Heaven or Hell? Which One Will You Choose?

When I was a Christian, I managed to amass a large collection of tracts, short pamphlets designed to designed to get across a message. And in the case of those that I had, those messages ranged from pointed gospel messages to out-of-left-field messages disparaging certain Bible translations.

I’d do a lot with these tracts: leave them in public places, tuck them away in library books, and of course hand them out door to door with friends of mine — all of this after I meticulously branded the back of each one with not only the address of my church but often, this website’s address back when I wrote as a Christian. This branding was done by hand for thousands of them before eventually investing in a custom stamp. Yes, there was plenty else I could have done with my time; you don’t have to remind me!

I don’t recall finding too many other tracts in the areas I’d frequent back then, but over the past couple of years, I’ve found them with increasing frequency. But now I look at them from a completely different perspective — that of an outsider to their religious message, that of a skeptic, that of (to be honest…) the “target audience” of the tracts.

Rather than grab-and-recycle the tracts as I spot them, I’ll be bringing them to you, the RickBeckman.org & Secular Now audience, beginning with “Heaven or Hell: Which One Will You Choose?”

I’ll be quoting the tract and sharing my thoughts about it; you can read along with me over on the website of the Fellowship Tract League, its publisher, if you want.

front cover of tract

The cover of the tract is straightforward enough: A picture of what I assume to be Earth, but with Heaven and Hell encroaching upon it from either side. Heaven is presented as bright, cloudy, and blue, while Hell is presented as darker, fiery, and red-orange. (Yes, the tract designers are as creative as Hollywood on this one. Make of that what you will.)

Based on the cover, if I had to answer the question, then I would say, what the hell is wrong with Earth? Why can’t I be happy here? Why do I have even think about a Heaven or a Hell when neither one of them look like they’d be at all interesting long-term?

Are you going to heaven or to hell? The Bible teaches that many seemingly good people are going to hell, because “…all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23) “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Sin has a price. The Bible states, “…the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

Not all tracts do this, but this one provides very little explanation, opting instead to just barrage my sensibilities with Bible quotes. But does it actually say anything meaningful?

What is Heaven? What is Hell? Why is what the Bible says important? What is sin? Why do sinners go to Hell? Why are good people qualified with “seemingly”?

I could answer all of those questions thoroughly, but I have years of studying the Bible under my belt. Does everybody? No. For that matter, don’t Christians and the Bible teach that “spiritual things are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that unbelievers won’t be able to understand their esoteric teachings?

Wouldn’t it behoove tract authors to explain things in the least spiritual ways possible, so as to make their message accessible to those whom they believe to be spiritually deficient? No? Just checking…

You might be wondering what happens to people who die in their sins. The Bible teaches that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27) “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

What does it mean to “die in their sins”? Who knows. They certainly don’t care to tell us here. Also, now we’re “appointed” to die? I thought we die because of sin? That’s what the tract said earlier. It already can’t keep its story straight.

What’s the “book of life”? What and where is the lake of fire? Do the tract authors think it is synonymous with Hell? Given the context, it’s obvious that they do, but if they actually knew their Bible, they’d know that Hell is not the lake of fire. Details, details…

Is there any hope? Yes! God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, into the world to pay the penalty for your sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Who is God? How is it he’s able to have a son? What is Jesus lord over? How does Jesus dying do anything for us? What does “christ” mean? How does Christ dying for us prove that God loves us? Why isn’t it, “But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, he died for us.” That’d make for a far more straightforward, powerful narrative if you ask me.

The Bible tells us that God desires to save everyone. God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b) Jesus said: “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) Do you want to be saved? The Bible teaches that there are several things you must do in order to be saved.

Wait, wait, now there are “several things” I must do? Did this tract not just tell me that all I had to do was believe in God’s son?

Also, if it is God’s will that no one should perish but that everyone will be saved, but if there are people dying all the time who have never believed in Jesus, doesn’t that mean that God’s will is, well, ineffectual? Why should I care about a God who desires something but doesn’t even get his way? For that matter, why are Christians always going around saying “God willing” about things when his will is no more useful than ours?

First, you must realize there is nothing you can do to make yourself worthy of heaven. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…” (Titus 3:5)

Wait! You just told me that my belief lead to my salvation! Now it isn’t about anything I do?

Further, what’s so special about Heaven that I need to be worthy to go there? In a tract called “Heaven or Hell,” I sort of assumed that I’d learn a bit about Heaven and Hell…

Secondly, you must repent of your sins. “…God …now commandeth all men every where to repent:” (Acts 17:30) Repentance is a change of heart which causes you to turn toward God and away from your present way of life.

