Hell

Revelation 20:11-15 NLT - And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Like most people, I do not like to think about Hell.  I don’t like to think about people - including people I know and love - being eternally damned.  I don’t like to think of eternal conscious torment.  And I don’t even like to think of the difficulties involved in explaining God’s justice as people suffer eternal consequences for a temporal and finite number of sins.  Yet some of this is because of my narrow view of Hell.  

“When we say "I can't believe in a God who would [judge people with banishment to Hell]“, we're saying we don't really want a God beyond our comprehension.”  — Tim Keller

“Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice.”  — G.K. Chesterton

Too often pop culture can romanticize Hell (wrongly) as a fun place or mischaracterize God as somehow petty or cruel for even allowing such an eternal punishment.  So many deny the reality of Hell.  Or they deny Biblical Christianity, opting for a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist god of their preference who would never send anyone to Hell except for maybe the Hitlers of history.  And even then it would not be eternal.  I actually sympathize with such people.  As a Christian, I have no desire for anyone to be eternally damned and alienated from God.  But it is Jesus Himself who paints some of the most sobering and fiery word pictures about the reality of Hell.  Jesus Christ warned people about Hell far more than many of us do.

Luke 12:4-5 ESV - “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”

“If an unbeliever cannot tolerate even one hour a week worshipping in the presence of God and His people, then Heaven would be hell to that person. God’s love demands that there be a hell where those who do not wish to love him can experience the great divorce from God when He says to them, ‘Thy will be done.’”  — Ravi Zacharias

Despite the fact that there are a few Christian interpretations on what Hell is really like - and all with some semblance of Biblical support, the fact remains that nobody would trivialize or minimize the agony and horror of going to Hell.  Though quite different, both the traditional and Orthodox views of Hell as eternal suffering are rooted in the view that people’s crimes are against an infinitely holy God who they do not want ruling over them in love and light; and, therefore, they merit an eternal punishment - not because of their limited number of sins but because of the scope of the crimes they committed against the Creator and King.  Obviously nobody wants anyone to experience eternal conscious torment.  But even the other views of Hell do not paint it as a place one would ever want to experience, even for a moment.  The annihilationist and Christian reconciliationist views of Hell still see the same agony and horrific torment of those without Christ who are punished for their sins.  The former simply sees God’s justice as “putting people out of their misery” once justice has been fully served while the latter (which seems Biblically dubious) sees some form of repentance, faith, and restoration happening after divine justice has been meted out.  

No matter which view is most accurate (they obviously cannot all be correct), we should all agree on this fact:  nobody will want to go to Hell.  Nor should we want anyone else to go there either.  Because of the work of Jesus Christ - His perfect obedience to God’s Law, His deity, His death for the sins of humanity, and His verified resurrection from the dead - we don’t have to go to Hell, and we can rescue others from that horrible fate as well.  Perhaps a twist on the old expression would be accurate, “They are so non-Hell-minded that they are no earthly good!”  Why?  Because Christians with an acute awareness of the lostness of their fellow human beings are ultimately the ones most motivated to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.  Who is needing you to help rescue them and change their eternal destiny?  Otherwise…

2 Thessalonians 1:9 NLT - They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.

“Hell is not a place where people go because they were pretty good but just didn’t believe the right stuff.  They go because they defy their Maker and want to be at the center of the universe.  Hell is not filled with people who have repented, only God isn’t gentle or good enough to let them out.  Hell is filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying rebellion.”      — D.A. Carson