It is common in our day to try and apologize on God’s behalf for the existence of eternal hell. Orthodox Christians are not bold enough to play around with the heresies that say lost souls will stop existing after death or that everyone in hell will eventually go to heaven anyways. But they still feel compelled to help God’s public relations campaign by softening the blow of eternal conscious punishment.
Since many Christians nowadays have basically accepted the idea that love is God’s primary trait, they find it difficult to say God is first and foremost motivated by love towards all, but he created an eternal fire for his enemies. Usually the argument goes something like this:
“God is so loving that he gives us free will. he will not violate this free will by making us live with him in heaven forever. So actually he doesn’t throw anyone into hell, he just lets them go there if they choose.”
Though this almost, though not very convincingly in my opinion, shows how a loving God could allow people to go to hell, it doesn’t deal faithfully with what the Bible teaches. Jesus said that we should fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell. And elsewhere we are told that Jesus will come like a flame of fire to bring vengeance on God’s enemies who do not obey the gospel.
The problem we have is that we start with the popular contemporary view of God as primarily loving. This makes us blind to the many places the Bible speaks of God’s fiery anger against the rebellious. Many who start with this view end up throwing hell out altogether, because a God who is primarily motivated by love simply would not enforce an eternal punishment. He would eventually relent. But this is not the God of the Bible.
The biblical fact of an eternal lake of fire should force us to face the fact of who the biblical God is. He is loving, this is true. But before being powerful, sovereign, or even loving, he is holy, holy, holy! The living God is so holy and opposed to sin that he created a place of eternal conscious punishment for his enemies. This is the God with whom we have to give an account, so we better live in reverent fear!
Besides ignoring the true character of God, hell teaches us that we have also ignored the true nature of sin. We cannot imagine that sin is all that bad to require eternal punishment. But, the moment we see the glorious splendor of God’s holiness on that Day, we will then understand that eternal hell is the most appropriate place for souls that rebelled against such a holy God. Especially in light of the fact that this sin-hating God in love sent his own Son to suffer so that we could escape sin and hell, and receive eternal life instead.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.
4 The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 Then I said:
Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts.