As far as serious subjects go, its hard to get much more serious than when talking about Hell. If Hell is real, then it should definitely be a scary and saddening thought. Thinking of anyone suffering in a place of eternal torment is heart-wrenching. Hell is not pleasant to think about.
Out of that discomfort with the thought of Hell, modern opinions are changing. While 74% of Americans believe in Heaven, only 59% believe in Hell. Rob Bell recently released a book called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. In his book, Rob proposes that Hell is nothing more than the evils we commit in this life and that no one will actually be separated from God in Hell forever. Instead, Bell proposes that everyone will one day be reunited with God because God's love will win everyone over (Bell has claimed that's not what he necessarily believes, but that's hard to accept given the way his book lays this out).
So is Hell real? Is it just some old myth that we have outgrown? Is it foolish and silly for a modern and educated person to believe in such a childish thing? Was Hell simply made up to scare people into religion? Does the existence of Hell mean that God is evil and cruel?
Whether or not Hell exists is just not up to us. I hope you don't have a hard time agreeing with me on this. Its either real or not. Its the same with the fabled water city of Atlantis. If I really want it to be real but its fake, then my wanting it to be real doesn't make it real. If I hate the idea of it and don't want it to be real but it actually is real, then my disgust of it won't make it stop existing. We all have opinions of whether or not Hell is a good idea or a bad idea. We all have opinions of whether it should exist or shouldn't. We can imagine if we were God what we would do. But at the end of the day, our opinions and guesses don't make Hell any more real or any less real.
Can I be honest? As a Christian, I understand that God is just and that sin has a penalty. I get that. But if I'm totally honest, I don't want to believe in Hell! To me, it seems like a terrible idea. I have family members who don't believe in Jesus. Should they suffer and suffer and suffer forever when they die just because they didn't accept Jesus? What if they were more or less nice people? I don't wantHell to be real. There comes a point in my mind where even Hitler has suffered for enough centuries and should be let out. How do you feel? Do you want to believe in Hell?
But again, the bottom line is that we don't get to choose and our opinion just doesn't make it so or make it not so. What we need is revelation from God about what is true regarding Hell. As Christians, we look to the Bible for that. If you have trouble believing that the Bible is God's Word, then please CLICK HERE for notes on this and HERE for a sermon I preached on this. So, let's look to God to answer this question for us.
What's the Bible Say?
The Old Testament prophet Daniel says...
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. -- Daniel 12:2
The New Testament writer and apostle Paul says...
without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. -- Philippians 1:28
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power -- 2 Thess 1:6-9
The New Testament writer and apostle Peter says...
if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. -- 2 Peter 2:9
The New Testament writer and brother of Jesus Jude says...
They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. -- Jude 13
The New Testament writer and close friend of Jesus says...
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.-- Revelation 20:14-15
To sum it up, the Bible teaches that there will be a day of judgment. On that day, some will be condemned to a place of darkness and fire. This place is a place of punishment. This place is everlasting.
What's Jesus Say?
Most people I know regard Jesus as the most loving person to ever live. Did you know that Jesus spoke of Hell more than any other person in the Bible? Let's just look at what Jesus has to say about this from the gospel of Matthew.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. -- Matthew 5:22
"I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- Matthew 8:11-12
"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -- Matthew 13:40-42
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -- Matthew 13:49-50
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. -- Matthew 18:8
"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' -- Matthew 22:13
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? -- Matthew 23:33
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matthew 25:30
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. . . Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. -- Matthew 25:32, 41
I would certainly agree that Jesus is the most loving man who ever lived. Yet He believed that Hell was real. He warned us of it often. The God-Man Jesus said very clearly that there was an eternal place of fire, darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth where the wicked would be sent after judgment.
Is Hell Fair?
Now this is a tough question. Let's be honest, we don't all agree on what exactly is fair and what is unfair. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a group of friends about a couple that is dating. Guy A and Girl A have been dating for over a year but they aren't engaged yet. A different girl, Girl B, is interested in Guy A and she has been trying to get his attention and holding out hope for a future relationship with him. Is that fair game? Is it fair for her to try to get his attention and text him or Facebook him while he is dating? Well, none of us could agree. Some said that it was fair game until they were engaged. Others said it was fair all the way up to til they were married. Others said it wasn't fair at all because they were dating and Girl B needs to back off.
My point is, we don't agree on what is fair. So, is Hell fair? Fair according to whom? Ultimately, the only person who can say what is truly right and fair is God.
God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. -- Psalm 7:11
The Bible tells us that God is a righteous judge meaning that His judgments are always correct and right (fair). Yet in the same breath, the Psalmist writes that He expresses His wrath every day. According to the Bible, God is the One who created Hell and He is the one who will send sinners there on judgment day. Despite this, the Bible tells us that God is a righteous Judge. Is Hell fair? Well, it appears that God believes it is.
Does it feel or seem fair to me? I'll be honest. No, it doesn't. It is truly hard for me to grasp how my loved ones who have not accepted Jesus, will suffer in Hell FOREVER. How could their limited number of sins not be paid off over eternity? There are loads of ways that theologians have tried to answer this. Many of them make sense. But instead, let me just say this.
Could it be, that if God says something is fair and I disagree and think it isn't fair, could it be that I am the one that is wrong? Could it be that my sense of justice is off and His is right? Could it be that my understanding of fairness is skewed while God's is perfect? Could it be that I am failing to grasp just how infinitely holy God is and therefore I am failing to grasp how serious it is to commit one sin against Him? Could it be that if I disagree with God on this, that I am the one that is wrong? After all, the Bible does say...
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. -- Isaiah 55:8-9
How Should We Respond?
First, don't argue with God. The Bible is very clear. Hell is real and God thinks that is fair. So, don't rise up arrogantly and say that God is evil for sending people to Hell. Don't stand as judge over God and declare Him unfair. Don't claim that if you were God, you would do the right thing and get rid of Hell. Instead, humble yourself and heed the Word of God. Even if you don't like it, believe it. Even if you don't agree with it, declare that God is just and right and you must be mistaken.
Second, get yourself out of the line of fire! Hell is real and we all, as sinners, deserve to go there! Grab on to the only way out God has made!
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -- John 3:16
God loves you and desires to rescue you from Hell so you can live eternally with Him in heaven. But your sins have separated you. So turn to faith in Jesus to be saved. Jesus lived the sinless life you and I have failed to live, suffered the wrath you and I deserve, and rose to give eternal life you and I could never earn. Put your faith in Him today.
Third, take up the call to share the good news of Jesus with the desperate world. According to the Bible, our family, friends, coworkers, classmates, and all are heading to Hell without Jesus. Let's share this great news of salvation with anyone with ears!
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" -- Romans 10:14-15
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments. Also, if you are interested in exploring this topic further, check out Erasing Hell by Francis Chan. I apologize for typos, I have a packed day and don't have time to go over this with a fine comb yet!