Is Hell Real?
What Would You Say?
You’re in a conversation and someone says, “I don’t believe a loving God would send anyone to Hell. He wouldn’t even allow a place like that to exist.” What would you say? It’s easier to believe in things like Heaven, redemption, and eternal joy with God – you know, the things we want to be true --- than those things that are hard to imaging and even stomach, like eternal punishment. But truth is never measured by how much we like it. Reality doesn’t conform to our feelings or to the popular vote. If we trust the Bible for the good things we believe, like Heaven, we have to be willing to trust it for everything it says. It’s a package deal. Hell is a hard thing to talk about, but the next time it comes up in conversation, here are three things to remember: Number 1: God doesn’t force anyone into Hell, but He doesn’t force anyone to love Him or be with Him either. In the afterlife people will either be with God or they’ll be separated from God. The place where people are with God for eternity is called Heaven, and the place where people are separated from God for eternity is called Hell. God won’t force people to love him, or to be with him against their will; love must be freely given. God doesn’t drag people into Heaven kicking and screaming, and He doesn’t push them into Hell against their will. God wants all people to be with Him, but not all people want to be with God. They want to do their own thing without having a God over them. Rebelling against God or deviating from His will is what Christians call sin. Sin creates separation between us and God. When people don’t want to answer to anyone, when they want to be in charge of their own lives without interference, God permits them to have their way. God permits some people to go to Hell because He won’t force people into Heaven against their will. Number 2: Jesus not only taught that Hell is real, He talked about it more than anyone else in the New Testament. Every single writer in the New Testament speaks of the reality of Hell, making it one of the most consistently affirmed truths in the Bible. And, the person in the New Testament who talked about Hell the most was Jesus. But, he did not use it as a fear tactic to gain followers. He warned people with the sense of urgency a firefighter has when he’s trying to save people from a burning building. It’s not a neutral belief. It’s really a matter of life or death. Hell is the alternative to being with God. It’s described as torment. There’s no love, no peace, and no joy in Hell because it’s a place without God, and God is the only source of those things. God can’t give life apart from Himself. Once you distance yourself from God, the natural progression ends in Hell. That’s the end of that road, and it’s eternal. Though that is a hard truth, it’s still the truth that Jesus affirmed, and He wanted to warn people about. Which leads to our third point. Number 3: Hell does not diminish God’s love; it displays it. Hell is the final destination of our trajectory without God’s help. We’ve all created this separation from God. Just how much God loves us is displayed by the extraordinary measures He was willing to take in order to save us and give us a way to come back to Him. By becoming one of us and suffering a brutal death, Jesus took on Himself all the consequences of our choices. Even though we separated ourselves from God by sinning, God provided Jesus as the way for us to be forgiven and be with Him. Rather than diminishing God’s love, the magnitude of God’s love is displayed by the incredible measures He took to save us from Hell. In other words, it took something bigger than Hell to overcome Hell. So the next time you’re in a conversation about Hell, remember these three things: Number 1: God doesn’t force anyone into Hell, but He doesn’t force anyone to love Him or be with Him either. Number 2: Jesus taught that Hell is real, and talks about it more than anyone else in the New Testament. Number 3: Hell does not diminish God’s love; it displays it.
Chan, Francis and Sprinkle, Preston. Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011