If there was one doctrine that I could dismiss entirely it would be the doctrine of Hell. But here is the problem: I can’t. No, it is not because I would be considered a heretic, lose my job, or be kicked out of the ministry, the reason why I can’t deny Hell is because the Bible and Jesus, affirms of its reality.
Let me stop for a moment. I understand that this is a very touchy subject for all of us, if we were honest. If we Christians truly believe what the Bible says about eternity, more specifically Hell, then there are many people that we know that are going to such a horrific place. Friends, family, even our own children, if they have not received the Gospel and made Jesus the treasure of their lives, will spend eternity under the wrath of God, forever separated from his goodness. Even as I am writing this, I am weeping because there are people that I know, very fond of even, that if they were to die to today, would end up in a place called Hell.
Since this is such a sensitive issue, I feel at times when Hell is discussed or preached, it’s done in such a careless manner, that it borders on being cruel and heartless. This is not just a theological or doctrinal issue to argue for or against, we are talking about people. If what the Bible says is true, than these people that we know and love will face such a real destiny. Yet, there is something that is far more concerning, in my opinion, and that is the arrogance that is present in most of the opposition to Hell’s existence.
The arrogance manifests this way: “God would never do that would he?” or “How could God punish someone eternally? I would never do that.” Of course you wouldn’t, because you’re not God.
I know that seems rather an over simplistic answer to such objections, but really think about it, how can we ever say to God what he can or can’t do? Romans 9:20, Paul speaks about God’s sovereignty and to the individual who could take exception to such; he writes “who are you, O man to answer back to God?” When we say things like “How could God ever…” or “God wouldn’t do that…” what we are essentially doing, is taking a being that is far above us and subjecting Him to our own reasoning. Reasoning that I would conclude is extraordinary skewed and hopelessly flawed. God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, (Isa. 55:8-9) so perhaps his perspective on justice, love and fairness is a bit more advanced than ours. He is God after all.
However, is it appropriate to hold to such absolute claims regarding Hell? Is this doctrine of Hell’s existence, and I would add its eternality, based on speculations that have transformed into dogmas, used to oppress people? These are provocative questions to be sure, but the Bible gives us an absolute answer: Hell is real and people will go there.
Take Revelation 20:15 for example. After the Apostle John is shown the judgement before the great white throne, of which he says “I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne” (Rev. 20:12), he writes about those who do not have their names written in the book of life, that they were “thrown into the lake of fire.” What is this lake of fire? John had already answered that question in verse 10; it is where the Devil and all those who have rebelled against God are “tormented day and night forever.” Doesn’t sound like speculation leading to uniformed dogma to me, it reads like a sobering and terrible reality.
Out of all things I could write about, why Hell? The reason is that Hell should not be blown off as some superstition, or some old ancient form of behavior control. Rather, it should be reflected upon seriously, and that consideration should drive you to the Gospel. Hell is real, as much as Heaven is, and the Gospel promise is that there is a means of escape from such a nightmare.
I know this has perhaps churned up some negative feelings, and the temptation is to reject everything that has been said, but I would ask you to think, pray and really wrestle to find the truth. I urge you to ask the difficult questions, because you can’t afford to be wrong about this.