Have we done something to make our God angry? Do we find Him described in His Word as poised with sword in hand, ready to destroy us? Is He seen as one taking His vengeance on a traitorous community by casting them into a fiery pit of darkness? Is hell the place of His wrath and judgement?
Or, as some suggest today, is there no eternal place of torment awaiting the enemies of God? If not, what do we make of these points…?
1. The Bible arguably speaks of such a place at least two hundred and forty-four times.
2. Jesus teaches on this topic more than He teaches on heaven or even the love of God.
When Jesus teaches on this topic, He uses terms that seem to suggest there is no end to the punishment for the corrupt. An example can be found in Matthew’s account of the gospel (13:47). There, a great fishing net is described as catching everything in its path. Then, the good fish are placed in containers, and the bad fish are disposed of. To leave no room for misinterpretation, Jesus explains the meaning of this parable. He describes the wicked as being separated from the just and then cast into the furnace of fire. He describes those in this furnace as in immense pain and agony.
The reader is given a picture of God that scarcely resembles our favorite words of description for Him, such as love, mercy, and grace…
Jesus also describes this furnace as a place where worms don’t die (Mark 9:44). Worms eat… and they eat until there is no more food. If they never die, it seems their food source is never exhausted. Is this a picture of the eternality of the wicked ever being consumed, but ever remaining? Can this same picture be seen in a fire that is never quenched?
His words also seem to negate the popular teaching that “God doesn’t send anyone to hell, they choose to go there.” The wicked are seen as being cast into the pit.
Personally, I believe that all of this awaits the sinful, but to a greater degree than the human mind can grasp. I believe it’s worse than the picture we gain from analogies and metaphors that are meant to merely give us a glimpse of this horror. Why do I say this?
Because this is the very wrath and anger that Jesus endured on the cross. This is the punishment that caused the Son of God to plead with His Father to find another way! His preparation to face God’s judgement brought blood from His sweat glands and required the sustaining ministry of angels.
It was more than the gruesome punishment of the crucifixion. Jesus knew His Father, and He knew what must be done. On the cross, God unleashed the full measure of His anger upon His Son! Jesus was punished with the horrors of hell.
But if you want to hear what’s truly amazing in this story… He endured this for me. His enemy! He also did this for you! God angrily and mercilessly poured His full measure of punishment on His Son, so that Jesus became God’s enemy in our place and we could become His children.
This is why God doesn’t ask people to come to Him. He commands that all people repent and respond to His good news! The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t something that would be nice for people to hear. It isn’t something good people add to their already good lives. It’s the only means to life!
Outside of Christ’s work through the power of the gospel, every single human kneels condemned as an enemy of their God and about to be destroyed by His wrath! The gospel is good news because it is the only means of escaping the wrath to come!
But it gives us so much more! For those who have the ability to simply believe that Jesus’ payment was sufficient, forgiveness and mercy are available at the cross. The believer becomes a new creation in Christ, no longer an enemy, but a friend and child of God.
The doctrine of hell helps us understand what our Lord did for us. It helps us understand what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. The power of the gospel gives strength and victory. It gives life where once there was only fear, guilt, and death. The gospel avails a life surrendered to the Savior!