It's Jesus or Hell
Don’t shoot the messenger.
It’s Catherine Booth who said it first, not me.
And, actually, though Booth crafted it in pithy
fashion, it’s not like it is new doctrine.
After all, “There is no one else who
can rescue us, and there is no other name under heaven given
to any human by whom we may be rescued” (Acts 4:12 Voice).
That’s talking about our Jesus.
And the ‘rescue’ bit implies that we need rescue or
we’ll be ‘endangered’ / ‘imprisoned’ / ‘abandoned’ /
‘jeopardized’ (choose your favorite antonym) or we’ll remain
separate from God through into eternity… which, according to
the Bible, is geographically identified as hell.
And, “Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I
am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the
Father except through union with Me. To know Me is to know my
Father too” (John 14:6 Voice).
This is the second exclusive ‘rescuer’
claim. ‘No one
else’ and ‘no other name’ from Acts 4:12 is now bolstered by
‘no one comes… except through… Me’ in John 14:6.
But how can Jesus be the only way to be
rescued from sin and hell?
According to Peter, He fought the good fight for us: (1
Peter 3:18 Message): “That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the
He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to
bring us to God.”
But such a concise dictum as Booth’s
implies as much as it elucidates.
After all, how does one properly
The author of ‘Hebrews’ has an answer: “But we are
certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we
are among those who have faith and experience true life!”
And four axiomatic words can’t begin to
Paul takes a stab at it, here:
“For we must never forget that He
rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us
in the kingdom of His beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of
light. For it is
by His Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our
sins forgiven.” (Colossians 1:13-14 Phillips).
Peter takes his shot, here:
“He personally carried the load of our
sins in His own body when He died on the cross so that we can
be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For His
wounds have healed ours!
Like sheep you wandered away from God, but now you have
returned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls who
keeps you safe from all attacks” (1 Peter 2:24-25 TLB).
And, of course, Jesus, whose whole life
exegetes this truth, simply sums it up, thus: “For God so
loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal
life” (John 3:16 NIV).
So, we’re agreed that ‘it’s Jesus or
hell’. We’re just
not sure, I’m guessing (at your thoughts), it is the optimal
evangelistic approach to stick on your bumper sticker or as
your email signature or as your conversational opener.
We’ll agree that if you throw it out
there in cavalier fashion it will likely offend or elicit
heart-intention is crucial.
And, what if it is offered not as a
condemnation but as an invitation?
Not ‘arms-crossed’ or ‘finger-pointing’ but open-handed
and winsome? It
turns out that tone of voice is also pivotal.
For the sake of discussion, we’ll
concede that, even with a holy heart-intention and appealing
tone of voice, it might not always be the preferred
evangelistic line for you to use.
But, let’s consider context.
Catherine Booth performed her most famous preaching in
the west end of London to churchified crowds (diplomatically,
we might stipulate here that they were self-identifying
Her invention of the maxim wasn’t exactly evangelistic.
It was more accurately exhortative.
She was pressing slacker Christians of fundamental
truth to motivate them to evangelize lost people.
So, try out these words again, in your
mind’s-eye, with the listeners being a group of Christians,
maybe like at a Sunday morning holiness meeting peopled by a
bunch of regulars who have been attending ‘forever’ without
any new faces (implying lack of evangelism, among other
preacher might infer that the regulars are slacker Christians
(at best) as they aren’t effectively evangelizing.
And she might go further in deducing that they might
not evangelize because they might not really believe all those
Bible verses we’ve quoted above.
In this context it is very easy to hear Catherine
firing up and shouting to these somnolent saints, “It’s Jesus