Summary: “Is there a place of eternal punishment?”, “Is hell real?”. If so, why does one go there? What can one do about it? What has God done about it? And what should our response be?
Is There a Place of Eternal Punishment?
In the 1800s, doubts about the reality of Hell began to arise among professed Christians, spreading rapidly into the 20th and 21st centuries. The great English Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon observed this growing disbelief in the reality of Hell in his day. In 1865 he said, “There is a deep-seated unbelief among Christians just now, about the eternity of future punishment. It is not outspoken in many cases, but it is whispered; and it frequently assumes the shape of a spirit of benevolent desire that the doctrine may be disproved. I fear that at the bottom of all this there is a rebellion against the dread sovereignty of God. There is a suspicion that sin is not, after all, so bad a thing as we have dreamed. There is an apology, or a lurking wish to apologize for sinners, who are looked upon rather as objects of pity than as objects of indignation, and really deserving the condign (appropriate) punishment which they have willfully brought upon themselves….” (Sermons, 10, 6701, cited by Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978 edition, p. 13).
Modern surveys tell us over 90% of people in the world believe in a "heaven" while the latest research from Barna Associates shows that only 32% see hell as, "an actual place of torment and suffering where people's souls go after death."
C.S. Lewis speaking on the issue of the reality of hell said, "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord's own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason." (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Macmillan, 1962), p. 118.)
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson lays the blame squarely on the church for the drift away from a belief in the doctrine of hell. He said, "You can traverse the entire United States on any given Sunday morning, and you very probably will not hear a sermon on the judgment of God or eternal punishment. Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in (the doctrine of hell) or else no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and say anything about it."(Copied)
Adding to this R.C. Sproul commented, "I can't think of anything more politically incorrect to preach in 21st century America than the wrath of God, or the justice of God or the doctrine of Hell."
So the question today is “Is there a place of eternal punishment?” or “Is hell real?”. If so, why does one go there? What can one do about it? What has God done about it? And what should our response be?
I. Is there a place of eternal punishment? Is hell for real?
A. Many say "God is too merciful to punish souls forever...that all mankind, somehow, regardless of their lives or beliefs will sooner or later be saved." Today many embrace what is called "a kinder theology, which places emphasis on God’s nature to love while disregarding His many other attributes such as holiness, justice, truth, grace, and omnipotence" and treat hell as a pagan fable. This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God, His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of hell... If words mean anything, there is such a place as hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, there are those who will be cast into it... (Adapted from Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook Publishing Co., p. 34.)