What Jesus says about hell:
"And if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Matthew 5:27-30
What a liberal theologian says about hell:
"Unending torment speaks to me of sadism, not justice." John Wenham
What a televangelist says about hell:
"A person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem." Robert Schuller
What a video game says about hell:
Wow! This version of the promo from EA has been pulled by CBS and a tamer version will be aired during the Super Bowl. No word yet on whether they will keep the clip of the three headed snake vomiting. Have fun explaining that one to the kids. However, if the Oakland Raiders ever make it to the Super Bowl again this would be a very appropriate commercial.
Often, Jesus is presented as a fun-loving hippy that knows how to please a crowd and is really good at avoiding controversial subjects. This, however, is not the Jesus of the Bible. The real Jesus, as presented in the Bible, speaks frequently of hell and he doesn't present it as a fairy tale or a really bad day. Instead, Jesus explains hell as a place of eternal torment and separation from God (Matthew 8:11-12; 25:31-46).
The liberal theologian misses this because he considers the concept of a real hell to be unjust. The televangelist misses it because he compares it to having a really bad day. The video game ad misses Jesus' point because it relegates hell to a marketing ploy that pushes the envelope to sell a few games. In essence, each misses the point of what Jesus, and the rest of scripture, teaches about hell because they fail to understand the weight of human sin in contrast to the holiness of God.
To say that a just God would never send someone to hell is to misunderstand both justice and sin. It's sort of like asking how a just judge could send a convicted killer to prison. Being nice is not always the same as being just.
To say that hell is the loss of self-esteem is an attempt to shovel sand onto the flames of hell. It is a selfish thing to say because it removes Jesus Christ from His rightful place as the center of all things and replaces him with my emotional needs. Who needs Jesus to escape the flames of hell when a quick pep talk from Dr. Phil will do?
As Christians we must preach, teach and talk about hell as it is presented in the Bible. We are in the midst of a culture that has seen hell explained away as a cool concept for a video game or man's failure to understand how great he truly is. There is more to salvation than simply not going to hell. True discipleship has no room for Get Out of Hell Free cards. However, hell is a part of the salvation story. The Church would do well to recognize the foolishness of looking forward to eternal life with Christ while not caring about friends and neighbors and strangers who are on their way to a real hell with real fire.
Now you know what to say to your kid when he asks you about the three-headed snake throwing up in the video game commercial during the Super Bowl.