Reading Time: 8 minutes By: Brad Moore
The Doctrine of Hell

The Gospel is a rich tapestry of God’s love, hope, and a call to reconciliation. While it predominantly resonates with His grace, it also makes clear His sovereign judgement. A Just and Holy God will, by definition, judge the unrighteousness of man. The doctrine of Hell is a core component of this truth, challenging yet crucial. Contemporary society, deeply entrenched in relativism, tends to obscure absolutes, pushing doctrines like Hell into the shadows. But this doctrine matters significantly and it is the Church’s responsibility is to shed light on these truths.

1. The Biblical Foundation

When we reflect upon Jesus’s teachings, imbued with hope, love, and grace, it’s clear He did not sidestep eternal punishment for the wicked. The narrative from Luke 16:19-31, where the rich man endures torment provides a glimpse into the stark reality of the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. The emphasis isn’t to instill fear but to illuminate the truth.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we find the term ‘sheol,’ denoting the mysterious realm of the departed. Its New Testament counterpart is ‘hades,’ also recognized as a place for souls post-death. This is where the story in Luke 16 takes place: a comforting abode, like the one Lazarus found, and a realm of torment, as experienced by the affluent man. We recognize sheol/hades as a waiting chamber, holding souls until the great resurrection.

Righteous souls, Scripture tells us, are welcomed into the Divine’s embrace, often referred to as “paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23).

There is another place of judgement known as ‘gehenna’ from the New Testament, rooted in the Hebrew ‘ge-hinnom,’ a real-world valley of burning refuse near Jerusalem. Jesus transformed this term into a potent metaphor for postmortem judgment – specifically Hell.

Scriptures consistently delineate Hell as “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), and a realm where “the smoke of torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:10-11). This language doesn’t merely exist for its evocative nature, but to express the gravity of eternal separation from God’s grace awaiting those unfortunate souls who have spurned God’s grace.

2. The Nature of Hell

Hell’s nature, both intricate and daunting, has long been a central focus within Christian theology, serving as a lens through which we glimpse both divine justice and human choice. This realm embodies a profound reflection of God’s character and humanity’s response to His unwavering love. These theologians perceive Hell as a metaphorical chasm separating us from the Divine, symbolizing spiritual desolation from rebelling against God. This perspective emphasizes the relational rupture and the spiritual desolation that ensues from a denial of Christ. Yet, when we examine the words of Jesus, the narrative tilts towards a more palpable depiction. He speaks of Gehenna, invoking images of “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43) and “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). Such descriptions, while still symbolic in nature, point towards a tangible reality of suffering, painting a picture of Hell as a real consequence of denying God’s sovereignty and rejecting His grace.

The Doctrine of Hell Matters to all who are lost.

John describes in the Revelation a “lake of fire” which emerges as a chilling centerpiece of the final judgement of God. Revelation 20:10 recounts, “And the devil… was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” a fate shared not just by Satan and his agents but by all who reject God, as highlighted in Revelation 20:15. This eternal lake reinforces that Hell isn’t just an absence from God, but a realm of perpetual suffering.

Hell’s existence and nature, more than just serving as a theological construct, is pivotal for grasping the depth of God’s infinite love and His unwavering justice. Far from a capricious act of divine retribution, Hell stands as a testament to the severity of turning away from God’s outstretched hand of grace and love. It underscores the gravity of choices made in the temporal world and their eternal repercussions. In understanding Hell, we are faced with the weight of our actions, the seriousness of God’s righteousness, and the urgency of embracing His offer of salvation.

3. Divine Judgment and Its Necessity

The “lake of fire” depicted in Revelation is a place reserved for those who have chosen to turn away from God’s merciful offer of salvation as well as other rebellious beings He has created. This fiery abyss is more than a mere metaphor for separation from God; it is the ultimate outcome for lives lived without ever accepting Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and the loving free gift of grace in which it is contained.

