This is something I am leery to talk about especially with the popularity of visions and myths abut heaven and hell that sell books and movies in the last few years. I believe the Bible has spoken on the subject of eternal hell and we need nothing else, yet I had to include this in my testimony.
I prayed alone most of the time in church. I even tried calling for prayer meetings and only Sister Dorothy would show up. She was a dear soul who came to Christ in her later years. I can still see her how she would walk briskly from her house down the street to the church. What I remember most was when she would repeatedly cry out in prayer, “I love you Jesus. I want to walk with you Jesus. I want to touch the hem of your garment.” People criticized her sometimes for her crying out the same phrase repeatedly in services over time. Maybe she was simple or maybe she was more in touch with God than the rest of us. I kept thinking of one who said, “Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38). I think she was wonderful and I miss her.
One night our Pastor called for an all night prayer meeting. This was my first. They were not like the prayer meetings of today. There was no music, videos or anything just prayer. When you strip all the makeup off the the face of the modern day church service you would not have much left. I wonder if we had no music and technology in our churches if we would see how spiritually poor, even bankrupt some churches are in the area of true, unvarnished prayer.
We began to pray and we started with a nice crowd and during the hours people began to slowly leave until a few of us were left.
I remember I was up front completely absorbed in prayer and unaware of those around me. It was at this time that the whole idea of my unsaved family, friends, neighbors and schoolmates going to hell overwhelmed me. I began to see dark, long caverns going down as far as the eye could see and I began to see people I knew falling into them. My heart broke and I wept and wept at the thought of it. My heart was full of compassion and it poured out of me as I pleaded with God repeatedly saying, “Save the lost, oh God, save the lost!”
I heard later the Pastor said that I was groaning and he told my brother that he had not seen such a “spirit of intercession” upon a person. I later discovered that the classical Pentecostals called this “travailing in prayer.” (Isa. 66:8). I think it was unnerving for them. Later in life I heard of men of God who prayed and it was hard to be around them because of the agony they felt. Christ agony alone secures the salvation of people, but I believe he allows at times us to feel his broken heart for the lost. I do not know how long I that I was in that state but the reality of people going to hell for me was unbearable. That time in prayer was but a couple of hours then I stopped and I went down to the bathroom to wash my face and gain my composure. I was shaken. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. All I knew I was determined to stop people from going there. This was a wake up call.
Originally, hell was made for the devil and his angels but it also will be the eventual destination of all who die without Christ. Satan knows his end and he wants to drag people to hell with him. He can do this because people follow his ways and he influences their rebellion against God. God is offended by sin. Sin is infinite. His hatred and war with sin is never ending. Thus hell is everlasting. But God has given us Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life. ” (John 14:6). This is why Christ had to satisfy the wrath of God by his cruel death on the cross. As the Bible says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8).
I realized the real problem that I faced beyond the symptoms of sin. My friends were dying and going to hell and I was supposed to get in their way and make them listen to the warnings of God and the good news of Christ. It gave me love and at the same time some grit to my preaching. I need not worry about man’s opinion, “but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28). I saw my high school, my neighborhood, my WORLD as a battleground for the souls of men and women.
Now geared for battle, I go back to High School ready to challenge the devil for the souls that belonged to Jesus.
©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.