Why hell?

7 Nov

Last night was the first night of the Dare 2 Share Denver Blaze Conference (I work at Dare 2 Share). There is always a drama on Friday night and last night’s drama was about a letter from hell. A guy died and went to hell and wrote a letter back to his friend who was a Christian, demanding to know why she didn’t try harder to make him understand the gospel. It was very powerful and I’m sure that it affected pretty much everyone in that arena.

It definitely affected me but instead of wanting to go out there to share the gospel with others, I want to crawl under a rock, crouch in a corner, or any of the places the psalmist names in Psalm 139, despite knowing that “even there [God’s] right hand shall lead me, and [His] right hand shall hold me fast.” 

It’s not because I think I’m going to hell that I feel this way. As a Christian, I believe that because (and only because) Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross for my sins, I am declared righteous by grace alone through faith in Him alone and am given eternal life in heaven.

But not everyone believes that. Which means not everyone is going to heaven. There are some people going to hell.

The depiction of hell last night was on par with Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” I’ve heard that while he was giving that sermon, there were people gripping the pews out of fear that they would fall into hell right then and there. It is a VERY sobering thought. One that I don’t think about enough.

Because I hate thinking about it.

Greg (the President of D2S and the speaker at our conferences) wanted us to grapple with 3 theological truths last night: 1) It’s God’s responsibility to save. 2) It’s our responsibility to share. 3) It’s their (unbelievers)  responsibility to believe. But this morning, I am left grappling with the question: Why hell?

Jesus said in Mark 14:21 about Judas Iscariot, “…but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

I feel that way about all humans who go to hell. It would have been better for them to not be born. It wouldn’t even make a difference if this earth was the most magical place ever. It’s a blip on the radar screen of eternity. If one experienced bliss here for their entire lives, they would promptly forget all of it in hell for the agony, torment and fear would erase every trace. 

And the part that bothers me even more is that we all deserve to go there. Without the substitutionary death of Christ, we all would be going there. I don’t deserve heaven any more than a man who has killed 10 people. I argue with my husband, am jealous of other women, disrespect my boss, not to mention all the hideous things I did back in college, before I knew Christ as my Savior.

Don’t think those things are as bad as murder? Doesn’t matter. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” That means even just one sin–one little lie–merits death. And death means separation from God, which means hell. Because at the end of this age, this world as we know it will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a earth and only the righteous in Christ will allowed in.

But WHY? God knew we would sin when He created us…He knew people would go to hell. Why did He move forward with creation then?

The only answer I have isn’t the most developed but I believe God did it for His glory. Without our sin, there would be no need for Christ. And without Christ, God could not have revealed His character–His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, justice, wrath. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and verse 19 says “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus Himself says in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” So then Jesus is the full, complete, perfect, divine revelation of who the Father is. By revealing His character, God reveals His glory.

As for creation, if we had not been created, we could not have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

Switching gears a bit, this excerpt written by John Piper in an article called “How Willingly Do People Go to Hell?” has helped me understand what the Christian’s role is in light of the reality of hell:

What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer.

So when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven with boring religious people—he does not know what he is doing. What he rejects is not the real heaven (nobody will be boring in heaven), and what he “wants” is not the real hell, but the tolerable hell of his imagination.

Because those who are heading to hell don’t know the reality of their dire circumstance, God has called believers, those who know the freedom and rest found in Christ, to proclaim the good news of the gospel. In light of hell, the gospel really is GOOD NEWS! There’s a way to avoid hell! And even better than that, there is way to spend eternity with God Himself! It is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is hope for mankind in Christ.

And so while I still do not completely understand the answer to Why Hell?, I can bow at the throne of God and believe that, regardless of how much I comprehend of Him, HE IS. He is just but He is also loving, gracious, kind, patient, and forgiving. And I would say that His love trumps His justice because He was willing to kill His one and only Son to trump His justice with love.

What an amazing, awe-inspiring, majestic God. His ways are past finding out.

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