I have published a short $2.99 Kindle ebook entitled The Bible’s Teaching on Endless Punishment, and Objections to It—just in time for Halloween. (No, you don’t need to own a Kindle device to read it—there are free Kindle readers for computers, tablets, and phones.) A few thoughts excerpted from the book:
- The Bible describes three compartments in the underworld: Hades, the abyss, and the lake of fire. Most modern writers use the term “hell” when referring to any or all compartments of the underworld.
- People who say that a loving God would not send people to hell generally also struggle to explain the existence of evil and suffering in the world in which we live. How can a loving God permit so much pain and wickedness in the world? This is a real problem for people who deny a literal hell because if justice is not served in this life then it is not served at all, and it obviously is not served in this life. God’s tolerance of evil in the world can only be explained if it is recognized that every sin will someday receive the punishment that it deserves.
- People would not get upset about the Bible’s teaching on hell and eternal torment if there were no such thing in reality. If hell really were a ridiculous, fairy-tale concept, unbelievers would not care if some people accept the idea. The reason it bothers them is because they have an inner sense that it is real (Heb 2:15; 10:27).
- Pastors who believe in annihilationism or universalism lose the ability to preach with authority. They can only make recommendations regarding what people should be doing, but can never say they must do it, and cannot prove that the way we live life has any eternal significance. One formerly universalist pastor says, “My religion was reduced to a self-help methodology, a happy way to cope with life. I became a moralist, a counselor, a two-bit pop psychologist” (David Hanson, The Art of Pastoring [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1994], 85).
- Objection: The New Testament reveals the love of God in Christ in a way that is incompatible with a doctrine of hell and eternal punishment. This is the official position of the Church of England. The problem with it is, the New Testament contains many more references to hell and eternal punishment than the Old Testament (234 out of the 260 chapters in the New Testament say something about judgment), and the majority of these New Testament references are statements made by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Those who say that Jesus is too loving to send anybody to hell are selectively choosing to accept only those sayings of Jesus that they like, while rejecting or ignoring the ones they find offensive. The New Testament actually gives a much clearer and fuller revelation of the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment than the Old Testament, and it does so primarily through Jesus’ direct teaching. Also, the message of the gospel is that Jesus had to die for the sins of the world because sin demands punishment, and the only punishment that will satisfy the demands of justice is death. The cross is robbed of its purpose and significance if there is no such thing as a second death. If God does not give those who reject Christ’s atonement the same penalty for sin as was applied to His Son, then there never was any real need for a sacrificial death to atone for sin, and there is a real question as to the fairness of the cross itself.
This is objection #1 that I present in the book, but I believe the real objection is #7: The lake of fire is horrible and disturbing beyond comprehension, and I cannot accept a doctrine that is so appalling and awful. An even deeper objection lies behind this one—I like to sin, and I want to believe that I can get away with it. You can read my answer to these objections and more in the book.