Tag Archives: hell

Hell: What’s at Stake If We Neglect It?


What happens when orthodox Christians neglect the doctrine of hell? We begin to tinker with orthodoxy in some unhealthy ways.

Hell doesn’t get much press.

Blame it on the  and its fear of all things supernatural.

To be fair, Enlightenment writers were reacting to a gross abundance of commentary on hell.

In fact, this environment forced  to remark that some Paris theologians wrote so well about hell that they evidently had been there themselves!

However, contemporary Christians have lost their backbone on this important biblical doctrine. That’s troubling for many reasons. Let me show you what I mean.

Hell: A Ghastly Nightmare

The doctrine of hell is a repulsive doctrine. In fact, it’s hard to believe someone just made it up. But the Bible says a lot about hell. Mostly in the words of Jesus himself.

First off, what is hell? The orthodox meaning is eternal punishment for those who reject God and His grace.

What does that punishment look like? . Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. .

Fire, no doubt, is symbolic. But this shouldn’t comfort the lost because fire is symbolic of something much worse.

How much worse? We just don’t know.

We do know that hell will last forever and in addition to physical agony, occupants will experience unrelenting guilt and regret due to their decision to reject God’s offer of mercy in Christ.

Objections to Hell

As noted above, some people simply dismiss hell as superstition. These are your skeptics and atheists.

Then there are your evangelicals…

Some evangelicals–Unitarians, for example–believe in universalism–the idea that everyone will eventually be saved. But Jesus’ words are unmistakable: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” 

Others believe in postmortem evangelism. These evangelicals insist the dead will be given another opportunity to repent after death. Again, the Bible doesn’t support this notion. Just the opposite: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

Finally, you have your annihilationists who believe that the wicked are exterminated at death. But annihilationists must hold this belief in the face of ample biblical reference to .

Now let me ask you: Why are so-called evangelicals busy reducing, revising and removing the biblical doctrine of hell when those who were evangelicals in the past would’ve ferociously resisted such ideas?

Here’s your answer: Hell is marked by so much awkwardness and embarrassment evangelicals are looking for anyway out of this doctrine.

The Logical Reason Behind Hell

Yes, hell is terrible. But NOT the least bit unfair. It is simply a gesture by God to honor those who reject him, his love and his offer of grace through Christ.

In essence, he gives them what they want: separation from God.

However, because of sin everyone deserves hell… including both those who accept God’s offer of rescue through Christ and those who reject it.

Yet hell is not a fate God wants people to experience:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

The Benefits of the Doctrine of Hell

Yes, even though hell is a horrifying doctrine, it does provide certain benefits.

One benefit is a sense of relief and gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness and promise of heaven. Mercy and forgiveness and heaven are meaningless if there is no depth…

We would certainly respond one way to a friend who kept us from stepping into a puddle. Quite another way to a friend who kept us from stepping off the edge of a cliff.

Another benefit involves our future and reminds us how important life decisions are here and now. The doctrine of hell motivates us to share the gospel when we know the outcome for those who reject Christ or remain in their sins is eternal physical agony.

Why We’ve Lost Our Backbone Over Hell

Yet, in spite of these benefits, contemporary Christians have lost their convictions about hell. There is at least one good reasons for this: Our view of the nature of God has changed.

In an attempt to shed any repulsive concepts attached to God, we redefine him to suit our preferences. Here are four ways we’ve done that.

1. We redefine God’s love so that it resembles sentimentalism and indulgence minus God’s hatred for sin. In turn, we love the sinner and ignore his sin.

2. Hell seems so excessive, so we limit God’s holiness. However, the traditional doctrine of hell argues that eternal punishment is a just penalty for an insult against the infinite holiness of God.

3. We limit God’s knowledge to suggest that he doesn’t stop decades of megadeath simply because he didn’t see it coming. This is the heresy of .

4. We minimize God’s justice by arguing that it would be easier to persuade a skeptic to embrace a God without wrath and righteousness.

But what’s more important: That we properly market God to our culture? Or that we stand up for orthodoxy–no matter the cost?

What’s at Stake if We Neglect the Doctrine of Hell?

Here’s the deal: The Bible presents hell as a concrete reality. It’s existence is not up for Debate. Revision. Or vote. To do otherwise is to pervert the truth, reduce the sting of sin and minimize the threat of hell.

So WHAT if hell is scandalous or too out of step with the contemporary mind?

That won’t make it go away.

