Todd Friel of Wretched Radio/TV had a tweet today that, I feel, sums up the view a lot of people have about Hell.
Hell is not a kegger with your pals. No relief, reprieve, or acquittals. No happy memories. No water, light, or comfort. No joy or hope. Hell is nothing but the relentless wrath of God.— Todd Friel (@ToddFriel) March 6, 2019
Todd captures how many unbelievers (and, I dare say, even some believers) view Hell. “Sure, it’s not Heaven,” they say, “but all my friends will be there.” Or, they assume that the joy they find in sinning here on earth will continue with the same activities, in just a slightly warmer environment. Some even go as far as to say they would prefer Hell because Heaven sounds boring.
This betrays a lack of understanding of Hell that is largely the result of the church’s failure to preach on the reality of Hell for far too long.
Look at the sermons of Edwards, of Calvin, or Spurgeon. When they talked of Hell, it was never lightly or dismissively. Edwards wrote extensively about the reality of Hell, most famously in his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Spurgeon was even quoted as saying, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies.” Why would he say such a thing if Hell is just one big party? None of these great men of the faith would have thought to trivialize the horrors of Hell.
But, today many people (and even pastors) do. They assume that Hell will not be a big deal (if they even admit to its reality). Some even go so far as to say they will be going to Hell when they die - and do so without any fear or reservation. And, while it’s easy to assume that’s just unbelievers, Christians often show a similar lack of fear about the reality of Hell.
Think of the last time you sinned. No matter what that sin was, it was an affront to the holiness of God and a violation of His law, fully deserving His wrath in Hell as its right reward. Yet, you (and I, for sure!) sinned anyway, knowing (even subconsciously) that the penalty for that sin, apart from the work of Christ, deserves punishment in Hell for eternity. So, you see, even we Christians also often fail to tremble at the thought of Hell as we should, betraying a similar lack of understanding of the gravity of Hell that unbelievers do.
Yes, we find comfort in the blood-bought promises of Christ that our sins are forgiven, but I don’t think we should dismiss Hell simply because it is not our future. Those torments, those horrors should make us tremble, should make us fear, and that fear should drive us to Christ in appreciation and admiration.
But, as with the unbeliever, the truth of Hell is absent from many modern churches and it has done a disservice to many - both saved and unsaved. Pastors, in an effort to grow their attendance, will avoid a discussion of Hell, or even outright deny its existence. They choose to focus on the love of God to the detriment of the wrath of God, thus giving an incomplete and inaccurate picture of who God is. And, by so doing, minimize the horrors of hell as well as cloud the understanding of their hearers of the justice of Hell. Not only does this fail to present the dangers of sin accurately, but it fails to properly illustrate the extent of the grace of God in saving them from those horrors.
It’s time we recaptured the doctrine of Hell and use it to implore sinners to be saved and the saved to rejoice in the Savior.