Understanding Hell

Have you ever met a witch? I knew she was different the moment I saw her. But I didn’t realize right away just how different she was. I was participating in an outreach project that had me going door-to door when I met a young woman named Mary Ellen. As she stood at the door of her apartment in a small town, I noticed right away that Mary Ellen was different.

I wasn’t exactly sure how, but she was different. I noticed that her hair was different—not weird, not outlandish, just different. Her clothes, her makeup, her jewellery, were all a little… different.

As we spoke, I learned that this very pleasant young woman had been raised a Christian. “But now I don’t go to church. Although I do, sort of,” she said.

I wondered what she meant by that, so—standing in the humid heat of a summer afternoon—I asked her to explain. She got right to the point.

“I was raised in a hellfire and brimstone-spitting so-and-so church [she named the denomination], where the preacher would talk about God roasting and toasting and torturing and frying people in hell for all eternity—for as long as time would last. He said again and again that people would burn and burn and burn, and that their burning would never come to an end. Even old people and little babies.”

Mary Ellen still felt strongly about this, adding, “So I decided that if that’s what God was like, I’d be better off without Him. So that’s why I don’t go to church anymore. Although I do, sort of.”

Mary Ellen could see the questions in my eyes, so she spelled things out for me. “I’m now a witch,” she said.

I hadn’t had anyone tell me that before! I glanced around to see if there was a broomstick nearby, but all I saw was her little red car parked outside her front door.

“A witch?” I said, trying to act as though people told me that sort of thing every day. “What kind of witch?”

She explained to me that she met with other witches at organised services (which is why she “sort of” attended church), and told me some of the details of what she did as a real-life, practicing witch.

What struck me as utterly tragic was that a young woman raised in a Christian church was driven away from church—and away from God—because of a Christian minister’s very typical portrayal of God.

John Bradshaw

Like so many other Christian ministers, the God he spoke of was quite prepared to inflict indescribably painful punishment upon His very own children forever, without mercy!

I’ve met so many people who struggle with the idea of God that they were presented with when they were young—a God who consigns unbelievers and the wicked to a place of eternal torment.

Could the truth about hellfire possibly be found in another, less traditional understanding of Scripture? Perhaps the truth about hell makes sense of what has been a confusing and misunderstood subject.

What if there was a God who was a God of justice and love—a God whose expressions of justice demonstrated goodness and mercy instead of cruelty and malice?

If you want to know more, to understand the Bible’s authentic view on hell, thus separating fact from fiction, we recommend the booklet Understanding Hell, by John Bradshaw. The excerpt above is taken from its introduction. Alternatively, you can watch the video below featuring the author addressing the same topic.

John Bradshaw is the speaker-director of It Is Written. If you want a hard copy of this booklet, you can order it from LifeSource Bookshop.

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