Lots of people believe everyone will go to Heaven or that Hell doesn’t exist. Where do people get these ideas?
Our theology tends to come from sources we trust. Some people, instead of trusting Scripture, believe a hodgepodge of pop psychology and pop religion, with a little New Age philosophy thrown in. And some people think they trust Scripture, but don’t bother to read and know it well enough to recognize truth (or heresy) when they see or hear it.
The fact that a teacher or blogger or even a pastor has some good insights makes their heresy all the more easy to swallow. Hand a sane person undisguised rat poison and they won’t eat it. Cover it in chocolate, and they just might. All effective heresy contains some, even much, that is true—it’s that chocolate coating that deceives us into taking a bite.
Genuine ignorance may be the reason some teach what we know to be heresy. They have no intent to deceive. Yet as James warns, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” (3:1, NLT). God takes our words seriously, and so should we.
And there’s another reason—the most insidious, and probably the most common—for false teaching. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons [doctrines of demons in some translations]” (1 Timothy 4:1). False doctrine is more than errant human opinion. Often its source is in another world, where evil spirits labor to deceive us. Ironically, demons know true doctrine better than we do—making them all the more effective in obscuring and twisting it: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19).
Paul makes a remarkable statement in 1 Timothy 6:3-4—“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing...”
A rather blanket condemnation, but nonetheless scriptural and quite clear. What strikes me is the first description that comes to Paul’s mind, as prompted by the Holy Spirit: teachers of false doctrines are conceited. Why? I think it’s because they choose their preferred doctrines over God’s revealed doctrines. And that is not just error, it is the ultimate conceit. That view says, “I trust my own opinions and perspectives (which are often identical to the current drift of culture) more than I trust God’s.” The false teacher earns the same condemnation as the enemy—who set himself up to be God—by following in his footsteps.
The judgment upon a false prophet is serious indeed (capital punishment in the Old Testament). The burden laid on Bible teachers in the New Testament is also heavy. Jesus said
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Titus 2:1 says, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Those are great verses to put up where we’ll see them.
Submitting to God’s revealed truth, even when we do not like its implications, and wish that it said something other than it does, takes humility. The doctrine of eternal Hell is a prime example—I do not “like” it, but I accept and submit to it, and recognize any of my instincts and arguments against it are but straw.
Jesus spoke more of Hell than anyone—who am I to suggest some way around a doctrine that Christ embraced and taught? And consider the vested interest that demons have in our not believing in it! (See Hell: Eternal Sovereign Justice Exacted upon Evildoers, which is chapter 29 of my book If God Is Good.)
If I were to join people in believing (or worse yet, teaching) “there is no eternal Hell” or “everyone will go to Heaven” I might fancy myself civilized and compassionate. But in fact, I would simply be a heretic, trusting in my insights and doctrines over my Lord’s—and hence proving that I, and the current drift of popular opinion, not He, is my real “Lord.”