31 Mar What does Scripture teach about hell? Part 1
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” –Jesus in Matthew 10:28
Jesus talks about hell more than does anyone else in all of Scripture. Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”89 Furthermore, He “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”90
Despite God’s love for and patience with sinners, it is a horrid mistake to dismiss the Bible’s clear teachings on hell. Richard Niebuhr characterized the ongoing attempt of liberal Christians to deny hell as “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”91 Jesus said more about hell than about any other topic. Amazingly, 13 percent of His sayings are about hell and judgment; more than half of His parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners.92
The Bible does not give us a detailed exposition of hell, but there are many descriptions of the fate of its inhabitants in that place of eternal punishment. They include (1) fire,93 (2) darkness,94 (3) punishment,95 (4) exclusion from God’s presence,96 (5) restlessness,97 (6) second death,98 and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth.99
Admittedly, there is a long discussion among Christians regarding how literally to take these descriptions. Evangelicals usually follow John Calvin in seeing them as metaphorical figures trying to describe the indescribable.100 These evangelicals don’t decrease the severity but only the specificity of the descriptions.
The Bible clearly and repeatedly paints hell as a horrendous place of suffering. And, it does so to warn people to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ and avoid that eternal destination.
Who does not know Jesus that you need to speak to soon about salvation?
89 1 Tim. 2:4.
90 2 Pet. 3:9.
91 H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1937), 193. For a contemporary attempt to explain away hell, see Brian D. McLaren, The Last Word and the Word after That (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008).
92 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1993), 128.
93 Matt. 13:42, 13:50; 18:8–9; Rev. 19:20, 20:14–15.
94 Matt. 25:30; Jude 13.
95 Rev. 14:10–11.
96 Matt. 7:23; 25:41; Luke 16:19ff.; 2 Thess. 1:9.
97 Rev. 14:11.
98 Rev. 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8
99 Matt. 13:42, 13:50, 22:12–13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28.
100 See John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 2:1007; (3.25.12). Others who agree that the figures are metaphorical include Billy Graham, Leon Morris, J. I. Packer, Millard Erickson, and D. A. Carson, according to William Crockett, Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 44–45n6.