Someone asked me once, “Did Jesus ever look at a non-believer and say, pal, you are mistaken and you are going to hell?” That is a good question for these reasons:
1. If Jesus didn’t say non-believers are going to Hell, why should we believe the apostles or other early church leaders?
2. If Jesus DID say non-believers are going to Hell, then Jesus followers are doing a disservice to their fellow man if they do not warn them.
The answer to the question is YES. Jesus did warn non-believers that they would be damned to Hell.
We are going to look at the 8th chapter of the gospel of John to explain my answer in a moment. But, before we do, let’s appreciate just how famous that chapter is in the first place! John 8:1-59 is famous for some very important and popular verses:
“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her” – verse 7. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” – verse 11. “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” – verse 12. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” – verse 32. “Who among you can convict Me of sin?” – verse 46. “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I AM” – verse 58.
However, a certain “not so popular” passage occurs in that chapter as well. When the non-believing scribes and Pharisees confront Jesus, He prophesies about His death, resurrection, their inability to find His body in the tomb, and His ascension into Heaven – a place they will not be able to go because of their unbelief. Jesus says in John 8:21: “I’m going away; you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I’m going, you cannot come.” When they ask Him to further explain, He clearly says: “… if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
So, what does it mean if you die in your sins? These men surely considered themselves “righteous” before God. So Jesus quotes a passage from Ezekiel 3:20 about people turning away from righteousness and toward sin, “Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; … he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; …”
Wow! Not only are his sins not forgiven, all of the good things they did will not even be remembered. No wonder Jesus said that He was going to a place where they could not come.
Well, what does that mean for me? Should I just feel sorry for non-believers and let that be the sum total of my response? Ezekiel 3:18 says, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”
That’s a warning we all need to be aware of – failure to warn sinners about their situation before God will result in dire consequences for me as well! This verse comes to mind: James 4:17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” I know I need to do better. What about you?