Hell…..I can’t say I have thought too much about it. I have avoided asking questions about hell. I know I have struggled with the idea of hell when I was younger. I could not understand how a God of love could send people to hell if they have never heard about Him. How could God punish people who are morally good, better then some Christians but just don’t believe in Him. I didn’t think I would ever come up with a good answer so I just decided not to try.
I think another reason I didn’t want to look at hell is because it is so confrontational, probably one of the most offensive doctrine in the Christian doctrine. Someone told me recently that hell was like blackmailing, “Believe in God or else suffer for all eternity.” I can totally see their point, especially if that is how Christians talk about hell. Can you imagine if you were not a Christian and someone tells you that because you don’t believe a certain way, you will be in eternal suffering? How does that fit into a God of love? How does that fit into loving your neighbors as yourself? If this was the only way the gospel was presented to me, the “do this or you will go to hell” part, I don’t know if I would want any part of Christianity. I would probably walk the other way.
In the book, Keller talks about many questions we have concerning hell and how a God of love can judge and allow hell. My Bible study asked the question: Has this chapter opened your eyes to any false doctrine you’ve knowingly or unknowingly believed about God’s wrath? About hell?
Before I answered this question, I sat down and googled it a bit. I started with Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia the early Judaism had no concept of Hell or the afterlife. It was introduced to Judaism by neighboring religions. Multiple other websites said the first time that hell was mentioned was in the book of Daniel. This really surprised me. I thought hell was there from the beginning because that is where Satan went after he fell. Jesus tells us that God created hell as a punishment for Satan and his demons (Matt 25:41).
According to Wikipedia, they say that the “Roman Catholic Church defines Hell as “a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.” One finds themselves in Hell as the result of dying in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love, becoming eternally separated from Him by one’s own free choice immediately after death.” Keller states that ““Hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity.” Simply put, God is giving people “what they want the most, including freedom from himself.” To me, this is saying that hell is an eternal separation from God, what that all entails, I don’t know.
I don’t like the idea of someone burning for eternity but unfortunately, just because something doesn’t sound nice doesn’t necessarily make it less of a reality. So for me right now, hell is an eternal separation from God. Jesus came to the earth to put an end to suffering and misery, to give us hope. Each of us still has a choice, just like the angels that knew God fully and still turned their backs on him. Each of us must choose. Do we swallow our pride and allow Jesus to pay the price for our sin? Or will we hang onto our sin and our pride, thinking we can do it on our own? I’m not sure how it all works and it would be nice to have more time to do more research, but the Bible is clear that we are all free to make that choice, to walk with God or turn our back on Him. We have to make the choice because at some point in the future or after life, we won’t have the option to choose anymore, then we will have to live with the consequences of choices.