Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
Since the fall, since pride and sin contaminated the world, men have tried to deny or explain away Hell. God’s judgement is that there are consequences to our sin, evil thoughts/deeds and behavior. Hell is the ultimate consequence of our unbelief and our choices.
Dorothy Sayers says in Introductory Papers on Dante:
“There seems to be a kind of conspiracy to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of hell comes from. The doctrine of hell is not ‘mediaeval priest craft’ for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. […] We cannot repudiate hell without altogether repudiating Christ.”
In all things, humans attempt to reason through a viewpoint that is blinded by our depravity and sin. Our reasoning that a good and just God could or would not sentence human and angelic souls to Hell is deeply flawed. It denies the pure and holy attributes of God. God is infinite in his perfections.
Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, describes hell like this: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord.” Jesus spoke of hell in graphic terms, a fire that burns but doesn’t consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely, foreboding darkness.
This is God’s creation. He gave us life. He can take life, and he can in his absolute perfection determine the ultimate destinies of his creation. Evil and Sin must be judged, and hell is the place where judgement occurs. God loves all people more than we can comprehend, and he does not wish that any should perish. Sadly, many people we know and love in this life may ultimately be in hell. The reality is that many good people live life as functional atheists, or they live in unrepentant sinfulness.
Hell is what we deserve, and hell is what Jesus suffered for us on the cross. Theologian Eleanor Stump concludes that people do not want union and love with God, they just want what they want. People are Hell producers within themselves. Milton’s Satan of Paradise Lost said, “Which way I fly is hell, I am hell.” Hell then becomes a choice and not a judgement. If we choose not to believe and worship our creator, we choose Hell.
Many intellectually brilliant men and women conclude that, if God is truly a good and just God, he would not choose to place any of his creatures, human or angelic, in eternal torment. Our human viewpoint always defaults to denial of God and his will. Recently biblical scholar David Bentley Hart made a similar claim in his book: That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell and Universal Salvation. Hart has concluded that all creatures who have sinned against God will ultimately be saved.
We cannot delude ourselves into believing hell does not exist. The passing of Hell from modern consciousness does not diminish the reality stated in God’s Holy Word.