We must deal with it. As Christians, that means defending it’s classic treatment. If we don’t, what’s at stake? Our very concept of God and the gospel are diluted.

And where does this end? Our culture gets to define our model of God? To do so would be to feed on lies. And I don’t want that to happen. Do you?

Annihilationism: A Near-Definitive Guide

Where I try to gather a lot of resources on why annihilationism is wrong.

Annihilationism is the belief that the final fate of those who are not saved is literal and final destruction…

A belief that runs against the traditional Christian understanding of hell.

So naturally as I worked through the doctrine of hell during my stint on last things, in the back of my mind I considered whether I’d address annihilationism.

It was bound to come up at some point, right?

And indeed, it did.

But when I went to do my homework, I realized quite quickly that I couldn’t possibly do the topic justice…

A handful of people before me have already answered all the arguments for annihilationism so much better than this half-baked intellectual could.

How can I add anything original to the discussion? Fact is, I couldn’t.

So instead I decided to pull together all the resources I could possibly find online–and share them with you.

In case you care, of course. [I know you do.]

Listen: Everything that I list here is going to be critical of annihilationism. But everything I list here is also very conversant with the advocates and arguments for annihilationism.

In other words, you can learn the arguments of annihilation advocates from reading the objections.

Of course nothing beats first-hand interaction–that is if you have the time. Enjoy.

Articles on Annihilationism

Jeff Spencer concludes the the moral, linguistic, and exegetical arguments for the doctrine of annihilation all fall to the ground due to a lack of reason, lack of lexical evidence, and a lack of good, solid exegesis.

Stanley J. Grenz writes a nice, 2-page summary of annihilationism and it’s problems for Christianity Today.

Stephen E. Alexander answers the questions: “Why is this doctrine so flawed, and why should we be concerned about its prevalence?”

l: Part One | 
In a two part series, Alan W. Gomes examined the scriptural teaching on the doctrine of hell, paying particular attention to key passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation.

Professor of Theology at Southern Baptists Theological Seminary Milliard Erikson takes a swing at annihilationism.

 by J. I Packer

British group acknowledges differences on annihilationism, but says doctrine of hell must be preached again.

The reality of hell, and the teaching that it is “occupied to some degree,” is reaffirmed in a 140-page report published in April by the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom.

What is hell—eternal torment or annihilation? Robert A. Peterson looks at the Evangelical Alliance’s The Nature of Hell.

Robert A. Peterson explores the theological methods of Edward Fudge, defender of annihilationism.

Tony Gray argues that annihilation is at the very least an option which ought to be considered fairly and honestly.

Kenneth MacLeod addresses Stott’s suggestion that the topic requires more humility.

Monergism has got a nice layout of this article by Warfield.

A systematic, detailed, scriptural argument against annihilationism by James Patrick Holding. Probably one of the best I’ve encountered.

Sam Storms works over annihilationism using Revelation 14.

Nothing new to add to the discussion except a table with the scriptural realities of hell–which you might find helpful.

A nice creed-style rejection of annihilationism by J. H. Gosden found in What Gospel Standard Baptists Believe.

Martin Downes shares an excerpt of an interview with Robert A. Peterson [found in his book Risking the Truth].

Then Downes shares even more of that interview.

Historical Mentions of Annihilationism

Embryonic forms of conditional immortality can be found in the writing of Justin Martyr [d. 165].

Ignatius of Antioch [d. 107] is also supposed to be a conditionalist according to some conditionalist writers.

Some suggest it is also found in the writings of Arnobius [d. 330]. See paragraph 61, last sentence.

Books on Annihilationism

 by Harry Buis

 Contributions by Walvoord, Crockett, Hayes and Pinnock

 Contributions by Beale, Block, Ferguson, Mohler, Moo, Packer and Yarbough

 by John Gerstner

 by Robert Morey

 by William Greenough Thayer Shedd

 by Robert A. Peterson

 A theological discussion of annihilationism between Robert A. Peterson [against] and Edward Fudge [for].

 by Martin Downes Contains the interview with Robert A. Peterson.

Your Turn

If you know of a resource not included here [especially mp3s, which I couldn’t find anywhere], please share in the comments. I’ll add to them to this post and give you credit.

Final Judgement: Do Not Take Lightly

There is no getting around it–the Bible speaks of a coming day of ultimate and final judgement.

A day when Jesus will proclaim the eternal destinies of all people:

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” 

This will be the event where God determines everyone’s spiritual condition–alive or dead.

