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

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)

6 thoughts on “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.

  3. My name is Alan Finch. I became a Chris­t­ian in April of 1976. I would like to share my thoughts on the ques­tion that so many peo­ple ask in regards to “HOW COULD A LOVING GOD SENTENCE PEOPLE TO ETERNAL DAMNATION?”

    For some rea­son John 6:44 has been GREATLY over­looked by the Church today. In this verse, JESUS clear­ly states that nobody can come to Him unless God draws that per­son to JESUS. You and I only came to JESUS because the Spir­it of God drew us to JESUS. 

    There are bil­lions of peo­ple who nev­er had the Spir­it of God draw them to JESUS. Since that is the case, why would a lov­ing God sen­tence bil­lions of peo­ple to eter­nal tor­ment who nev­er had the Spir­it of God draw them to JESUS? The answer then becomes clear that the Scrip­tures are not being prop­er­ly under­stood by the vast major­i­ty of people. 

    In John 12:32 JESUS clear­ly states that He is going to “DRAW ALL PEOPLE” to Him­self. What is there not to under­stand about that procla­ma­tion by JESUS? This will hap­pen dur­ing the time peri­od that God has already cho­sen to do so. 

    God has His own plan for each indi­vid­ual that He has cre­at­ed. In the future, in His promise of RESTORATION, God’s Spir­it is going to do such a GREAT and MIGHTY work in each indi­vid­ual that just as God has promised in Isa­iah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philip­pi­ans 2:10&11, that at the name of JESUS ALL will bow the knee and every tongue con­fess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD. There is no place in these vers­es that states that peo­ple are going to be forced to bow their knee before JESUS. Being forced to bow the knee before JESUS brings no Glo­ry to God. The Scrip­tures are very clear that God only accepts a will­ing heart. So, ALL peo­ple are going to bow the knee before JESUS from a WILLING HEART, not from being forced.
    Isa­iah 45:23 states that every tongue shall swear before JESUS. The word “SWEAR” in this Pas­sage of Scrip­ture means to take an oath that JESUS is their Lord. In greater detail, it means to “PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO.” Peo­ple who know that eter­nal damna­tion awaits them are cer­tain­ly not going to be pledg­ing alle­giance to JESUS. Rather, they would be curs­ing JESUS. 

    JESUS often used metaphors in His teach­ings which has often been over­looked today by the Church. Once we begin to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the metaphors used by JESUS then (PRAISE GOD) the Scrip­tures begin to come alive with clear­er mean­ing. The prob­lem that we have today in the Church is that much of the teach­ing is com­ing from a schol­ar­ly type of teach­ing, rather than from Holy Spir­it rev­e­la­tion insight of the Scrip­tures. JESUS said that His Church is to be built upon Revelation. 

    I spent sev­er­al years in putting togeth­er a 32 page doc­u­ment “WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST?” I put forth a pain stack­ing effort in try­ing to leave no stone unturned in Bib­li­cal­ly expound­ing upon the Bib­li­cal truths that I share in my document.

    If any­one would be inter­est­ed in read­ing my doc­u­ment, email me at: ( [email protected] ) and I will email you a copy.

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Rick Beckman