This will be a rather disjointed and repetitive blog, as I will be just posting my answers on Facebook to someone’s questions about hell. Truthfully, I’d rather talk about Jesus. But I guess things are happening now, and hell is becoming a trending topic…arrrgh.
I saw your question about someone not believing and still going to heaven as unfair. Let me ask you: how do you think the person who chose NOT to believe will feel if he ends up with the One he didn’t want to be with anyway? For us grace folks, seeing in heaven someone whom we never thought believed is a glorious thing! But for those who didn’t believe, after all God has done and proven to them, if they end up in heaven with Jesus, THEY will probably shout: “UNFAIR!!!”
I think the real problem some people have in accepting there is a literal hell is that they don’t know why God made it. Jesus gave the reason for hell in Matthew 25:41: The eternal fire created for the devil and his demons. Revelation 20 bears this out. And if people, pardon the phrase, go to hell after they die, it is because they have rejected Jesus and His gift of eternal life. There is only one way to eternal life, and that is Jesus. And Jesus is the only way because Jesus is the only one who died in our place to receive the punishment due us because of sin. You’re right, there would be an unfair aspect if people made it to heaven without believing in Jesus: IT WOULD BE UNFAIR TO JESUS, BECAUSE IF WE CAN GO TO HEAVEN WITHOUT HIM, THEN WE JUST SLAPPED HIS CROSS, HIS WOUNDS, HIS BLOOD, HIS SUFFERING AND DEATH ON OUR BEHALF, AND HIS GLORIOUS RESURRECTION IN HIS FACE. The true focus should not be: “Why will they go to hell just because they didn’t choose Jesus?” but rather: “All they need to do is believe in Jesus, then they won’t go to hell? AWESOME! Let’s tell them and convince them!”
That was why Jesus came, why the apostles went out, why there are missionaries going out to the ends of the earth, and pastors and teachers teaching us how to share the gospel with that gossip next door: because God ISN’T allowing anyone to continue in the curse of the law that will lead to eternal death. People who will end up in the place God prepared for the punishment of satan and his demons are people who rejected the message of the Good News of Jesus. Which means, that they made the choice. God didn’t send them to hell, they chose it by rejecting eternal life in Jesus. And if you reject eternal life, then you have chosen eternal death. The lake of fire. Not God, you. Or would you rather God forced someone who already expressly rejected Jesus to live eternally with the One he rejected? That would violate God’s love, and God is love. Not coercion. Not force. Love.
I hear you that eternal life begins now. But it cannot be “eternal” life if it is only for NOW and has no bearing on the future. That is why it is called HOPE. There are aspects that are still to come, and they ARE coming, thank You, Jesus! I believe hell is a real place, because in Matthew 25, that parable that you said was about the Kingdom, Jesus also says that the eternal fire is created for the devil and his demons. I believe there is a hell because I cannot believe that God will not punish Satan and his demons. And as for people going to hell, Jesus’ statement clearly says what the eternal fire was created and prepared for: NOT for people. People will have to choose hell by rejecting Jesus and His gift of eternal life. So I do my best to tell people about Jesus and what He has done, that has power for them beginning now, until eternity. If they ask about hell, I tell them what Jesus says about it.
IF hell is only a “spiritual” place…then what kind of punishment for the devil and the demons is that going to be?
If the lake of fire was just symbolic, where will the devil and his minions be punished? Because Jesus Himself says that the lake of fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) So you really believe that God will only SYMBOLICALLY PUNISH SATAN for his rebellion against the Most High God and subsequent oppression of humanity? Jesus would also mention Gehenna (translated as “hell”) as the opposite of “eternal life.” Does it really just mean the trash dump? If you can’t reconcile hell and God, it might be because you have glossed over this little statement of Jesus. JESUS SAID THE ETERNAL FIRE (IS) PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS DEMONS (NLT). Or will you say that this is also just a symbolic statement because He said it in a parable? If you can’t accept that people might go to hell for not receiving and believing what Jesus has done for them, THEN DO THE RIGHT THING: TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS, HIS COMPLETE AND FINISHED WORK ON THEIR BEHALF, AND PLEAD WITH THEM TO BELIEVE THAT ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS BELIEVE. Don’t lie to them that there is no hell. There IS a hell, and it’s not a landfill or a trash dump. It is eternal fire, the only punishment sufficient for the rebellion of the devil and his demons. But the real, loving truth about hell is, IT IS NOT FOR MAN. That was why Jesus came! Isn’t that Good News?
Saying there is no hell does not make Jesus a liar. Saying everyone is saved and won’t go to hell and still go to heaven even if they don’t believe in Jesus makes Jesus USELESS. Jesus is the only way to the Father. If people can’t accept that and refuse to believe that message, then it is not the messenger they should call close-minded, but the Sender of the message. Keep studying and asking. But don’t close your mind to your definition that people who believe there is a hell are saying “burn, baby, burn!” to those who don’t believe. That sounds judgmental. We believe there is a hell, whether we like it or not – and believe me, WE DON’T! – because Jesus said there is a hell, and He let John see it and write about it to us. So if you say there is no hell, you are not calling Jesus a liar, you are just not agreeing with Jesus. But because Jesus is truth, then you’re contradicting the truth. And when you contradict the truth…you lie.