Check This Box For Your FREE Fire Insurance Policy
Disclaimer: My wife works for an insurance company and this post has absolutely nothing to do with that industry. It has to do with your soul, not your sole possessions.
Telling others about Jesus and the good news of salvation is a joy available to all believers. Some would even consider it a duty or mission that must be done regardless of how it makes you feel emotionally. The joyous and missional aspects of evangelism often times gets wrapped up in a layer of efficiency and results. That is, there are times when the Gospel is accompanied by an attitude that seeks to "win" the most with the least amount of effort. In the mid-to-late-1900's (and other times throughout Christian history) the introduction of the Fire Insurance policy ruled the day.
Hell is Hot and You Need Protection
Hell-fire and Brimstone preachers ruled the airways of radio and television. They even traveled from town to town and set up tent meetings to proclaim the gospel that kept you from hell. The excitable speakers spoke fervently about the terrible horrendousness that would be a soul's eternal fate if they did not immediately repent and come to the altar to be counted (more on that later). Relying upon the infomercial tactic of "respond now because you may not get another opportunity" was heard at evangelistic crusades to every corner to the globe. Hell is hot and you need protection. Come on down and have a cold cup of Jesus. He alone prevents forest fires, er, something like that. The precious salvation that was paid for through the death of the Son of God was distilled down to a fancy marketing pitch designed to do little more than get responders to an altar call. Walking the aisle was enough penance. You can now go about your week as you want because you now have been scotch-guarded against the flames of hell. People made an emotional decision that did not impact the rest of their lives. Was this always the result? No, but too many children witnessed their parents live like saints in church only to return home and live like the devil the six days between Sundays.
One Redeeming Quality
One redeeming aspect of the Fire Insurance policy was that people were at least made aware of their sin - the reason why hell is a destination. It should be noted that once preachers stopped talking about hell altogether (something I think is also short-sighted) they stopped talking about sin as well. The church repeatedly commits the same flaw: deliver the message that works to get responses and attendees. It's almost like they bow more to the god of efficiency than to the God of the Bible.
Oh, the Gospel is so much more! So much more!
The Doctrine of Hell
Hell sucks. It is the most concise description of an ongoing anguish I could muster and, like all theological insights into the afterlife, it's ability to provide an accurate description falls considerably short. While I suggest that you read and study as much material as you can on the doctrine of hell, I also strongly suggest that you link your studies tightly to the doctrine of grace. Remember it is an unbalanced viewpoint that leads to error. With this admonition, I offer some bullet points to ponder about hell:
What's so bad about hell?
The worst thing you can experience on earth does not even consider comparing to the experience of hell. While hell may resemble an earthly experience, no earthly experience will ever compare to the despair of hell.
Who determines eternal fate?
Christian Theology has many branches and depending on which branch you sit under your answer will change. Some say a person's choice to reject God is a person's choice to go to hell. Others say that God's election of saints pre-determines the fate of others. If you have not been elected you have will be sent to hell by God. Both of these branches of theology are stated in massive over-simplification. Study hard before you claim to know the answer.
Is there a way to avoid hell?
Technically speaking: Yes. But it is better to know what you are being saved to than what you are being rescued from. Upon the repentance of sins and the submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior and the application of God's grace to your soul, you are saved into the family of God. This is typically represented on earth as a church. We laugh, cry, groan, fuss, fight, argue, moan, grieve, rejoice, help and hurt each other. It's just like a real family. Together we grow up in our faith and our willingness to follow and obey Jesus. We grow up in our faith until we die or until the day that Jesus returns to bring his family together.
While the patterns of sin - the stuff that sends us to hell - are still evident in our life, we are no longer bound to them. Growing up in faith is the gradual realization that we are no longer slaves to sin and our destiny is no longer spent in separation from God. Salvation from sin is the only way to avoid the destiny of hell, but its much more than a fire insurance policy. We are not just saved from hell, but saved into a family and a freedom simply not possible before.