Timothy Rogers, a popular Arkansas evangelist and singer, is coming under fire after he recently declared at a funeral that Hell is a "fairytale" no different than Santa Claus.
Rogers, 38, who leads the Prince of Peace church in Blytheville, made his comments during a more than hour-long presentation at the funeral of a young man he said he did not know but was of the same generation.
"'Is he (the young man who passed) going to Hell? Did he accept Jesus as his ...?' See, y'all have been sold a lie. You've been bamboozled. All that stuff is a fairytale. To believe in Hell means you have to believe in Santa Claus. I don't care how you cut [it]. Hell is an imaginary place. And I was told that if anything that does not have an explanation must be imagination," Rogers declared.
"So that's why you can talk about a Hell that you don't know nobody went to. For a billion years ain't nobody ever came back and told you that they were hot. For a billion years, ain't nobody ever came back and told you that they up in yonder singing around in a choir. I didn't come for you to agree with me. I know how to lay it out to y'all salted but I don't care. I didn't come for you to agree with me," Rogers said to approving hoots and shouts from the people who had packed the church to mourn.
In his sermon, Rogers explained that life is a gift freely given to man by God to "do whatever you want to do with your life." He described the Bible as a manual on how to live life successfully. The choices made by individuals in their personal lives, he said, will determine whether they experienced heaven or hell.
"Hell is what you create," he said to shouts of "c'mon pastor."
"That's why when you read the Old Testament, Hell wasn't under the earth. When you read the Old Testament, Hell was on the earth. When you read the Old Testament, Heaven wasn't beyond the sky, when you read the Old Testament, Heaven was in the Garden of Eden. Heaven was Canaan," he said. "What I came to tell you is you're waiting to go to Hell and you went and turned your life into a living hell. Why? Because you have become a worshiper of death."
Robert Matthews, senior pastor at Kingdom Vision International Church in Mississippi, was among many critics to quickly slam a 3-minute clip from Rogers' message in which the controversial preacher also declared that "when you're dead, you're done."
"The erroneous teaching of Pastor Tim Rogers (whom I do not know personally, but am praying for fervently) proves the necessity of discipleship and sound doctrine in our times. The description of hell (subsequently heaven) as fairy tale, is both a dangerous, deadly and demonic doctrine designed by Satan to steal the souls of men who live with no fear of judgement. The counter for this is anointed sound Biblical doctrine. (1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 4:2-5)," Matthews said in a statement Thursday.
"As leaders, we must do more than assimilate people through church systems and church culture. We must seek to develop them in Chrislikeness (which seems to be a lost term). As believers (members, Christians), we must commit to grow beyond milk and not settle for cotton candy sermons that taste/sound good but lack life-transforming Scriptural substance. Believers must also commit to Bible Study (personally and corporately), prayer, Godly fellowship, and meditation on the Word beyond online snippets & soundbites," Matthews added.
In his complete presentation, Rogers first warned the congregation that he would be speaking to them from his soul because he didn't want to "disrespect this generation by throwing ancient literature in your face that you have never understood."
Explaining that he was no scholar or professor, just a man who has been preaching for the last 20 years of his life and a student of the Bible, Rogers said the Church had failed this generation by feeding Christians fantasy that benefitted mostly those who run churches.
"I know you've been talking to your grand-mama, you've been talking to your aunty, you've been talking to you pastor and you've been talking to all these religious people who comfort you with vain words. We do it to kids all the time, when we want them to shut up, we'll feed them a fantasy. 'Cause I don't want to fix what's wrong with you, I just want you to shut up. So in order to get you to shut up, sometimes I have to feed you imagination," he said.
"The Church don't want to address what's really wrong with you, they just want you to be quiet, sit down and act nice. You want a baby to be quiet just tell them Santa Claus is coming to town. Only until their eyes come open and they realize that Santa Claus has never come to town," he continued. "I didn't come to feed you a lie today, I came to feed you the truth."
The Church isn't working the way it should for many people today, said Rogers, because corruption ensures "it only works for the people who run it."
He urged people to turn to the Bible to learn how to live better instead of worrying about the illusion of Heaven and Hell.
"God didn't give you a Bible to send you to Heaven or Hell. He gave you a Bible to give you instructions. You can either make your life heaven or you can make your life hell. Look at your neighbor and say 'use the instructions,'" he screamed.
"What does the instructions say about your very life? The instructions says 'Love the Lord your God and it says 'love your neighbor.' You know what it's called? It's called doing good," he continued.
"I don't believe in a lot of stuff that church gave me. I quit. Matter of fact, I don't want church. I want good. I don't want to do church, I want to do good because everybody that doing church, ain't doing good," he said. "Most folk who doing good don't even go to church."
He explained that the youth today are simply acting out "vain imaginations" and publicly repented for his role in the church system that feeds fantasy to the masses.
"Let me publicly repent. Let me do something that I know half of these ladies and ... would never have the heart to do. That is to apologize to a generation we've misused and taken advantage of," he said to applause.
He also repented to his daughter publicly for almost giving up on her.
"Religion will have you judging people without really trying to find out what's wrong with you. How did you get like this? What's on your mind? Who did this to you?" he said.
In response to the furor online over Rogers' comments, Bishop Carlton Pearson, who lost his thriving megachurch 15 years ago for declaring there was no Hell, came to his defense.
He said Thursday that he understood what Rogers was going through and said he and many other Christians support him.
He also attempted to explain why Hell isn't real for Christians who believe it is a particular place.
"The actual word 'Hell' does not appear in both Old or New Testament," Pearson said. "Jesus used the word Gehenna....in those days it was a 24 hour, seven day a week burning of garbage of corpses of foreigners or slaves or of animals.
"The people to whom he was referring about that fire, it was a metaphor for the burning pain of feeling separated from God. That's an allusion. You can't really be separated from God because we're made in the image and likeness of divinity. And part of our essence is divinity, bridging to our humanity but most people don't know that," he said.
"You've made it an article of faith, listened to Dante's Inferno, and you've created a concocted, man-made fear-based theology that makes God more of a monster and it's time for us to reconsider it. We've carried this for at least 2,000 years. Most Jews don't believe in Hell or life after this one," he said.
Pearson argued that the traditional concept of Hell was created to manipulate people in a way that is "worse than Hitler."
"I know you have Scripture to base what you think is Hell on, based on some of the descriptive language that even Jesus used in reference to that burning sensation of the allusion of separation from God which is impossible. You can no longer be separated from God than you can be separated from air. So let's reconsider all of that. I stand with the young man. I believe that you should back off especially if you haven't done the research," Pearson said.
In a follow-up response to his message, Rogers thanked all the people, specifically the millennials who have been supporting him, and reiterated that all he wants in his walk with Christ is "truth."
"I just want truth. I don't want anything else but that. Truth sets me free," he said.