It will be the ultimate separation of good and evil at the end of history. The Christian does not need to fear this moment. The unbeliever should.

The Biblical Fact of the Final Judgment

The Bible does not shy from the topic of a final judgment. Among all the details given on the final judgment, Jesus gives us one of the most vivid.

On the Mount of Olives he concludes his sermon with an explanation of the former parables [ and ]:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 

This is the scene of the final judgment. An event that will occur at the end of history, after the millennium. All individuals and nations will be judged. John :

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.

All the dead and the living–from the beginning of time to the end of time–will be judged.

Who and What Will Be Judged?

No man is excused from this judgment. Each of us will . Believer and unbeliever alike will stand before the his judgment seat.

For the unbeliever, their deepest  and  on the table–whether good or evil. Based on these deeds, Jesus will measure out .

But the most condemning piece of evidence against the unbeliever will be their persistent rejection of God’s salvation.

Believers, on the other hand, will be judged out of The Book of Life–a list of all who accepted God’s mercy through Christ.

Indeed, all their deeds will also be judged. But they will be judged to bestow degrees of reward–not on their justification. For those who trust in the Lord, repent of sin and walk in his ways will : ”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Who Will Judge?

The Bible is quite clear: the judge will be Jesus.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom. 

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 

Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. 

God gave the son this right to judge:

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 

Jesus’ death is a unique judgment where God paid the price justice demands for mankind’s sin. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the foundations on which sinners are saved. So it is significant that he is chosen to be the judge.

The Necessity of the Final Judgement

The final and ultimate judgment at the end of history is simply the culmination of redemptive history and God’s frequent judgment on his people. From the earliest of time, .

In the Old Testament God brought abundant blessing on mankind but he also visited judgment on them, too, for their constant rebellion and unfaithfulness.

Think the Flood, the tower of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah. And to this day  and idolatry and unfaithfulness.

Judgments throughout history serve as warnings for the consequences of unbelief, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

In this way God’s historical judgment and the future, final judgment reflect his character. It reveals his holinessjustice and wrath.

Yet, if believers pass from death into presence with God and unbelievers into a state of separation from God, why does God have a time of final judgment at all?

Simple. It serves the purpose of displaying before all rational creatures the declarative glory of God in a formal, forensic act.

Final Judgement Should Not Be Taken Lightly

The Bible’s message of God’s grace is set against the backdrop of a just God before whom we live. A just God who demands the satisfaction that crimes against him [for that is what sin is] be paid in full.

Crime demands justice. God’s judgment of unrepentant criminals naturally flows from this. On the other hand, his justification of repentant criminals flows from his grace. And this accomplishes one, very important thing…

In the end, all human history–from creation to the final judgment to heaven and hell–glorifies Jesus.  He will be glorified through both grace and judgement.

For the believer, falling down before God’s throne to worship him will be a privilege. It will be all misery and torment for the unbeliever.

Let’s do what we can to make sure we bring as many believers with us.

How to Teach Your Children about Hell

Implied in my headline is this: we SHOULD teach our children about hell.

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on the justice of eternal punishment, the doctrine of hell is there in the Bible…

And we, as Christians, are liars if we neglect it and cold-hearted if we refuse to warn the unregenerate.

John 3:36 states the wrath of God . Mind you, this is the same unbeliever God loves and does not want to see perish.

Yet his fate rests in his decision on who Jesus Christ is.

And you may not like this, but before their conversion, our children are unregenerate. Like it or not, God’s wrath abides over unregenerate children.

Thus, it’s our pre-eminent duty as parents to guide them in the ways of salvation. This includes teaching them about the doctrine of hell.

Objections to Teaching Children about Hell

Some Christians may resist this on the grounds that teaching children about hell may give them nasty nightmares…

Keep them awake for days on end. As a parent the last thing I want to do is upset my children.

But let me ask you a question: Is it justified in the prospect of a fatal eternity for them that I withhold a biblical doctrine that has its greatest defender in Jesus Christ to save my children a little grief?

The answer would be “no” since the doctrine of hell is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What We Can Learn about Hell

We ourselves could lose a few nights of sleep over the doctrine of hell. Our culture doesn’t fear the Lord enough. Doesn’t respect his majesty, strength and wrath…

The neglect of hell by the church is partly to blame.

By neglecting hell we’ve drained the gospel of it’s potency, God’s mercy of it’s power and our sense of dependency on God has become a carnival devoted to amusing ourselves.

