Loving God. Loving our neighbor.

The Real Halloween

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”¬†Matthew 8:12 KJV

It was the middle of October when an acquaintance passed away — his death was particularly sad because he never embraced Christ as his Savior. Later that month, I went to a friend’s home for a Halloween party. Ghosts draped the front door, skeletons dangled from the porch, and plastic spiders wove their webs through the bushes. I stayed at the party only a minute. Witch and goblin costumes weren’t cute or funny in light of my friend’s demise.

Jesus likens the real Halloween to being “outside” — He described it as outer darkness. There is no shimmering dance of candle in hell — no promising sunrises. No welcoming glow of Christmas lights through the windows. No sun-washed vistas of ocean or landscape. No lovely or pleasant faces. Eventually, no memory of what a smile ever looked like. In abject darkness, people can do nothing but think — remorse for missed opportunities and memories of friends and family on earth. There will be company in hell, but none of it pleasant. Jesus talked frequently about hell because He wanted to warn us of its real-life horrors. He’s left us an example, but how often do we speak about hell, the real Halloween?

There’s nothing cute about encouraging children to dress up like Harry Potter from the Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Yet October 31 can provide a powerful backdrop to an earnest discussion about hell. Jesus’ descriptions of it are not figurative. Whenever biblical writers describe the afterlife, you sense they are straining for adequate words — the realities are greater than the figures. If hell is not literal fire, it’s not because Jesus was exaggerating. It’s because hell is worse.

Lord God, I confess I don’t like to think — or speak — about hell. But Your Son was constantly warning people about the kingdom of darkness. Give me courage to share the light of the gospel with my coworkers and neighbors!