Summary: Is there really a hell? The answer from the Bible is: Yes. However, perhaps a deeper question is how can a loving God send people to eternal torment? We’ll look at this and also what it is the God wants from us.

The Burning Question

Is There Really a Hell?

March 2, 2008

I have heard many recovered alcoholics and addicts describe their lives before recovery as a “living hell.” Their lives were filled with suffering, agony, and anguish for themselves and those around them. The conclusion is that the throes of addiction are a taste of what hell is like and you don’t want to go there.

Today’s Burning Question: Is there really a hell? The answer from the Bible is: Yes. Ok, then, let’s pray… no not really. This question wasn’t actually written down but I have heard this asked or something similar. I have a difficulty with this one. You rarely hear sermons or teachings about hell and you rarely find books about it. Maybe we overdid hell and the wrath of God so we need to take a breather.

Anybody remember Charles Kuralt? He was a journalist that I remember seeing on TV (CBS, I think) on Sunday mornings. At one point in his career he got hung up on poking fun at middle Americans showing how we often mangle pronunciation. Dubois is now DOO-boys.

He stopped in Paris, Tennessee, with some other reporters and they stopped to eat. Kuralt brought the topic up and then said that he wanted to prove what he was talking about. He went up to the counter.

“Waddya havin’?” asked the girl.

“Before we order,” Kuralt said, “would you tell us the name of the place we’re in?”

The girl looked at him with the “yeah, right” look.

“Just pronounce,” Kuralt said, “slow and precise as you normally would, the name of the place we’re in.”

The girl hesitated obviously wondering what was going to happen. And then with a big, sassy Southern drawl, she said, “Dare-ee Qween.”

Here is the struggle with the idea of hell that I have (and maybe you too). We talk about loving God. We talk about how Jesus wants us to love and love others. We see in the scriptures that God is love. Love is the highest thing. So how can we understand a loving God that sends people to eternal torment in a place called hell?

I can almost picture this ridiculous image of God going, “Ha ha. Who has the last laugh now? Burn suckers! Reject me will you?” It is almost as if this god takes delight in the suffering of people to even allow a place of eternal torment.

I know this is a caricature. I know this is not what God is like. But somewhere in the back of my mind is this image. I know it is not true but somehow it still informs me and makes me question whether God could allow a place like that to exist.

Or perhaps God really is so uncaring that God would let this occur. But this is unfair to God and not an accurate picture of the Bible. So let’s begin.

Is There Really a Hell?

• According to Jesus, there is. (See the Sermon on the Mount)

I am not going to spend a lot of time here. Jesus said it is better for you to cut off your hand or gouge out your eye than for your entire body to go into hell. When we examined the Sermon on the Mount, we noted that this passage was actually radical exaggeration about God’s ultimate desire is for us to be whole people who live in His Kingdom and do His will.. It is better for you to be barely human but it is best for you to come into the Kingdom as a whole person. A whole person that lives wholly for God as a holy (set apart) person.

A whole person that lives wholly for God as a holy person.

There are numerous others scriptures that tell us that hell exists. The real issue is its nature (very much like the question of the last three weeks – What is heaven like).

• It is the result of God’s wrath. (Romans 1:18-20)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

It is sometimes hard to imagine the wrath of God because most (if not all) of our experience with wrath and anger has been selfish anger. The two hundred pound man who flings the hundred pound woman across the room in a drunken rage. The mother of the four-year-old boy that flies off the handle when he spills his cup beating him until his back is a relief map of bruises. Some of us have experienced it firsthand. Some of us have seen it firsthand. I think all of us have seen these and many other examples in movies and shows. We are very familiar with selfish wrath and anger.

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