The Huffington Post is reporting, as though it is groundbreaking news, that an evangelical Christian, Jerry Newcombe of Truth In Action, wrote the following in the aftermath of the Batman shooting in Aurora, Colorado:
"If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place.. on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ.. if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place."
The intent of the Huffington Post's article, clearly from my perspective, was to anger its primarily liberal audience that a Christian has suggested that only Christians murdered by the shooter in that tragic scenario have gone home to be with the Lord. The ploy has worked in large part, based on the comments posted below the article by HuffPo readers, a sampling of which is presented below.
"Perhaps someone should do Jerry Newcombe a favour and give him his ticket to heaven."
"I don't want to end up in Newcombe's heaven ... for one thing, I'd be bored to death and second, none of my friends would be there."
"I can barely imagine how sad and weird it must be to go through life literally, I mean literally, believing there is a place called hell where bad people and non believers burn in eternity. It boggles my mind that people can actually believe this and I resent having to share space with them in a way, even know I believe its their right to do so and wish no harm on them for it."
"It will be jolly, won't it, to be making music with the angels knowing that your non-christian loved ones are meanwhile screaming in the agonies of hellfire?"
"Make sure you read very carefully the words spoken by Jerry Newcombe. He is the face of those addicted to tribal Jewish Bronze Age mythology."
"Please don't hate this misguided soul. The Creator loves all equally, unconditionally, eternally, and welcomes everyone back Home regardless of the choices they have made or tribulations they have undergone."
In the comments above we see a little bit of everything common in our world today where belief in God and hell are concerned, as well as the typical worldly contempt many lost souls have for Christians. None of us should be surprised by them. I know I'm not. But let's look at some more of what Newcombe wrote via the link HuffPo used in its hit piece.
Recently, I wrote on the subject of Hell and how our society has generally lost its cognizance of it.
We've lost this cognizance to the point that a recent bestseller was a book by an "evangelical pastor," who for all practical purposes denied Hell (or the import of it). (It exists, but don't worry -- supposedly nobody's going there.) When the book was first published 16 months ago, it made the cover of TIME magazine. This month it was republished as a paperback.
This makes me think. "Wow, what the heck happened to Hell?" What -- was there some new revelation that changed what the Lord warned about? To me, what He said 2,000 years ago is still worth heeding: What does it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?
Tens of millions of young people in this culture seem to have no fear of God. It's becoming too commonplace that some frustrated person will go on a killing spree of random people. If they kill themselves, they think it's all over. But that's like going from the frying pan into the fire. Where's the fear of God in our society? I don't think people would do those sorts of things if they truly understood the reality of Hell.
I'll never forget what an Alabama black pastor said to me one time when I interviewed him about Judge Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments judge. He said: "All across America people should stand with Judge Moore about the Ten Commandments. Why? Because when they took prayer out of school, you didn't hear about kids killing each other, about them bringing dope to school, shooting the teachers, you didn't hear about that. You see what I'm saying? That's what's wrong. We need more God-fearing."
Typical of most writers, Newcombe was speaking to his primary audience, a Christian one. He was trying to get his Christian readership to see the importance of sharing the gospel, hoping, unrealistically but ideally, no one would enter into eternity in a lost condition and go to hell because they willingly rejected Jesus Christ. And Newcombe's intent wasn't just that. He was emphasizing the absolute necessity of the Church (hear me pastors) telling the lost there is both a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
Yes, hell is a real place. And, yes, a loving God is sending those who leave our world having rejected His Christ, to it.
How many people in the Batman shooting went to hell?
It is probable that some of the Batman shooter's victims are today in a far more frightening place than they were mere days ago while shots were ringing out in the crowded theater they died in. But it is likewise probable that some who left the world in that most terrible of ways is today in the presence of the Lord.
Here's what the bible tells us, in part, concerning salvation:
John 3:16-18: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
What is written above applied to every person in that Aurora, Colorado, theater the night of the Batman shooting incident. Those who died believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior entered into eternal, everlasting life. Those who walked into that theater having heard and rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ were living in a condemned state already - and they were condemned by their own choices, not God's! If they died in that unrepentant state, they went to a place we call hell.
The fundamental truths concerning salvation apply at all times, even in the most chaotic of environments. The only way to avoid God's judgment for the sinfulness we're all guilty of is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It's the grace of God we receive through that act which gets our name recorded in the Lamb's book of life. If one leaves this life without their name written in the Lamb's book, their final destination is the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:12-15: And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
So, how many victims of the Batman shooter may have gone to hell a few nights ago? No one other than God knows the answer to that question. I can't say that anyone went to hell with certainty and my hope is no one did!
I heard a television interview of a survivor, during which he said he laid on the floor seconds after being shot, thinking he was about to die. What did he say he was doing in what could have been his final moments? He was praying! My hope is that everyone who died in that horrible tragedy who didn't know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior likewise prayed in their final moments and are today in the presence of the Lord because of it.
While people may question the timing of Jerry Newcombe's comments, only the biblically illiterate can question the truth found in his written words. Scripturally, he was correct, regardless of what anyone thinks.
To HuffPo's credit, they acknowledged that Newcombe "turned the tragedy into an opportunity for people to become Christian and avoid the fate of hell." They credited him with writing the following on that issue:
"For those who are not ‘in Christ’ and see this incredible tragedy, this would be a good time for soul reflection and [to] consider why have you not accepted Jesus Christ. I would urge anyone who is not in Christ to repent of your sins."
I couldn't agree more. This is, indeed, a wonderful time for soul reflection! Some of the anger I sensed in comments posted to the HuffPo article indicate to me a lot of people are doing exactly that. Many are, naturally, wondering if this could happen to them and it's making some of them jittery, even hostile. It's a natural reaction for someone to get a little testy when they're feeling threatened so none of us who are called by Christ's name should be offended that they are. Rather, what we should hope and pray for is for some impacted by the events of recent days to realize they need a Savior and come to faith in Him before it is eternally too late. After all, none of us have the promise of another day.