HELL. Now there’s a word which carries much negative emotional baggage in people’s minds when they simply hear/see the word (except in instances in everyday language of “what the hell?!”) In fact, when I was a child I thought that the word “hell” was a swear word so I would often substitute it with “H. E. Double hockey sticks.”
Many Christians have recognized this negative emotional baggage and, in turn, have chosen to go one of two ways: either always talking about hell and lack talking about grace, or they never talk about hell and always talk about grace.
This is my first post about the doctrine of hell and, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t talk or think about it enough. I love talking about GRACE… Grace. Amazing grace! You are more likely to have positive emotional affections when you hear/read that word. I fear that if I talk about hell too often, you will associate me with the hell-fire & brimstone preachers on the street. I want to clarify that I think we need to have a balance.
Loving God? Really?
I’ve often heard some people say that they can’t believe in a loving God who would send people to hell. It seems so unfair. I’ve also heard Christians who believe in Jesus but don’t believe that anyone goes to hell.
We are right to assume that God is love (1 John 4:8), but He is not only love. We also see in the Bible that God is just. He cares passionately about justice and judgement being served to those who are deserved of such judgement.
Imagine you’re in a courtroom and you know you’re about to be sued for a very large sum of money that you know will drive you into debt for years to come. Just as you know the sentence is coming as to how much you will owe, the judge himself says that he will pay your penalty in full.
We know we are all guilty of going against God’s beautiful grace every day of our lives. This requires justice. A price has to be paid. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The good news is that the One who condemns you is the One who saves you. The Judge of your sin has, through the cross & resurrection of Jesus, paid the price in full. He died the death that we should have died for those who believe in Him.
John Piper says, “Hell is the just and fitting response to a person who commits the ultimate outrage of rejecting the grace of God.”
Why The Struggle?
It is possible that the idea of “justice” and “hell” is a struggle for so many people because they have too high a view of humans.
They don’t think of people as “morally wrong” or having ever committed any deep evils. They don’t think that sin comes from the heart and that people are “naturally/inherently good.” My recommendation would be to read more newspapers and see how “evil” is happening every day all over the world. We need justice and we want justice when that evil gets closer to home.
Why Does Hell Exist?
Hell exists because God is just. When we watch the news and cry out against genocide and other forms of injustice, there is good news for those who cry out. There is a place where justice is served. We wouldn’t think it very loving for a terrorist to be brought before the Supreme Court and then be told they are free with absolutely no price being paid (no jail, no fine, no nothing).
If you believe in God but you don’t believe in Hell, then what did it cost Jesus to save you? If there is no judgement or punishment for sin, then what did it cost for you to have salvation & freedom? Why did Jesus die at all?
Think of a person sitting at home on a lovely Sunday afternoon enjoying some tea. All of the sudden, a firefighter kicks through the door, grabs the person, and pulls them outside of the home. The house wasn’t on fire, the person was not in distress… so was this person really saved from anything? Could we even use the language of “rescued” or “saved” when they weren’t saved from anything at all? If there is no judgement for our sin, then there is no need to go around telling people that “God saved you” or “God rescued you” because you didn’t need rescuing from anything at all!
As horrible as hell is, the good news is that Jesus came on a rescue mission because we needed saving. Hell is hot & forever is a long time.
Perhaps, it is in light of all this, that makes grace so amazing. Grace & mercy are amazing when we know what we were saved from. Perhaps, also, this is why this famous verse in it’s full context is amazing as well. Consider, this verse would make no sense if we didn’t have judgement, wrath, or hell.
John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Hell exists because God is loving & He is just. Someone will pay for your sin. Either you will (in hell) or Jesus does (which is the only way to Heaven). If you believe in Him, then the Judge looks at the price of your sin and says “Paid In Full.”
– Tyson Bradley