Holy crap! They actually defined a term! Poorly, but at least they tried. What does it mean to “turn toward God”? Am I just to let the other Christians in the world teach me by example? Does turning toward God involve picketing against human rights? Bombing abortion clinics? Sitting in business-ran churches for six hours every week? Giving up money I earned for the church all while it rails against socialism? Based on this tract, who knows!

And just what’s wrong with my “present way of life” anyway?

The third thing that you must do is to believe “…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

Whoa, whoa, whoa, the third thing I have to do is believe? Why would I do the first or second step if I didn’t already believe? And why is belief so important to be mentioned solo earlier but is now the third step in this process?

And what? Dead & buried people don’t rise from the dead! Why should I believe this at all?

The last thing that you must do is to receive Christ as your personal Saviour. “But as many as received him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Oh. My. God. This tract can’t keep its story straight. Ignoring the mystery of “receiving Jesus” and the weirdness of being imbued with a power that allows you to “become the sons of God,” now I’m told that if I “call upon the name of the Lord,” I’ll be saved? What happened to the first several steps?

Salvation is free to all who will place their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The way to be saved is so simple! Yet many refuse to be saved. They will not accept Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin and its penalty. They refuse to believe that the Lord Jesus is powerful enough to save them by Himself. Do you?

The “finished work of Jesus Christ”? You mean dying? That’s literally all we’ve been told this Jesus did in this tract.

What is grace?

And why is not believing in Jesus equated with a “refusal” to believe? And then why is that refusal spelled out as being a refusal to believe that Jesus is able to save me without any effort on my part?

I’m refusing to believe this tract because it hasn’t told me why, and so far, the only people I think would believe anything because of it are people who are either already predisposed to religious thinking or who have a background in Christianity and use the tract as an impetus to take their faith further.

But without a background in church or Christian studies of some kind, this tract is fairly devoid of content.

It finishes:

Heaven or hell—which one will you choose? Jesus Christ awaits your choice. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36). Will you admit you are a sinner? Do you want to be forgiven and your life changed? Will you humble yourself and pray to God right now, asking Jesus Christ to save you? “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the death, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9). “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25).

First we’re told that “believing on the son” is all it takes to have everlasting life. Later, we’re told that we have to “confess the Lord Jesus” verbally while believing that he resurrected from the dead. This tract can’t go more than a few sentences in a row without confusing its message.

What is the wrath of God? I don’t believe in or on Jesus, but I experience no “wrath of God” in my life. If it’s purely hypothetical, then it isn’t a very effective threat, wouldn’t you agree?

Confess with my mouth to whom? Does it matter?

How do I pray and why does it need humility? Save me to the uttermost of what? In what way is Jesus interceding and why?

If you have decided to trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour after reading this tract, please write and let us know.

New Life Baptist Church
P.O. Box 65-203 S Salem St.
Boston, In 47324
765-200-0479

Thanks, New Life Baptist Church, but no. Your tract raises more questions than it even pretends to answer, and those that it does try to answer, it can’t even keep its story straight on.

If someone isn’t familiar with Christianity and its concepts, this tract isn’t going to provide them with any useful information.

If someone is just vaguely familiar with Christianity and its concepts, this tract might persuade them to believe. But it’s a belief borne out of gullibility or ignorance, not out of understanding.

And if someone does have an understanding of Christianity and its concepts, then they might just decide to point out the problems that this tract suffers from, but they sure aren’t going to believe in Jesus because of it.

Featured image: angel vs dragon by lisadragon (some rights reserved)

5 Replies to “Heaven or Hell? Which One Will You Choose?”

    1. Sure. I started thinking. Plain and simple.

      I gave up trying to defend the insane things that the Bible says (such as allowing rape as a pathway to marriage). I gave up trying to ignore or discredit the overwhelming mountains of evidence for areas of reality which completely contradict the biblical message. I gave up trying to believe in someone (Jesus) for which there is no actual evidence for aside from mentions in religious literature (the Bible) decades after the time of his supposed life.

      I started demanding evidence for the huge things Christianity expected me to believe, and no one has yet to present with me any in their attempts to re-convert me.

  1. Rick,

    Don’t hold it against me, but I’m a Christian. But I consider myself different from a lot of other Christians in that I actually am interested in what the bible actually had to say on any given topic and I am ok with believing “uncomfortable” stuff….

    I liked the you from the past post about polygyny. It was well thought out and “honest”. I’m a female, I have one husband, and everyone I know has one (current) or no spouse. From childhood I have always wondered why God never condemned polygamy while addressing all other forms of sexual sin (especially since his people were practicing it). Lately, I’ve really been trying to understand the “mind of God”…I wish we could have the old you back, you could help me out. You know how it is–everyone justs spews the same old “politically correct” stuff about God. I need someone who is willing to go “out there” and find the true God.

