You Didn’t Really Mean That, Did You?- Answering the Hell Question, Part 2

October 10, 2008

(This is the second in a four part series of posts dealing with the age-old question “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” This answer was originally developed as a reply to an email I received. Today’s post deals with the objection “I don’t see how a loving God could send people to hell, therefore hell must not exist.”)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” -2 Thessalonians 1.9

Now, let us first deal with the question of “Does hell exist?” The denial of hell is currently a very popular position, particularly among the emergent camp of Christianity and from people like Brian McLaren. In fact, I would argue that the doctrine of hell is one of the top issues that Christians need to be given sound instruction on these days in light of this trend. To deny the existence of hell is simply something that we cannot do and not, at the same time, deny the authority of Scripture, for Scripture speaks so plainly on it quite often (Matthew 5.29, 30, 10.28, 23.33, 25.41, Luke 12.5, 2 Thessalonians 1.5-9, 2 Peter 2.4, Revelation 20.11-15).

Of course, the objection which arises to this type of analysis is that when Christ and others spoke of “hell” as a place they were just being symbolic and therefore those passages are useless. But to that I would say, What is hell but being “away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1.9)? For us, though we may not realize it, the greatest gift is to be fully in the presence of God and the greatest torture is to be fully away from his presence. Thus, the first, wherever it may take place, is rightly termed ‘heaven,’ and the second, again, be it a literal fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth or not, would be rightly called ‘hell.’ This also takes away the argument that this current life is what hell is, since in this life on earth we know we are neither fully in God’s presence nor fully removed from it.

Therefore, our conclusion on the first question, Does hell exist?, must be “Yes,” and so, the one remaining question must be then “Does anyone get sent to hell (for eternity)?”