Is this a Heaven-or-Hell issue?

I was arguing: “… The Bible has a chapter on that subject in 1 Corinthians. I know you’re not about to tell me that you don’t believe the word of God?”

Unnamed friend: “You’re right. It’s in there. I just don’t see it as a Heaven-or-Hell issue.”

Me: “So you’re ok to say it’s in The Bible and you just don’t want to do it?”

U.F.: “I’m not perfect. I just think Acts 2:38 is all that’s required of us and we’re saved.”

Me: (flabbergasted) “How can you read scriptures, acknowledge they are true, and yet ignore them?”

U.F.: “There’s a lot in The Bible. I’m not a preacher like you. I think the congregation usually doesn’t get that far into the details. As long as I repent, get baptized in Jesus name, and speak in tongues, I’ll make it to Heaven. The rest is stuff for the leadership to do. I’m saved where I’m at. Anyway, this is not a Heaven-or-Hell issue.”

If you have spent much time in an Apostolic Pentecostal church, you’ve been in a conversation just like that one. Maybe you were like me, trying to convince someone that some aspect of Biblical doctrine was general and necessary for the WHOLE church. Maybe you were playing the role of my unnamed friend in this, rebuffing my attempts to show him that we cannot gloss over any part of The Word. Whatever your part was, you or someone you know has posed the question: is this a Heaven-or-Hell issue?

Apostolic language

A dear friend of mine preached a message at National Youth Convention 2 years ago titled, “Endangered Languages”. I suggest you get a copy if you can (it was awesome).

One aspect of Apostolic language is that we do our best to frame our doctrine in Biblical terms. We use the phrase “receive The Holy Ghost” because that’s how Jesus said it (John 20:22). We call a woman’s long hair her “glory” because The Apostle Paul used those words (1 Corinthians 11:15).

Therefore, it bothers me when someone frames Apostolic Pentecostal beliefs in terms of Heaven-or-Hell because I don’t usually see doctrines given that way in scripture. We are told certain sins are Hell-worthy (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8), but the requests God makes are normally given in relational-familial terms (John 15:15; Matthew 12:50). By saying something IS or IS NOT a Heaven-or-Hell issue, I’m forcing a framework onto our teachings that is man-made, and not God-inspired.

If you’re married, the next time your spouse asks you to do something (“take out the trash”, “make me a sandwich”, “clean the bathroom”), try asking them ‘is this a Marriage-or-Divorce issue’? If you continually reply that way to every difficult request of your spouse, they’ll get the impression that their needs and wants don’t matter to you. The same can happen with your relationship with God. Keep replying is this a Heaven-or-Hell issue and you’ll basically be telling Him, “God, what you want isn’t important to me”.

Re-write almost any Bible story in terms of Heaven-or-Hell, and it sounds ridiculous:

Samson: God, you can’t tell me not to see Delilah. This isn’t a Heaven-or-Hell issue!

King Hezekiah: I can show the Babylonians the treasures of the House of God; this isn’t a Heaven-or-hell issue. It’s not in the law.

Noah: I can build the ark differently than the plan God gave me. In fact, I can leave some animals off this boat. It’s not a Heaven-or-Hell issue.

Moses: I changed my mind. We’re crossing into the Promised Land right now! I don’t care if God told us to wander in the wilderness 40 years. He never told me this was a Heaven-or-Hell issue.

Daniel: I’m not going to prophesy to King Nebuchadnezzar. He’s Babylonian, and I’m a Hebrew. I’m not worried – this isn’t a Heaven-or-Hell issue.

As fun as this is, you get the point. I’m not given the right to change God’s commands because I don’t want to do them. Eat the broccoli. Take the medicine. Obey God’s word.


That’s another favorite word thrown out there. Tell someone that a Pentecostal teaching is right there in The New Testament. Show them chapter and verse. If it sounds hard, they’ll call you a legalist.

What exactly is legalism? Conforming to a code of laws; excessive reliance on them. … I suppose Moses was a legalist, then. The Old Testament prophets, too. And Jesus – let’s not forget His words:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17)

Should we then be law-followers in The New Testament? Must we obey the Mosaic covenant given to Israel in Mount Sinai? The answer is no:

“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:13)

Starting with John the Baptist, we have a different covenant. We do not follow the Old Testament laws given to Moses by God in the Pentateuch. Yet our covenant does contain a few laws.

“Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

And there’s all the things Jesus told us to do in The Gospels:

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee
turn not thou away.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

“… Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's;
and unto God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21)

Call those whatever you like – rules, regulations, standards, or laws – they are the words of Jesus, and we must do them. And if we believe that The Apostles are also speaking for The Lord in The New Testament letters, then what they have written for us are also requirements. I am not exempt. No scripture is of any “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20) – I cannot rip a verse or a chapter out of The Bible and dismissively say ‘that only applied to them!’ It applies to me, too, and I must obey.

Heaven & Hell. Salvation & sin. Eternal reward or punishment. It is not a decision I make one time in an altar at Youth Camp. It's a choice I reaffirm every day. Be the friend and not the servant. Be the Brother who listens and heeds God's word - not out of eternal threat, but because you love Him and He matters to you!


  1. This is one of the finest articles I have ever read. Very good.
    Pastor John Koonce, Gibson City Pentecostal Church, Gibson City, IL

  2. My only problem is when we begin teaching standards as doctrine. When we start teaching that current American standards are Biblical doctrines, then we are placing our personal beliefs above those of God and His Word.
    For instance, most Pentecostal churches would not allow Peter in their pulpits because he had a beard. This is a standard (a man-made doctrine) and when they are preached as Heaven and Hell issues, we turn away people who don't fit OUR standard, who otherwise fit God's.


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