    1. Michal, I realize you wrote on here over a year ago, but if you happen to still check this blog, I just wanted to comment on your last statement where you said “I need someone who is willing to go “out there” and find the true God.”

      For me, I don’t know if there is a true God anymore, at least maybe not in the way I have been told. Years ago I was heavily into christianity believing that God was the bible God. But little by little, doubts started forming in my head. Subtle thoughts like “how do you know that what’s in the bible is true?” Stuff like that. I suppressed it for awhile but I could only do it for so long until I finally had enough. I couldn’t handle the religious game playing that I was doing to myself anymore. I got serious and honest. At that time I still sincerely thought there was a creator God. I just didn’t know anymore if this creator God was the God of the bible or not. I thought that maybe He could be the God of some other book, of some other religion. One night late when I was alone, I got on my knees and said semi outloud to God that I wanted the real God – the real thing, Whoever it was – a He, a She or even an “It”, whatever, it didn’t matter anymore, I just wanted the real thing. I even asked this real God to “come into my heart” (probably from a habit of being indoctrinated with christian prayers about asking Christ to come into your heart, etc.). I even told this real God Whom I was trying to contact that I didn’t know if the bible was true or not. I was just letting it all hang out. I was being as honest as I knew how.Transparent. Not holding anything back. I was respectful though. I sensed a comfortable friendly “presence”. Whether it was real or not, I don’t know. I couldn’t believe the sense of relief I felt while at the same time I felt like I sinned, such as denying the bible, backsliding, etc. That was back in August of 1986. Almost 29 years ago. If anything has resulted from it it would be that I was “guided” away from christianity and the bible, not toward it. In case of any christians reading this and are prepared to comment and start scolding me saying that I wanted to leave christianity and using this as an excuse… no it’s exactly the opposite. I wanted to go back into christianity. I wanted to believe that the bible was true and I wanted to be a bible believer. Only this time I wanted to be an honest bible believer. I wanted to be able to confidently think that the real God Whom I tried to connect with that night led me to go back to being a bible believer, that this real God was showing Himself to be the God of the bible, that if I believed and followed the bible, I’d be believing and following this real God Whom I felt I connected to that night so long ago in 1986. For years afterward that was my # 1 desire I hoped would happen. I prayed, searched, read the bible,etc., hoping it would eventually happen. I thought it probably would. On one level I still thought the bible probably was God’s Word and true. On another level though, I had real honest doubts. What if it isn’t? There are other religions out there that claim that the real God inspired their books, etc. What if they are right? In my mind, heart, I clinged to the real God, whatever it was, and if that meant it not being bible, so be it. Reality is all I wanted. To this day, I can’t say with honesty that the real God (if there even is one) is the God of the bible, the koran, book of mormon, or any book(s) at all. So whatever that friendly presence was that I thought was the real God, didn’t seem very interested in helping me believe in christianity anymore. Almost seems like the opposite. At times back then when I almost out of desire just decided to make the plunge back into christianity and assume it was probably correct, I felt like this “presence” was trying to steer me away from it. Didn’t make sense to me then since at that time on a certain level I still thought of the real God probably being the christian God. I often wonder, maybe the bible, christianity isn’t from the real God after all, if there is a creator God at all. I don’t even know that anymore. Certain concepts do resonate with me such as reality, wisdom, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness as well as tough love when needed, justice when necessary, fairness, etc., but to me that doesn’t prove for sure that everything in the bible is true even though I’ll find those principles talked about in there in one way or another. They can be found in other religious books and secular literature as well. As far as a real God showing “Itself” saying that these concepts are inspired by “It”? Can’t say that it ever happened for sure. Could just the fact that they resonate with me be evidence that the real God is behind it? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Who can really say for certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt? I can’t even say for sure that these concepts and principles are absolute, that the universe always operates by them. I don’t know that either. They may be absolute, or they may just be my preference because of their nature. This is just my own experience and 2 cents worth. Hope this may help you with your honest questioning and searching as well.

  2. I wanted to share with you that after studying this entire pamphlet, I was able to shoot down every single part of it. It is a very sad pamphlet because it is chopped up so much and the creators did so to get their point across. By chopping, they actually confused people more than anything.
    I do not call myself a christian because that implies that I keep Christmas ( a pagan holiday), Easter (or ishtar – also a pagan holiday), instead of the HOLY Days that our Fathers observes – and so should we. I do not allow labels to define me other than being a grafted member of the Isrealites nation – whose God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

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