So now comes Fox News with a poll stating that 87 percent of people believe in Heaven, but only 74 percent say they believe in Hell. (As C. S. Lewis observed somewhere, Hell should be capitalized; it is, after all, a place-name.)
All these polls play to the American myth that opinion dictates reality -- that there is intrinsic merit to having an opinion. However, nowhere is sheer sentimentality more dangerous than when it comes to Heaven and Hell, as I discussed a bit earlier.
So, I've observed over at my beloved bad-habit, FreeRepublic, that whenever anyone "we" like dies, he's immediately sent to Heaven, and the great times he's having are celebrated -- regardless of the lack or presence of any love for Christ on the part of the deceased. By contrast, when someone disliked dies, he's sent straight to Hell.
All of which makes me think of perhaps the scariest passage in the Bible, far more frightening than anything ever written by Joss Whedon, Stephen King, Adam-Troy Castro, or Dean Koontz. It is Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23 (with some emphases) --
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ...21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"Jesus Himself, in contrast to the sentimentalists (and those polled), not only believed in Hell, but seemed to believe that most would be going there. That is frightening enough, for anyone who thinks seriously about Jesus.
But what is more frightening is His prediction that "many," when sent off to Hell, will protest. They'll complain, they'll argue, they'll try to make a case. Clearly, they are shocked to learn that they are going, not to Heaven, but to Hell. Clearly, they fully believed that they would be going to Heaven -- so much so, that they are ready to argue with God about it!
Of course, the argument will be as futile as it will be brief, and they will go to Hell, forever (Matthew 25:41, 46). Among their number will surely be many who did not believe in Hell at all. They will find, too late, that what they should have learned in time also holds true in eternity: opinions do not create reality. Their unbelief in Hell will not cool it one degree. In fact, given that rejection of Hell equates to rejection of Jesus (who surely did believe in Hell, and spoke of it frequently) , and given that no crime is worse than disbelief in God, that disbelief is likelier to raise the temperature than to do the reverse.
All of which makes the question, "How can I know God on His own terms?" all the more pressing -- opinion polls be damned.