The most terrifying images of hell occur, as we have seen, in the book of Revelation. But let’s remember the context in which John writes this book. This isn’t an evangelistic tract written for unbelievers-the hell passages here weren’t designed to make converts and scare people into the kingdom. They were designed to warn believers to keep the faith in the midst of adversity. In fact, the descriptions of hell in Revelation 14 and 20-21 were first written with the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 in mind. In these churches, there were those who had left their first love (Rev. 2:4), followed the heresy of false teachers (v. 20), and become complacent and “lukewarm” because of the earthly wealth they hoarded (3:15-17). It is to these types of people-people who confess Jesus with their lips but deny Him by their actions-that God reserves the most scathing description of hellfire and brimstone.
I hate to sound as if I’m always singling out the church in America, but it’s where I live. And I have seen enough of His church in other countries to know that not everyone lives like us. In fact, few do. We have become dangerously comfortable-believers ooze with wealth and let their addictions to comfort and security numb the radical urgency of the gospel. What’s encouraging is that there seems to be a growing number of American believers who recognize this and are making changes. Be encouraged by the statement Jesus made while addressing the church in Sardis. He addresses the “few” who refused to succumb: “You have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4).
I would love for Jesus to grace me with those words: You are worthy. Wouldn’t you?