If there are no consequences clearly articulated [whether God’s wrath in this life or the life to come], there is no good news.

There is only a hollow, somewhat baffling sense of why Jesus died on the cross. Without God’s wrath and Jesus is just another man executed on a cross.

Abandon God’s wrath over sin and we do not have a god of justice. Nor a god of holiness.

Instead, we have one of complacency and promiscuity. In other words, we have an unbiblical god. One Jesus did not affirm.

Our Teacher on the Subject of Hell

I don’t know about you, but I want to be on the side of Jesus. I want to affirm what he affirmed. I want to teach my children what he taught his children.

Did you see that? I’ve given you a clue on how to teach your children about hell.

Look to Jesus and what he said in the Bible. In other words, crack open the Bible with your children and systematically walk them through the New Testament.

Eventually you will cross paths with the doctrine of hell. That would be a perfect time to tell them what hell means. [Keep it age appropriate.]

But please, don’t wallow in the doctrine. Let curiosity guide them, answer their questions, but at some point you must direct them to Jesus Christ, the cross and God’s grace.

A Way to Teach Children about Hell

You must tell your children it’s not hell, demons or Satan they should fear. It is : ”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’”

Tell them hell is real because sin is real. Tell them that the wrath of God will abide over them as long as they remain unrepentant sinners.

They must know “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And then show them the :

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

Tell them the glorious end of repentance is fellowship with God. It is joy unimaginable. Peace unsurpassed. Love sublime.

Bathe the whole procedure in public and private prayer. And push the beautiful grace of God from there.

The Healthy Tension Hell Creates

Yes, in the back of their minds a fear of hell will persist. Therefore it’s our duty to smother that fear with the grace of God.

Sing with your children : “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Yes, a tension survives in the Christian’s walk [whether a child or an adult] when we allow space for the doctrine of hell. But that’s a healthy tension. One that reminds us that God’s grace does not come freely.

This tension is a small price to pay for the never-ending riches a comprehensive, genuine relationship with God brings.

And that, in my humble opinion, is how we teach our children about hell. What do you think?

Is Eternal Punishment Fair?

The argument goes like this: ‘Eternal punishment for seventy years of sin is excessive.’

But is that the way justice works? Do we actually determine the sentence based upon the duration of the crime?

No, we don’t.

If it takes 13 minutes to rob a bank, we don’t sentence the criminal to 13 minutes in prison, do we?

If it takes 10 seconds to drown a baby, do we sentence the murderer to 10 seconds in prison?

No. So there must be something else to justice.

How We Determine Punishment

Let me ask you a question: How much time would you get if you assaulted me with a knife? In Illinois you might get five years in prison.

But what if you assaulted the President with a knife? Would you get the same sentence as if you assaulted me?

Of course not.

We don’t determine justice strictly by the duration of the crime–but by the heinousness of the crime. That’s not all though.

We also determine justice by the dignity of the person you’ve violated. As the case with assaulting me versus assaulting the President, by virtue of his office, the President is endowed with more dignity than I am, thus a crime against him is considered more heinous than a crime against me.

And it’s the same way with God.

The Most Important Question about Eternal Punishment

An infinite and holy God is endowed with infinite dignity. A crime against a being endowed with infinite dignity is not excessive punishment…especially if we are talking about deliberate rebellion and hard-hardheartedness.

However, you might be surprised to learn that you can reach hell without deliberate rebellion. Indeed, we can drift comfortably into hell.

That means the most important question about hell, as about heaven, is the practical one: What roads lead there?

For when we understand the nature of sin and how one commits sin [whether deliberately or not], we see what must be done to avoid it.

The Value of a Fear of Eternal Punishment

Fear of hell is not an inadequate means to salvation. God doesn’t sweep it aside because it’s the best we can muster.

No, even though a  motive such as fear of hell may be considered a base motive, God’s graciousness will nonetheless accept it.

In the end, we need to hear about and teach the doctrine of hell for two reasons: honesty and compassion.

The doctrine of hell is in the Bible, most notably in Jesus’ sermons. So we are dishonest if we shy away from it.

We must teach it out of compassion, too. , “When an abyss looms ahead, the least compassionate thing to tell the traveler is ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace.’”

In other words, out of a love for God and a compassion toward man, we should tell the truth about hell.

And forget that we’ll be labeled vindictive fundamentalists. That, my friends, is a small price to pay for an infinitely precious soul.