The last Langstaff Letter on Hell generated more responses than I could personally reply too. Much appreciated. I also received a wonderful testimony entitled, “How did I get saved? Jesus told me I was going to hell.” We will leave that to the end of this letter.
I need to make it clear that this discussion is not a profound theological discourse on Hell; it is not even a thorough Biblical study on hell. I simply desire to point out some important points about hell.
WHAT IS HELL?
In most Protestant traditions, hell is the place created by God for the punishment of the devil and fallen angels (Matthew 25:41) and those whose names are not written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15). It is the final destiny of every person who does not receive salvation, where they will be punished for their sins. People will be consigned to hell after the last judgement.
Ultimately, hell is ‘eternal separation’ from the God who created us; the idea that after death there will be separation. “And these will go away into the eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46
One might question whether all descriptions of hell in Scripture are real or symbolic. One might question whether death is the cessation of existence, as in the position of ‘annihilationism,’ or external punishment of the wicked, but the one thing that remains is that it is ‘eternal separation.’
There are number of words, both Hebrew and Greek, that are translated as ‘hell’ in English Bibles. They include –
• Sheol in the Old Testament and Hades in the New Testament. They refer to the grave, the tempory abode of the dead.
• Gehenna, which relates to the ‘unquenchable fire.’ Gehenna was the refuse dump outside of Jerusalem that was always on fire. From this, we get the image of the lake of fire; a concept of perpetual burning.
JESUS AND HELL
The main reason I believe in the orthodox Biblical teaching about hell is that Jesus taught about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. I was given a book by a couple in my church entitled, ‘The Greatest Words Ever Spoken,’ a detailed collection of the sayings of Jesus. The section on ‘Judgement, Hell and Eternal Punishment’ covered almost twelve pages of quotations from Jesus about hell and judgment. Such was the teaching of Jesus.
Well know writer Randy Alcorn sums it up this way, “Jesus referred to Hell as a real place (see Matthew 10:28; 13:40-42; Mark 9:43-48). He described it in graphic terms: a fire that burns but doesn’t consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely and foreboding darkness.
Christ says the unsaved “will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). He taught that an unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked in hell from the righteous in Paradise. The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope (Luke 16:19-31).
In short, our Savior could not have painted a bleaker picture of hell. It is one that C.S. Lewis, with reluctance, believed and affirmed, bowing his knee in submission to a higher authority.”
“Jesus also said that hell would be ‘outer darkness. . . weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). Here the image is one of terrible loneliness: separation from God and man. Those who are consigned to hell will be put out into the inky blackness of eternity, with nobody to turn to or talk to – constantly alone. They will suffer the remorse of knowing they had the opportunity to come into heaven with God but turned it down (Spirit Filled Life Bible).”
HELL ITSELF IS MORALLY GOOD
Randy Alcorn goes on to say, “Most of us imagine that we hate the idea of hell because we love people too much to want them to suffer. But that implies God loves them less. Our revulsion is understandable, but what about hell makes us cringe? Is it the wickedness that’s being punished? Is it the suffering of those who might have turned to Christ? Or do we cringe because we imagine hell’s punishments are wicked or disproportionate? These very different responses expose different views of God. Perhaps we hate hell too much because we don’t hate evil enough. If we regard hell as a divine overreaction to sin, we deny that God has the moral right to inflict ongoing punishment on any humans. By denying hell, we deny the extent of God’s holiness. When we minimize sin’s seriousness, we minimize God’s grace in Christ’s blood, shed for us. For if the evils he died for aren’t significant enough to warrant eternal punishment, perhaps the grace displayed on the cross isn’t significant enough to warrant eternal praise.”
HEAVEN AND HELL
The two go together. As C.S. Lewis put it, “I have met no people, who fully disbelieved in hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in heaven.” As one writer put it, “The Biblical teaching on both destinations stands or falls together.” In other words, you can’t really believe in heaven and not believe in hell.
THE DEVIL AND HELL
The common cultural picture of hell with the devil depicted as running the place with horns and a pitchfork is completely false. As a friend of mine Lance Wonders writes, “‘paradise lost’ reflects a mistaken theology when it has Satan saying to his fellow fallen angels, ‘Tis better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.’ God not Satan rules in hell, even those under the earth in Gehenna must bow their knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Note that carefully – God rules, not Satan, over hell.
A FINAL TESTIMONY
As I said previously, after the last Langstaff Letter, I received a whole batch of responses, more than I could reply to, but not the less appreciated. This is one of the testimonies that was passed on to me.
With all I had going against me in life, I got saved when I heard Jesus tell me I was going to hell. I had seen the John 3:16 placards in the end zones and heard it said by enough people to know it by heart. God loves me. Great. So what? Even when I started going to church after I got married all I heard was how much God loves everyone. I was in church fulfilling my new wife’s wishes and being a good Bible-belt young husband…bored to death listening Sunday after Sunday to sermons telling me how special I was to God.
It was on one of those Sunday mornings in church that boredom got the best of me during the sermon and I reached forward and picked up a pew Bible to read while the pastor droned on about how loving God is. I didn’t know about chapter and verse at the time but I had opened the Bible to Matthew chapter 12. It was kind of interesting. It started off with Jesus arguing with some people about religion. Seems some people didn’t want anyone eating or healing on the Sabbath.
There was talk about the Kingdom of God, demons, and the Holy Spirit. And then it happened. Everything seemed to melt away in my world and it was just me and Jesus when I read: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). I didn’t hear a voice but an instantaneous certainty of doom filled my being. I didn’t have to hear it to know the words were “You’re going to hell.” That was the moment I committed to leaving the “City of Destruction.” That was the moment my foot found the pathway to eternal life. I never would have found it had I not read for myself that until I decided to be “with” Him, He considered me to be against Him.
We are not doing anyone any favors by shielding them from the painful reality that despite God’s love for us we will face an eternity without joy, happiness, God, and those we love if we don’t decide to join with Jesus. You can sing songs about how much Jesus loves you every Sunday and Wednesday night for the entirety of your life and open your eyes in hell when you die because the promise of eternal life is based upon your willingness to acknowledge your sins and repent of them.
Snowflakes melt in the heat. Authentic Christians embrace fiery trials (1 Pet. 4:12). Snowflakes read Hebrews 11 and stop halfway through verse 35. Those who truly follow Christ keep reading the hard stuff (verses 35b-40). Snowflakes in the world think God’s love supersedes His righteousness and holiness. That’s why they feel so free to accommodate sin in the name of love. They’re snowflakes living in a false cocoon. It’s time they started hearing a jarring truth when they go to church on Sundays. It’s time to unveil sin, death, and hell from pulpits and lecterns. It’s time to be faithful. Not popular.
I’m saved because I found out from a pretty good source that I was going to hell.
ONE LAST WORD
God is a holy God, so justice must prevail and hell is part of that. But God is also a God of love and He desires that all may be saved (I Timothy 2:4). That is why He sent His son on a rescue mission. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting live.”
Article by Randy Alcorn ‘Banished from Humanity C.S. Lewis and the Doctrine of Hell’ – http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/banished-from-humanity
The testimony was taken from the article ‘Snowflakes Melt in the Heat’ by Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr. – http://www.afa.net/the-stand/faith/2017/04/snowflakes-melt-in-the-heat/