You may be reading this article because the title caught your eyes. To Roads Leading to Hell… that seems a bit serious. I want to reassure you; it is that serious. To begin, we see in the Bible that there are two options to chose from when it comes to Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13). Those who reject God in Christ are sentenced to eternal death for their sin, but those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus in faith receive eternal life (Read John 12:44-50). I want to argue that in the Bible we look closely at this road to destruction and see that there are two ways we can reject God in Christ and therefore two “lanes” or “roads” leading to hell.
Road One: Irreligion/Paganism
This road is quite obvious and is what we generally think of when it comes to rejecting God. What probably comes to most of our minds is God’s indictment on those who reject God in Romans 1. This is the one who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (v. 23). Those who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator” (v. 25). On this road to hell are those who reject God by being “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (v. 29-31). For those who reject God and live in sin openly, it is obvious they are on a road to destruction. It does not take much to see that they are full of sin and in need of a Savior. This is not a good place to be, but in reality, it is not as terrifying as those who are taking the second road leading to hell.
Road Two: Religious Moralism/Works Righteousness
Here is the simple reason why road two, moralism, is even more dangerous than road one, paganism. The first road of paganism is marked by signs warning them they are heading for hell unless they turn to Jesus. Not so with the religious moralist. This person (maybe it’s you) is on a road with the wrong markings. Though they are headed straight for eternal suffering, all signs say that they are heading for paradise. People tell them “keep it up” and “I am so proud of you that you have turned your life around.” Those on this road are present in churches, and placed next to true believers, they look exactly the same.
Have you ever entered a highway on the wrong ramp? You intended to go east instead of west but you take the wrong entrance. You get on the highway thinking you are going EAST but most likely, eventually, your eyes catch a sign that says WEST. Then you know, “I am going the wrong way, I better turn around.” Well, with the religious road of works righteousness, the signs have been changed. The wicked enemy of God, Satan himself has switched the signs and instead of them saying “wrong way” or “road to destruction” they say “keep going, paradise 20 miles, no U-turns.”
This person is addressed in Romans 2. In Romans 1 as we saw, Paul addressed the Pagan who is on the first road headed to hell. In Romans 2, Paul begins addressing the “religious person” pointing out that they are on the same boat, or better yet, are on a similar road to destruction. He points out that no matter how moral you try to be, you will always fall short. You will be caught judging other people while you are practicing the same thing, just more discreetly (Romans 2:3-5). Paul then concludes chapter 1 (the judgment of God on the Pagan) and chapter 2 (the judgment of God on the religious) in this way:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (ESV)
Both of these roads lead to hell.
Alternative: The Gospel of Grace
This has been a depressing blog post so far, and I pray you are now hungry for the Gospel of Grace- the only road to eternal life. Paul has clearly established that we have no hope in ourselves. If we give up on obeying God’s rules and run to paganism, we are headed for hell. If on our own we seek to live a moral life, we are also headed for hell. But Paul gives us a third option, a third road in Romans 3:21–27; the free gift of righteousness through faith.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
This is our only hope in life and in death, to cling to the cross of Christ, to run after our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. Our own righteousness is filthy before God, but the righteousness of Jesus is able to cleanse us, make us whole, and gives us new life, namely eternal life. This eliminates boasting and all glory goes to God.
If you find yourself on the wrong road, headed the wrong way, listen to Peter: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” -Acts 3:19