On Osama bin Ladin, Hell, and Urgency

I remember the morning of September 11, 2001. A television set in the church reception area caught me off guard as I arrived to work. We watched in amazement – horrified as the planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Then President Bush was visiting a school to promote literacy in Sarasota, Florida (about an hour from us at the time). Our nation changed that day and it would never be the same. We thought ourselves safe and even removed from terrorism and radical extremists. A false sense of national security left us unguarded. Diabolical men took advantage of our unpreparedness planning these incredulous attacks months in advance. We were left in shock. So many dead and a surreal devastation left us questioning the next steps both from the terrorists and those charged with our national security.

Over time, the anguish of the moments surrounding September 11 waned. I remember how full our worship services were in the weeks that followed the attacks. As a normalcy returned to most, people went on with their lives the best they could. When I heard the name Osama bin Laden spoken in the context of having earlier been killed, several thoughts rushed to mind. Were they sure it was him and what proof did they have? As a listened to the reports, sources seemed fairly certain this was Osama bin Laden. My second thought, great sorrow for the families that had suffered at the plans of this man washed over me once again. Thousands died as a result of this terrorist’s work. Then oddly enough, I actually felt sorry for this tormented and hated man. At the news of his death, I couldn’t cheer his demise for the cause did not die with him. But at this moment, I felt sorry for a man who lived his life for worthless hate. Hate was his God. He bought the lie of Islam and chose to live as a radical Muslim. This is one man who did not know Jesus Christ as Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. Bin Laden caused much bloodshed, yet he didn’t know the one who had shed His blood for him. What a pitiful and devastating picture! I am convinced that Osama bin Laden agonizes this very moment in Hell. He resides in eternal anguish not because of what he did but because of the one he refused to believe.

The subject of Hell has been in the press a lot these months. Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins trivialized the reality of Hell. Bell strives to reconcile Hell’s existence with God’s mercy. Unfortunately his trivialization leads down a heretical path. Hell is real, not just a grave or temporary home. It doesn’t exist for a season, but for eternity. God’s incredible mercy and grace are demonstrated in Christ. God’s mercy is this – Christ died for us. God never sends any human to Hell, man chooses his own destination. By choosing another god, you choose Hell. The stark reality of Hell ought to spur every believer to become a greater witness for God’s story of redemption – both in word and action. We are to be tellers of God’s story, but also demonstrators of God’s story in us. It’s time to wage war against Hell; it needs no more occupants! This is the urgency.