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The Gates of Hell
by Jack Wellman
2011-04-17 09:10:52
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I heard the late Adrian Rogers once describe a young man that was trying to find a bar in Chicago.  It was called The Gates of Hell.  Yes, there was an actually a bar called The Gates of Hell. Not a place you would want to visit I am sure but someone had asked a man on the street where it was at.  The man happened to be a pastor.  He understood what the place was like that the man had been asking about.

gatesofhell_400He simply told him where it was.  He didn’t try to share the gospel with him, he didn’t try to tell him about Jesus even though he perceived that they young man was not saved.  He simply told the man how to get to this bar called The Gates of Hell.

The young man may have not know that the man giving him directions was a pastor and it seems certain that the young man didn‘t realize he was asking a pastor for directions there.  He simply told this young man how to get to The Gates of Hell.  Here is how he described it.  Listen to the irony of his directions:

The pastor said to the young man, “you are already pretty close to it.”  “Just walk down this street and turn the corner and you will find it half way down the block. Go down this street and turn right and go past Calvary.  Once you go past Calvary, you can‘t miss it.”  The church at the corner was called Calvary Baptist church and the young man was told, “If you want to get to The Gates of Hell, just walk right past Calvary and you will find it.”

No one knows if this man went to The Gates of Hell or not but anyone without Christ is headed there.  Rob Bell aside, there are only two destinations for people; heaven or hell.  The way to get to the real gates of hell is truly to walk past Calvary.  But if you go to Calvary first, the gates of hell will not prevail against you nor will it ever prevail against the church; the Body of Christ.  You see, Jesus went through it for this young man, He went through it for me, and He went through it for you.  But we can not pass by Calvary.  We must stop at its foot.  Pass by Calvary and you pass by your only way out of the gates of hell.

As a pastor, I don't think I could have kept my mouth shut. I am not judging the young pastor, I am only saying that we have divine opportunities placed before us everday. We must be in the business of snatching people out of the path to hell.  I pray I would have been faithful enough to witness to this young man although I can not say with certainty I would have been.

I hope it is not, or was not too late for the young man headed to The Gates of Hell.


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Emanuel Paparella2011-04-17 15:10:37
Interesting reflections on a thorny theological issue. I trust that when we postulate a hell we are not talking of Dante’s Inferno. Dante would have been the first one to tell you that the hell of his Commedia is a necessary imagined allegory of sort for human freedom to exist ontologically: the freedom to choose one’s eternal destiny, i.e., to end up with God or without God; a freedom which God will not violate since he created us with a free will in his own image and which Kierkegaard calls “the existential dread” of the human condition. The Catholic Church, for one, does not declare hell an item of faith in which one has to believe to consider oneself a Christian. Perhaps nobody will end up there after all, perhaps the devil himself will be offered salvation in the end times, but hell remains metaphysically and theologically necessary to retain human freedom; without a hell we’d all be mere robots destined and predetermined for heaven. Actually the Catholic tradition also postulates an intermediate place, Purgatory which is a place (again, understood metaphorically as a state of being, and not literally as Dante’s Purgatorio) that people go to purge themselves and prepare to meet God face to face, something for which they are not ready yet…Again it would be a mistake to take Dante’s description literally; if one did then the mountain of Purgatory would be on an island off Cuba and Castro would be the closest person to it…, which would seat well with the Cuban émigrés in Miami but would remain ontologically false. I once heard a priest say that hell is that place or state of being where one sings Sinatra’s song “I did it my way” and continues singing it without God, and perhaps he had a point there and he surely made hell a bit more humane than Dante’s hell and its tortures that fit the sin; on the other hand I don’t think God wills anyone to hell or he would be open to be accused of being a sadist of sort. Dante toward the end of his Divine Comedy resolves the conundrum of hell and human freedom with a simple dictum which declares “tua volontà, nostra pace [your will, our peace]. The flip side of that is “our way at any cost, our hell.”

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