Every Saturday the Kansas City Star has a column entitled Voices of Faith. They pose a question and then ask two local religious leaders to address it. Often their answers consist of personal opinions, particular denominational doctrine, or concepts from pop culture.
Last Saturday’s question was “What’s the purpose of Hell?”
One of the respondents was Stephen Jones, the preacher for the First Baptist church of Kansas City. In part he wrote, “Recent terrorism in Paris speaks of hell on earth. Hell as a future reality isn’t a place. It’s a theological idea to hold us accountable.”
“As a child, I was taught that the “saved” would enjoy eternal life and the “lost” burn in hell,” Jones wrote. But “an adult, I don’t find those dichotomies helpful. The world doesn’t divide that easily.”
“I have a difficult time thinking of eternal punishment. I can’t imagine anything that would separate my children from my love forever.”
“So I find myself in that awkward place,” Jones admitted, “of believing in accountable love for the way we live our lives. And believing that there are better ways of considering that accountability beyond the theological construct of eternal damnation.”
I’m not so sure I understand what all that means. So, here’s the Bible answer about Hell.
(1) God loves us.
The golden text of the Bible, John 3;16, affirms, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life..”
“God is love.” He is the epitome and essence of love. His love extends to the human race in both physical and spiritual ways. He cares about His creation. And loves us all unconditionally.
(2) God desires that we be saved.
He sent His Son to die for our sins. The Bible teaches that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
(3) God doesn’t want us to be lost.
Because of what Jesus did for us, we don’t have to perish. We can be saved from our sins through the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood (Eph. 1:7). The apostle Peter wrote that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
(4) Heaven is the eternal home of the saved.
Jesus promised a place where we could be with Him and enjoy eternal life (John 3:16; 14:1-3). The Bible calls that place Heaven (1 Pet 1:4). It is a place of unfading beauty, incomparable joy, and perpetual peace (Rev 21-22).
(5) Hell is the everlasting punishment for the unsaved
Jesus taught there is a place called Hell (Matt 5:22,29,30). He said it was a place of “everlasting punishment (Matt 22:46). He used the metaphor of fire to describe the pain inflicted by Hell (Mk. 9:46). It is a place where one is separated from God and all that is good.
The Bible teaches that when the world ends, Christ will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:7-9).
“Will a Loving God send people to Hell?” is a question often asked. In a sense the answer is “No!” Because people send themselves by their rejection of God’s love, grace and mercy.
The eternal hope of Heaven is awaits those who will obey Christ. Sadly, the dire prospects of everlasting punishment in Hell is the end of those who refuse the invitation of Jesus. (Matt 11:28-30).
The decision is yours.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman