Evangelism requires that we speak with truth. The question is to what degree do we go? Do we go so far as to mention hell in our personal witnessing opportunities?
Scripture tells us much about both our message and our methodology.
First, Jesus Christ spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible. Even when He did not use the actual word, He did not hesitate to speak of a day of judgment (see Matt. 10:15) or to make harsh warnings (see John 8:44). To mention hell in our evangelistic presentations follows Christ’s example.
Second, when Jesus Christ mentioned hell, He did so as a person who had a reputation for being compassionate, not callous. Sinners did not welcome Him into their homes to eat with them because they felt He would give them a good tongue lashing (see Luke 15:2). They did so because they knew regardless of what He said, He cared deeply about them.
Someone once said, “Don’t mention hell unless there is a tear in your eye.” The literal tear doesn’t have to be there, but the tenderness ought to be. The demeanor of Christ forces us to ask, “Do I mention hell because I want the non-Christian to know I am not afraid to speak my mind or because I am so concerned they could end up there?” Is our tone one of compassion or callousness?
Third, John wrote his Gospel to explain how to obtain eternal life (see John 20:31). He did that not by scaring one out of hell with bad news but by inviting one to heaven with good news. Statements like “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26) and “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) permeate the book. Do we emphasize to others where God is inviting them to or what He is keeping them from?
Fourth, Christ spoke in the strongest language about hell to the Sadducees and Pharisees, whose religious arrogance and pride demanded such an approach. To those who recognized their sinfulness, be they religious or non-religious, He offered the hope they needed. He said to the Samaritan woman of John 4, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (v. 10).
A scriptural approach to evangelism demands we mention hell when appropriate for the person to whom we are speaking or in the situation and circumstances. In doing so, our attitude is important. The issue is not if we mention hell; it’s to whom and how we do so that’s important.