by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
There is some confusion going around regarding the issue of hell. While it is true we cannot fully comprehend all that hell entails, partially due to the Bible often referring to it in a hyperbolic language with lots of imagery, there is still plenty we can learn about hell from the infallible pages of Scripture.
There are several reasons for the misinformation floating around about hell, one of which I just described - the hyperbolic and figurative language used to paint a picture of hell. Another reason for some confusion is that blatant false teaching has made inroads into the Church by way of false teachers. This would include the heresies of Universalism and Annihilationism. Two very different concepts, but both are false and incredibly destructive to the Biblical position on hell. Still, another reason is unbiblical ideas have been carried over from the minds of men through tradition. This is especially true of Roman Catholicism and their invention of purgatory and limbo. One last reason I'd like to bring up is not quite so sinister. Some mistakes in the past regarding translation have unfortunately caused confusion. More on this in a moment.
So, some questions and topics need to be addressed. Thins like, “Is hell real?” “What about hades?” “Do limbo and purgatory exist?” These are important questions as they are key topics in the field of Eschatology. If you have grown up in a Christian home it may seem odd that the first question needs to be addressed at all. Sadly, it does. The issue needs to be revisited even though councils have settled the topic in the past. Misinformation and false teaching require us to circle back and bring light on the topic once again. So, let's clear up some things regarding the negative side of the afterlife.
Is Hell Real?
Do you believe Jesus is truthful? Do you think the topics he spoke about would be of the utmost importance? Well, interestingly enough, hell is the third most talked about a topic that Jesus spoke and taught about. Seems like that should be enough for people to believe hell is real, doesn't it? In the Sermon on the Mount alone, he referred to hell at least a half-dozen times. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus teaches on the eternal nature of hell. That word eternal is important to remember especially when looking at Annihilationism and Universalism.
In fact, let me explain. A very brief, but accurate definition of Annihilationism is “the belief that apart from salvation the final punishment of mankind is their total destruction instead of everlasting torment. The human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life.” As is evident, the main problem here is that to believe this view one must ignore the word “eternal” found all throughout Scripture when describing the punishment or torment one faces in hell.
Universalism can be simply and briefly defined as “the belief that all people will eventually be saved.” Once again, the big problem here is to adhere to this position one must ignore Scripture's repeated description of hell, and the punishment inflicted there, as eternal. It just doesn't work.
A second reason to believe in hell is God's justice. The Bible speaks of God's justice repeatedly. For horrific, murderous, vicious, evil sins to go unpunished would mean there was no justice. But, God is a God of justice.
A final reason, at least for our purposes, to believe in hell is simply common sense. Common sense shouts to us that there must be a hell. Think about the quintessential example for a moment, Adolf Hitler. If hell did not exist, all the evils Hitler committed would never be paid for. After slaughtering around six million Jews, Hitler then simply died with no eternal consequences to face. Sounds absurd, doesn't it. There are countless other mass murderers you could put in the place of Hitler with this example and the ridiculousness of it can still be vividly seen. Both Abraham (Genesis 18:25) and David (Psalm 73) knew God would one day right all wrongs for eternity.
The most important argument common sense makes for hell is that if there were not an eternal hell, then there is no need for a Savior to save us from it. It's preposterous to think that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, our Creator, would suffer the sins of all mankind if there was no hell to save us from. If there is no hell, then there is no need for salvation. As good as it may feel to us as human beings to explain away hell by saying all are simply destroyed, or all will come to salvation, it is wrong. It is an unbiblical and dangerous belief.
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