Kenneth L. Brokmeier
The promotional ad simply announced: “Eternity: Heaven or Hell.” The speaker, Bill Wiese, was appearing at the local university, and the event was open to the public.
I had heard of Wiese. A few years back I had read his New York Times bestselling book 23 Minutes in Hell. As I thought about the topic, my curiosity was piqued. This topic had potential for some interesting discussion at our collegian Bible study.
A representative of the sponsoring faith-based organization introduced both Wiese and his wife, Annette, to an audience that filled about half of the large auditorium. In his opening remarks Wiese announced that his wife was on stage to verify that he was allowed to see the terrors of hell on Nov. 22, 1998. Annette stated that at 3:30 a.m. that morning she awoke to find her husband curled up in a fetal position screaming and terrified and asking her to pray for him.
As she exited the stage, visuals began to flash on the screen behind Wiese as he summarized his book. Phrases like “the horrors unimaginable of a place where you wish you could die, . . . burning in flames of fire, and giant demons are biting you, . . . the stench of sulfur, and raw sewage . . . the screaming is so loud” were surrounded by Bible references that plainly disclosed he had imparted this message more than a handful of times.
Several things became clear. He had fervor for wanting all in attendance to know that hell is a real place—even though, Wiese announced, that a majority of surveyed Americans think few, if any, will go there.
Likewise several times that evening he repeated to all skeptics a “motto” that is also on his Web site, “Even if you don’t believe my story, you should believe these Bible verses and avoid hell just the same.”
I admire Wiese for this kind of passion as well as his simple confession that Christ died so that no one needs to go to hell. He also openly condemned universalism—the commonly held belief that all people, no matter what, go to heaven.
As expected, Wiese invited everyone who wasn’t sure if their names were written in the book of life to raise their hands and hold them high so that God could clearly see them. He then instructed those whose arms were reaching for heaven to repeat a prayer to invite Jesus into their hearts.
I also heard any number of disconcerting things, including the disturbing thought both Wiese and his wife introduced during the Q&A session. They believe that if Christians truly follow the proper principles of the Bible (e.g., tithing and other spiritual laws), they will either avoid sickness and disease or be cured of it.
This belief leaves little comfort for those whose loved ones in Christ died as a result of any sickness—sudden or prolonged. Such conviction also offers little hope should any of us suddenly contract a deadly disease in the year ahead or continue to battle a chronic disease we currently carry.
The Christ Child came to spare us from an eternity in hell. God pledges that even if we suffer in life here on earth—it is only temporary (cf. 1 Peter 5:10). As God’s people look back over 2013 and ahead to 2014 we cling to his promise that nothing—including sickness and suffering—can separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:35-39).
Contributing editor Kenneth Brokmeier is pastor at Our Savior, Brookings, South Dakota.
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Author: Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Volume 101, Number 1
Issue: January 2014
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