“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
Two years ago I approached our elder board with a desire to present a position on the nature of hell that is different from what most of the traditional church believes. The elders asked me to wait on doing the talk publicly until they had a chance to study and discuss the topic with me. So I waited, and we went through Scripture together. Here are some of the points we were in full agreement about:
- Hell is a place of punishment where those who reject Christ will go.
- Hell is a place of conscious torment.
- Hell is a place of eternal, irreversible judgment or punishment. There isn’t a second chance nor is its punishment remedial.
What some respectfully disagreed with is the duration of conscious torment. I believe Scripture teaches ultimate annihilation after souls have paid a just penalty for their sins while others believe the traditional opinion that the torment of hell goes on forever. Of course, they would argue that in God’s economy, this too is a just penalty.
I was given the freedom to do the talk as long as I was clear that we were in agreement on the essentials and that the exact nature of hell’s punishment is a non-essential that Bible believing evangelicals can agree to disagree on. (I ended up writing an ebook on the topic called: Raising Hell: A closer look at the church’s darkest doctrine)
God wants us to behold His severity so that we will never experience it. He loves us and has made a way for all of us to be saved through Christ, so that all we ever need to know is His kindness. Yet we are to behold His severity, so that we never forget that He is a holy Judge. If we choose to turn our backs on Christ, Paul warns, we will experience His severity along with all those who have hardened their hearts to His love.
It is important that we believe in hell. There is a heaven, Jesus said so, and He even said that if it wasn’t so He would have told us. (See John 14:2) But the One who is the truth also said there is a hell. In fact, He warned us many times about hell urging us to make sure we didn’t end up there.