B. B. asks this heartfelt question:
Hi. I had a question regarding Rev 21:8. Sometimes I get fearful to approach people to share the gospel with them, and I’ll chicken out and not do it. Does this mean that I’ll be in the lake of fire for all eternity? I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me for giving in to fear. I don’t want to go to hell for fear of sharing the gospel with people, but I also don’t want to think that my sharing the gospel without fear is what keeps me out of hell, either.
I have good news for B. B.
First, the sole condition of having everlasting life and never perishing, that is, never being eternally condemned, is faith in Christ (John 3:16). Whatever Rev 21:8 means, it cannot and does not contradict the free gift of everlasting life that is received by all who simply believe in Jesus for it (John 4:10, 14; 6:35; 11:26).
The fact that B. B. lacks assurance shows that he needs to go back to the Lord’s teachings in the Gospel of John. As he prays, asking the Lord to give him certainty of his eternal destiny, the Holy Spirit can and will take the Word of God and show him the truth of the promise of everlasting life that can never be lost (John 7:17).
Second, we all need to know that false guilt is real and can terrorize us. It is terrifying to think that we can lose everlasting life if we do not to share our faith regularly. However, it is also terrifying to think that if we do not choose to witness to everyone, then we are denying Christ and not walking in fellowship with Him and will not rule with Christ in the life to come unless we repent before we die or are raptured.
Third, the Bible nowhere says that if we do not share our faith with anyone and everyone we meet, then we are denying Christ. In fact, even if we rarely share our faith, we are not denying Christ.
To deny Christ is to deny Christ like Peter did three times. He literally denied that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, and he even denied knowing Jesus. Failure to share our faith is different from denying Christ.i
Is it sin to fail to share our faith in Christ with everyone we meet? I do not see that anywhere in Scripture. I have found that people who abide by that philosophy, unless they are extremely gifted communicators (or have the gift of evangelism), end up offending lots of people. A perceptive person might think that you are sharing your faith with him or her so that you can add another notch on your spiritual belt. That person might think you are sharing your faith, not because you love the Lord and you love him or her, but because you must do so to salve your conscience (or worse, to work your way to heaven).
Now if someone were to ask you, “Are you a Christian?” then you would be denying Christ if you did not answer positively. If someone asked, “What must I do to be saved?” then you would be obligated to answer (correctly).ii
I share my faith when doing so is a natural part of the conversation. I am available all the time. But I don’t try to turn every conversation into a witnessing opportunity. I did that for a number of years early in my Christian life. I found that I was turning a lot of people off to the good news. Now I witness when the opportunity is natural.
You may have a different view. But I hope you do not think that if you fail to share your faith with everyone you meet, then you are out of fellowship with God. That leads to lots of awkward conversations in grocery stores, malls, gas stations, airports, airplanes, and even church. (If you meet someone at church, do you need to witness to that person too?)
Fourth, I wrote an article on Rev 21:8 back in 1993. See here. That verse actually says nothing about a failure to share our faith. It speaks of those who will spend eternity in the lake of fire, and it lists various sins (unbelievers, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars). The point is not that sinners can’t be born again. It is that those who die in their sins, which is what unbelievers do, die still enslaved to sin (John 8:24), and they will spend eternity in the lake of fire because their names are not in the book of life (Rev 20:15).
Keep looking to the Lord Jesus.
i Of course, even if a believer denies Christ and dies before he comes back to the faith, he remains eternally secure. Paul is talking about the Lord denying us the privilege of ruling with Christ if we do not endure in our confession of Christ (2 Tim 2:12). Once a person believes in Christ for everlasting life, he is secure forever, even if he later becomes an atheist or agnostic.
ii If a believer has lost assurance of his salvation, then he cannot share his faith clearly until he once again believes the promise of everlasting life. A person like B. B. who lacks assurance should not try to evangelize anyone until he gets the message straight. To share a works salvation gospel is to share an accursed message (Gal 1:6-9). That is, if a born-again person loses his way and begins sharing a works salvation message, then he is under God’s curse in this life, though he remains eternally secure.