People sometimes portray hell as a party zone. “When I die,” more than one person has said, “I want to go to hell, ’cause that’s where all my friends will be!” But if such persons understood what Scripture says about hell, they would think twice about that. Hell is a place of eternal separation from God, a place of great suffering and the ultimate judgment on a life spent in rebellion to God.
The final punishment of those who reject God is frequently presented in the Bible. Jesus, too, often spoke about hell. Hell is real, and people are tragically remiss if they do not recognize that.
Western culture has, in a sense, done away with hell. It is a scary concept and it is difficult to think that people would be there. Many people cover up the idea of hell, seek to make it less of a bad place, or they say there is no such place. Others say hell is just a place of purification where a person is cleansed and then released to heaven.
Hell is a teaching essential to Christian doctrine. Take away hell, and you wind up with humans who have no free will. We would not have a choice about the afterlife. Heaven would be our only option.
The truth is that hell is necessary because God’s holy and just nature demands that evil be punished. Similarly, the cross was necessary because God’s merciful nature demanded that salvation be offered.
Since everyone falls short of God’s standard (Rom 3:23), they all deserve hell. At the final judgment one thing will be patently clear: God is fair. More than merely “fair,” God is merciful and just. What is actually “unfair” is the fact that anyone will be in heaven. No one is good enough for heaven. The opportunity to enter God’s holy presence illustrates His mercy and grace.
Jonathan Edwards reflected on the uncomfortable truth of hell: “Tis dreadful, ’tis awful . . . but ’tis true.” The Bible states that people loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven (John 14:6; Rom 5:12–17). God does not actually send people to hell. People choose to abandon God and He allows it. God does not force people to worship Him, or to experience the joy of His presence.
Heaven and hell are very real places. Those who fail to accept Christ’s payment for their sins will go to hell. It is that simple. Whether a person will be in heaven or hell after death will depend on whether he or she chooses to accept God’s gift and follow Jesus. About this most serious of subjects, it is the Christian’s privilege and duty to proclaim what God has clearly revealed—hope is found in salvation through Christ alone.