Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Steve Jobs in Hell?

By Jonathan Cousar, originally posted in Freedom Torch blog

I hesitated in writing this article because it has no political content whatsoever - so posting it here on seems a little out of place.  But as I watched the news over the last two days of Steve Jobs' tragic and untimely death I couldn't help but wonder, "where is he right now?"  The news stories lauded praise and not a one raised the question of where he might possibly spend eternity - which actually seems to me to be the most important question of all.

We all know the secular media isn't ever going to get into questions like that.  And we know that non-Christians will always portray a good man as meeting St. Peter at the "pearly gates" and welcomed into heaven - thanks to their goodness.  And although that's not what the Bible teaches, even many Christians seem to want to go along with that story - because it just makes everybody feel better. But shouldn't we stop offering delusion for the sake of good feelings on a matter like eternity where the stakes are so high?

What ultimately prompted me to write about this today was when I went to theGospelCoalition website out of curiosity to see if even Christian websites were talking about his eternal destiny.  If anyone was going to speak on this issue you'd think it would be a Christian website.  But it wasn't to be - so I guess ironically - it will have to come from a political website!  I was startled to find an article on theGospelCoalition site lauding Steve Jobs and suggesting the church could learn a few lessons from him!  At the end of this article the author said that "when we see those glowing Apple logos let us take a moment to honor the greatness of our God."  I was stunned by that because what we know of Steve Jobs' Buddhist and new-age spirituality is that he was fairly militant in his hostility to Christianity.

At the end of his life none of us know where Steve Jobs stood in relation to Christ, but if we go by what we did know, then the Bible says he will be spending eternity in hell.  I don't report this to you with any glee or happiness whatsoever, for indeed it is the greatest tragedy of all.

I should say that I'm writing this as a Christian to Christians, so if you're not a Christian, please forgive my expression of these Christian views here.  This is not meant to demean or in any way disrespect the beliefs of many of our FreedomTorch members.

As I've listened to the news reports of his great, life-improving achievements, I realized that I myself have great admiration for this man and his accomplishments - they've certainly improved my life as well.  But, I couldn't help but wonder where is he now, and the words of Mark 8:36 came to mind:  "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"

From a Biblical perspective, since we can't know for sure whether Jobs had a last-minute conversion, let me not pick on him personally, but use him as a metaphor for wealthy, powerful people who do die without Christ and try to picture what that experience - going from life to death - might have been like.

Try to imagine being as wealthy, powerful and influential as he was.  Imagine having so much wealth that you can speak things into existence by the very power of your words.  Imagine having everything you could possibly want at the snap of your fingers.  Imagine being able to literally call anyone in the world on your iPhone and have them take your call.  Celebrities, presidents, corporate chieftains, actors/actresses.  Is there anyone who would not have taken a call from Steve Jobs?  Imagine the sensation of having that kind of power and influence in the world.

You're a true Master of the Universe, you're respected, honored and adored universally.  And then suddenly - you die.  And you die without Christ.  In an instant you've lost everything.   At the moment of your death you make the most horrifying discovery that everything written in the Bible you rejected, was true. You enter into the most horrible place you've ever imagined. While people are still lauding you with praises back here on earth you have just entered a place where the screams alone are unbearable. The heat is unimaginable. Think of the tragic victims of 9/11 who were forced to jump from the highest floors. The heat was so intense that a jump from the 100th floor became the more attractive option. Now, imagine a fire unbearably more intense than that. When you arrive you hear people screaming in agony, screaming that there's no escape - it's too late. And suddenly you're faced with the reality that you are going to be there FOREVER! For ETERNITY and there's no way, nothing at all, not a single possibility you can ever get out.

Imagine going from your beloved earthly reality to that Biblical reality - in an instant.

Christians don't talk about this often anymore and I'm not sure why. It's Biblical reality.

But we really need to think about it. Liberal pastors like New York City's Tim Keller says, "the primary purpose of salvation is cultural renewal - to make this world a better place." But is it really the PRIMARY purpose? What about ETERNITY and where we spend it? Is that not made more important by the sheer fact that it will go on and on forever?

While liberal pastors and theologians are busy at work thinking of ways to minimize the Biblical doctrine of hell, many more people are ending up there because they're not being taught the truth.

In Philippians 3:18-21 the Bible tells us:
"For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their future is eternal destruction.  Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.  But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.  And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.  He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere." (my emphasis)
Liberal pastors, theologians and writers like Tim Keller, Rob Bell and yes even C.S. Lewis, tell Christians they shouldn't talk about eternal damnation and hell and fire and brimstone, because they say, it turns people off from the Gospel!  But, it is an integral part of the Gospel!  It's like saying "don't tell people what the Gospel says because it might turn them off from the Gospel"!

Without a clear Biblical understanding of hell, we humans have no way of understanding just how bad even the least of our sins are to God.  And don't we use this same principle in our criminal justice system?  Don't serious crimes get harsher punishments?  And don't criminals, even the ones who think there is nothing wrong with committing the crimes they've committed, understand by the harsher punishment that society judges their crimes as more serious? You see, without knowing the punishment, we can't truly understand the seriousness of our crimes - or our sins.

It's only when we look at the serious nature of the eternal punishment that we can begin to faintly come to grips with the serious depravity of our human nature.  And it is only when we begin to understand the seriousness with which God considers our sins that we begin to dimly understand our need for a savior.  And it is only when we begin to understand our need for a savior that we begin to understand just how wonderful the word Gospel - which means Good News - really is.  For indeed, it is glorious news to learn that God has acted in human history to save us from the eternal punishment our sins have earned us.

I think it's fitting to close with the story that Jesus told in the Gospel of Luke of Lazarus and the Rich Man.  The points of this story that haunt me are that hell is absolutely horrible and there is no way of ever getting out of it or getting any relief from the eternal pain and torture.
Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed and who lived each day in luxury.  At his door lay a diseased beggar named Lazarus.  As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.  Finally, the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried and his soul went to Hades.  There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham. 
The rich man shouted, "Father Abraham, have some pity!  Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in great anguish in these flames." 
But Abraham said to him, "Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing.  So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.  And besides, there is a great chasm separating us.  Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us."

Then the rich man said, "Please Father Abraham, send him to my father's house.  For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them about this place of torment so they won't have to come here when they die."  But Abraham said, "Moses and the prophets have warned them.  Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to." 
The rich man replied, "No, Father Abraham!  But if someone is sent to them from the dead, they will turn from their sins."  But Abraham said, "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead."  
Now that by bringing the Biblical doctrine of hell to you, I have thoroughly succeeded in making everyone despise this God who would send us to such a horrible punishment, I have to remind you, that's not the whole story. There's one more part. The knowledge of an eternal hell makes the words of John 3:16-18 truly wonderful.  These words people have read so many times that they're sick of them.  But you can only be sick of these words if you don't understand that without them you too would spend eternity in hell.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  There is no judgment or condemnation awaiting those who trust him.  But those who do not trust him have already been condemned for not believing in the only Son of God."
photo credit: Sean Molin Photography via photopin cc

 Additional Resources

How Steve Jobs and Christ Defeated Death and Preached the Gospel