But the question that often emerges in contemplative hearts is this: Why would a God, so abundant in love, enact such judgment? To grasp this, we must understand that God’s love isn’t a singular, isolated quality. It coexists in profound harmony with His other attributes – His righteousness, His holiness, His justice. Each of these aspects of God’s nature is interconnected, and none can be overshadowed by the others. Sin, in its rebellion, demands a response. God’s love, in its vastness, initiated a salvation plan through Jesus, His own Son. He became a bridge to reconciliation with God and an antidote to sin’s poison – specifically death (Romans 6:23). However, His unwavering justice, just as essential to His nature, highlights the profound ramifications of neglecting this unparalleled gift.

Jesus, in His teachings, further underscores this divine balance. In Matthew 25:41, He speaks of the final judgment, saying:

Here, Christ is not merely describing an arbitrary punishment but is emphasizing a self-chosen separation — a result of persistently turning away from the ever-present hand of grace and redemption. It’s a poignant reminder that while God’s grace and love are unfailing and freely given, they must be consciously received through faith, and His justice remains steadfast for those who choose otherwise.

4. The Gospel’s Message: A Matter of Eternal Importance

Hell and God’s judgment, as revealed in the scriptures, casts a poignant light on the urgency of the Gospel. This is not about brandishing the imagery of Hell as a threat, but rather emphasizing the importance of God’s plan of salvation that He accomplished through His Son. If the vast expanse and consequences of eternal separation are genuinely grasped, then the passionate desire of our Lord to redeem humanity from those consequences becomes infinitely evident. God’s desire is that none be lost as we read in 2 Peter 3:9 but that all should come to a saving knowledge of Christ – which is the “good news”, the Gospel of Christ.

God's grace is the response to the doctrine of Hell and the lost condition of man.

At the heart of this Gospel is the unfathomable grace of God, manifesting as the free gift of redemption through His Son, Christ Jesus. God, in His infinite love, provided a way out from the bondage of sin and the looming shadows of damnation.

…proclaims Ephesians 2:8. This profound truth emphasizes that salvation isn’t something to be earned or merited, but a divine gift to be received. All that’s required is a heart that, through faith, acknowledges its need and turns to Christ in humble acceptance of His saving grace. The Gospel’s message, then, is an invitation, a beckoning hand extended out, waiting to lead souls into eternal embrace.

5. Awakening Compassionate Urgency

The Gospel is a message of redemption and joy, and is not intended to incite fear. Its essence is to challenge mankind to choose the free gift of life through the work of God’s Son Christ Jesus. This choice resonates with the weightiness of eternity. An eternity that can either be experienced in the blessing of the presence of God or marked by His agonizing absence. In this fragile realm of time, our need to choose rightly becomes paramount.

Within the fleeting moments of our earthly sojourn, we’re presented with choices of eternal consequence as our lives intersect the lives of others. These choices should kindle a compassionate urgency to reach the lost. The Apostle Paul captures this sentiment, declaring in 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Assuming our roles as Christ’s representatives, our mission is to convey a heartfelt concern for the souls balancing at the very precipice of eternal destiny. Devoid of the saving knowledge of Christ they are destined for eternal judgement. Our calling is not to spread alarm but to convey earnest care, inviting souls towards the redemptive love of Christ, wherein lies true hope and eternal safety.

6. Facing the Reality Head-On

To make a lost and dying world aware of Hell is not an act of judgment or unkindness, rather an act of love. Speaking truth is how we must love others and as such the message anchors the Christian’s faith in Scripture’s entirety. While Hell is a grim reality, our core message remains the love of Christ, and the supreme gift of life eternal that He has offered us through His life, death and resurrection. The Gospel is not just the power to change our destinies though – it is the power of God to change our lives. In Romans 1:16 Paul says:

Our mission in sharing the Gospel should encompass the full breadth of God’s message. While Hell stands as a somber reminder, it’s crucial to convey this truth against the backdrop of God’s immense love, exemplified in Christ’s sacrificial act on the cross. This doctrine prompts not fear, but a profound compassion for those who have yet to embrace Christ. In understanding Hell, we discern the profound worth of every soul and the unparalleled grace God offers to each one.

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Writen by: Brad Moore
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