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The Hell Experience

Jay Wilkerson was David Wilkerson’s (The Cross and The Switchblade) grandfather.  When David was going through a time where he needed someone to counsel with about where God was taking his life he decided to seek the advice of his elderly grandfather.  Jay was a preacher from way back.  In his younger days he was called a circuit rider.  It meant that he would travel by horseback from one little church establishment to another and fire up the congregation.  He also started up and organized new establishments.  In this setting Wilkerson was not called in to preach a dry sermon.  His mission was to bring action, a spark, excitement, repenting or whatever the church needed to become a growing entity in the community!

One night Wilkerson was preaching in a tent in Jamaica Long Island.  Earlier in the afternoon he had visited a friend in the hardware business.  Since it was the fourth of July weekend the topic turned to some of the fireworks his friend was selling.  Wilkerson ended up buying some sparklers from his friend.  The sparklers were supposed to crackle, pop, smoke, and spark when stepped on.  Wilkerson put them in a paper bag in his pocket and forgot about them.  Since it was around the 4th of July a lot of people had the time off so a large crowd was in the tent where Wilkerson was preaching that night.  He preached a fiery message about Hell with a vivid description.  As his message was peaking in it’s intensity he happened to put his hand in his pocket and felt the bag with the sparklers he had purchased earlier.  Casually he pushed them out of the bag from his pocket and onto the floor.  As his vivid description of Hell climaxed he stepped on those sparklers!  With the sound of popping and crackling and smoke rising from the front behind him,  people not only swore they were moved by the message, but  when he preached they could  see, hear, and smell the Hell he was describing!
Smoking fire

Hell is a rather controversial topic around Christians and non-believers alike.  Even the non-believers are sometimes quick to tell someone to “Go to Hell.”   Yet if they really knew the enormity of their words I’m sure that they would never wish that on anyone.  Bill Wiese wrote a book on an experience he claims to have had.  It is titled “23 Minutes in Hell”.  He wrote that his journey occurred so that he could come back and tell others of the horrendous reality of his experience.  He makes the point in the introduction of his book that in today’s society “warnings serve to protect us from harm.”  He states  that in real estate “contracts are written to protect the buyer and disclose to that buyer all facts known.  In fact the buyer would be outraged if he or she was not given full disclosure.”  He continues his argument with this question “What loving parent does not warn his or her children to not play on a busy street?  When the sky turns dark and the winds increase, we look to our local news channel to communicate tornado or hurricane warnings.  So why is it that when God warns us of what will happen if we travel down the wrong road, we are quick to say he is myopic or condemning?  Or we say he is judgmental!  The truth is that he warns us because he is a good God.”  Since his experience Wiese has been on a mission telling people of a place that he knows exists from first hand experience.  He tells them of the torture as he details his experience in that awful place.

I heard a sermon years ago called “5 Minutes In Hell”.  The main point of the sermon was that an experience of going to Hell would surely change our lives as it seems to have for Wiese.  I wrote a poem about that sermon that I will share next.  I think the 5 minutes mentioned in the sermon would be more than enough time to come back a changed person!

Recently I was on a trip through Kentucky.  We stopped at a flea market off of the highway.  It happened to be a place where devastating tornadoes had just touched down within a few miles just the week before.  I was astonished to find that most of the people I asked had not taken cover.  Their attitude was best summed up by the man who rang us up.  “We get warnings here all of the time”, he stated.  Seeing just a glimpse of the wreckage from the highway was enough to convince me that if there is a tornado warning I will always take cover!

The Bible mentions Hell over 150 times.  According to the Bible it is a real place.  Since most of us will not experience a trip to Hell in this lifetime maybe we can get enough of a glimpse from books like Wiese’s or sermons like I heard.  Maybe we can warn people to not play on the busy streets of sin.  Instead we may encourage them to take the narrow path that leads to eternal life in Heaven.  Wiese concludes his introduction to his book with these inspiring words, “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing this reality for yourself.”  Jay Wilkerson would have concluded that if a few sparklers stepped on at the right time would help people avoid Hell so be it!

If I Had Gone To Hell

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

If I could spend five minutes in Hell
I’d have a change of view
Old ways of thinking would quickly change
I’d look at all things new

If I could see the torment there
and see the raging flames,
I know my thoughts and actions here
would never be the same

My prayer life would be different
the Word of God I’d know
if on a trip to Hell
for five minutes I did go

Things that seem important now
wouldn’t matter at that time
A trip to Hell for five minutes
would get my priorities back in line

If I saw and felt the anguish there
and gnashing of the teeth,
I’d never wish anyone here
that awful fate to meet

If I hurt for you like I would hurt
If I had been in Hell
I’d make the effort to let you know,
I’d give you a hard sell

Of just how bad it was in there,
a place no one should go
I’d tell you to get right with God
and Jesus come to know

I’d treat my neighbor the right way,
a light I’d truly be
I’d make sure that nobody would
go to Hell because of me

Lord give me a real burden,
get me out of my comfort shell
Let my actions be as if
I had gone to Hell.

He answered, “Then i beg you,
father, send Lazarus to my father’s
house, for I have five brothers.
Let him warn them, so that they
will not also come to this place
of torment.”

Luke 16:27-28

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