Why We Should Think About Hell

Imagine you’re a nomad several thousand years ago, and come upon the entire Egyptian army lying dead on the shore of the Red Sea. Not only that, but you also see a group of people singing joyfully on the opposite shore! If you didn’t know the whole story, you might be tempted to think, “That’s a morbid group of people!”

But if you knew the context, if you knew the bondage Pharaoh had caused, and the mighty deliverance God had just brought about, you would understand it better.

Maybe that’s why people are becoming so confused about hell today. They don’t understand the context–the bigger story: the fall, redemption, and eternity.

Quite a few years ago, I listened to a message from Edward Donnelly, an older Reformed Baptist preacher, on the doctrine of hell. This article is a combination of his thoughts (Donnelly) and my own.

What did Jesus talk about more than any other topic? Judgment and Hell.

In Luke 16, Jesus told a story about a rich man and a beggar, Lazarus. Like the rich man and his relatives, we, as humans, tend to doubt the reality of hell.

Matthew 5:29 says, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.The word “offend” means to be ensnared; trapped. Jesus is saying that we should do whatever it takes to not be trapped, so that our eternal destiny is not hell.

Hell is an extremely unpleasant topic, and not frequently discussed. In the past it was a common topic, but perhaps we have reacted to “hellfire and brimstone” sermons, such as the well-known “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” by the puritan pastor, Jonathan Edwards. Scripture, however, gives a clear, but restrained and discreet description.

Why should we think about hell? First, because of its intrinsic importance. Some doctrines are not as important: angels, OT food laws. But, this is one that must be known. There are several reasons why this doctrine is so important.

The massive weight of biblical testimony

There are more references to the wrath of God than the love of God. Jesus said more about hell than heaven.

The actual content of the doctrine

Hell is a place of torment where humans will be suffering forever. Every second three people die and face eternity.

We are not remote from this catastrophe

Sam Waldron said, “Death is not a spectator sport.” Spectators are not really involved and can glibly criticize. Some doctrines don’t immediately concern us, but death affects every one of us.

Because there is only one way of escape

You can’t escape by being good, or going to church. Only if you repent and believe on Christ as Lord and Saviour can you avoid hell. Everyone is going there unless they find the one way of escape. Is it morbid to talk about hell? We don’t consider it morbid for doctors to get together to talk about cancer. We want them to find a cure! In the same way, it is responsible and loving to study the doctrine of hell.

Because of the pervasiveness of addiction today

It’s hard enough to listen to the Spirit’s call and follow God of our own free will; if we are ensnared by addictions, we are in real danger.

Not only is this doctrine intrinsically important, but we need to talk about it because of the pervasiveness of unbelief about hell. There are a couple things that point to this widespread disbelief.

It is a matter of popular mockery

2 Peter 3:3 states, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (KJV). We see that today as hell is made light of and used as joking material.

It is a matter of serious unbelief

Many 20th century thinkers see hell as used by a tyrant church to manipulate simple people. Bertrand Russell said it is “a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of torture” (Russell). People will see our belief in hell as contemptible or wicked. Questioning hell is happening even among evangelical circles. In our generation, leading evangelicals, like John Stott or Preston Sprinkle, have changed their view of hell, and now teach or believe annihilationism.

This is especially prevalent in the emergent church. One author said a loving God who would send people to eternal hell would be “worse than Hitler.” Clark Pinnock who believes in universalism, says, “I consider the concept of hell as endless torment an outrageous doctrine; a theological and moral enormity,” and, “Surely a God who would do such a thing is more like Satan than like God.”

But the third reason we should talk about hell is the most important. It is because unbelief is a symptom of a deeper problem. A symptom has an importance far beyond itself. “Unbelief in hell is a symptom of man’s deepest problem, his most wicked sin,” man-centeredness.

Humanism has dominated our culture in the last century. It started in the Garden of Eden, when we were tempted to believe, “You will be like God.” Think about it: the objections to hell are not due to new exegetical discoveries. David Wells puts it like this; It is “not because of new light from the Bible, but from new darkness in the culture” (Gilley). The objections are due to a low view of God and a high view of man.

First, we have a man-centered view of man. The highest imaginable good in our society is human well-being and happiness. The doctrine of hell rips this value to shreds.

Second, we have a man-centered view of sin. This is the belief that sin is only what hurts other people. It is very selective; it’s not a sense of sin as rebellion against God. Instead, it’s about “Who am I hurting?” Sin isn’t a big deal—you just shouldn’t hurt people. Hell smashes this façade; Hell reminds us of our accountability to God.

Third, we have a man-centered view of God. God is like a heavenly bell-boy. If you need him, you call for Him. If you don’t, you ignore Him. Martin Luther said this is “using” God.

Hell confronts us with a different view of God. Daniel 4:35 says, “All the inhabitants of earth are like nothing. No one can constrain His hand, and say, ‘What have you done?’”

Are we God-centered, or man-centered? What we believe about hell will reveal the answer. Hell doesn’t make sense until you see God—in His holy, majestic, power.

“Hell brings us face to face with the overwhelming reality of God.” When we see God, we will not feel free to spout our opinions of a God who creates a place like hell. We all will perish in that hell unless we have cried out for mercy from God.

On the shore of the Red Sea

Stand again on the shore of the Red Sea. If you are unaware of the battle that has just taken place, you will see only a tragedy. But if you understand the deliverance that God has provided, the rejoicing will make sense. Revelation 15:2-4 describes a vision of the last battle:

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. {saints: or, nations, or, ages}

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

If we understand that hell means that Satan is gone forever and we have also been delivered, we too will sing the song of Moses!

Article written by guest writer Clyde Byler. Read more about him at: www.bylercustomcabinets.com 

Works Cited:

Donnelly, Edward. “Series on Hell by Pastor Edward Donnelly.” Monergismcom Blog. N.p., 26 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 May 2017.

Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Jonathan Edwards Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017.

Gilley, Gary E. Robert Peterson’s Hell on Trial Book Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017.

Peterson, Robert A. “Undying Worm, Unquenchable Fire.” ChristianityToday.com. N.p., 23 Oct. 2000. Web. 29 May 2017.

Pinnock, Clark H. “The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent – Clark H. Pinnock.” Claypeck.com. N.p., 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 29 May 2017.

Russell, Bertrand. “The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2017.

Sprinkle, Preston. “A Dialogue on the Duration of Hell.” Theology in the Raw. N.p., 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 May 2017.

3 thoughts on “Why We Should Think About Hell

  1. I just had a conversation about the reality of hell with a coworker –good timing!

    I really liked your Red Sea example; it helped put it in perspective.


  2. Thank you for your willingness, and boldness to write on this subject. It has been good for me to be reminded as well. Also again encourages me to be bold and honest to others about this. Very well put together. Now is the time to warn people!


  3. Good reminder that the doctrine of hell is central to Christianity and our understanding of God.


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