A Troublesome Doctrine
Typically, skeptics, and sometimes even Christians squirm at the teaching of hell. The objections come from claiming that only a few sins don’t deserve such a big punishment. Or, why is it that a lifetime (maybe 70 years) of sinfulness earns an eternity of punishment?
The doctrine of hell is real because hell is a real place.
Jesus Himself spoke about hell more than heaven. He gave some of the most vivid descriptions in the New Testament and warned about hell repeatedly.
And in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we see the Lamb of God, the Risen Christ, pouring out His wrath and judgment upon everyone who dies in rebellion and unbelief. This includes every unbeliever, every demon, and Satan himself will be cast into hell forever (Matthew 25:41; John 5:22; Revelation 20:10-15).
Our Low View of Sin
The reason why we struggle to comprehend or even understand why hell is real and eternal is because we have a low view of sin.
Adultery is called “cheating.” Fornication is called “sleeping together.” Drunkenness is called “alcoholism.” Baby murder is called “abortion.” Idolatry is replaced with being a “workaholic.”
Due to shame, we view sin lightly. The Bible has a high view of sin: a crime against God.
R.C. Sproul famously quipped that sin is cosmic treason. And David in Psalm 51:4 shows that every sin is first and primarily against the Most High God. We need a higher view of sin, a biblical view of sin.
So why can one sin incur an eternal judgment from God? And why is hell eternal? Consider a few things:
- The difference between lying to your spouse, lying to your boss, and lying to the government all receive greater and more severe consequences. Why? The higher the authority the higher the punishment. How much higher with an infinitely holy God (cf. Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 1:13)?
- We sin everyday in thought, word, deed, and motive. If we only sinned a mere three times a day for 30 years that would be 32, 850 sins against God! That is a massive amount of crimes against the only Sovereign God against whom we must give an account (cf. Revelation 20:11-15).
- The rebellion of those in hell will not cease in hell, but will only continue to persist. Sadly, this is the state where God has fully lifted the restraints of unbelievers and their hearts unleash themselves in total rebellion against their Creator.
God’s view of sin is so much higher than ours. We must adopt God’s view of sin if we are to understand God’s perfect righteousness.
A High View of the Cross
Lastly, notice now how high a view of the cross we can now have. The eternal Son became man in order to suffer under God’s eternal wrath (i.e. hell) for me on Calvary.
The perfect God-man who lived perfectly and uprightly all His life suffered the worst judgment totally undeserved.
God demonstrates His love for us by Christ dying for sinners who only deserve judgment (Romans 5:8). In Christ there is no condemnation because Jesus endured that condemnation reserved for me in full (Romans 8:1). Now, everything I receive in life is mercy upon mercy (Psalm 23:6).
God’s justice demands sinners must be punished and God’s love insists that sinners will be rescued. At the cross, the justice of God kisses the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (ESV). Everything that comes to me is unmerited grace purchased by Jesus. As the Psalmists write “His steadfast love endures forever,” (Psalm 136, ESV)
If God did not punish sin and sinners, He would be unjust. But praise God that He is not only just but that He chose to demonstrate His glorious grace by saving undeserving sinners by sending His Son to gather a great multitude to Himself.
Praise be to God that He chose to be merciful to me a sinner! (John Piper has an excellent sermon on this.)
The severity of God’s wrath and the sinfulness of our sin should enlarge our hearts to the riches of God’s mercy in Christ. His resurrection ensures our salvation.
Instead of an eternity of suffering, everyone who turns to Christ in repentance and clings to Him in faith receives free pardon and everlasting life (John 3:16-18, 3:36).