach the gospel.)
Could certain biblical passages speak indirectly of hell, as when the authors refer to “judgment”? Aren’t these implicit references to hell? In the next article, I will answer these questions.
 Most are grouped in Matthew 5:22-30; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43-47. Other references include Matthew 10:28, 18:9; Luke 12:5.
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