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Love and Hell | Theology Matters

  • September 2015 Issue
Theology Matters

Many people have difficulty reconciling the Bible’s teaching about hell with the love of God. How can a God who is love consign anyone to an eternity of torment? As long as we think of hell as an expression of divine love, we will never be able to answer this question. Hell is not a reflection of God’s love—it is an expression of His justice.

Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. He described it as a real location. It is a place where the soul and the body can be cast (Matt. 5:29–30). He also described it as a place of judgment (Matt. 5:22). Hell was created by God for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).

Jesus also characterized hell as a place where the soul and body are subjected to fire and destruction (Matt.10:28). In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus described hell as an experience of conscious torment (Luke 16:23). Hell is the final holding place for all sin. It is where sinners will finally face the wrath of God (Col. 3:6). What is more, the Bible warns that we are all by nature the objects of this wrath (Eph. 2:3).

All of this begs the question raised by those who reject the Bible’s teaching about hell or who prefer to view it as a place of only temporary suffering: Where is the love of God when it comes to hell? The answer is that God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus Christ to suffer the punishment that our sins deserved. The hope of the gospel is that Jesus will rescue us from the wrath that is coming (1 Thess. 1:10). Those who refuse to accept what Christ has done on their behalf are rejecting the love of God. In a sense they are saying that they would prefer that God deal with them in justice rather than with mercy.

According to Ezekiel 18:23, God does not enjoy seeing the wicked perish. Hell is not a testimony to the failure of God’s love. It bears witness to the refusal of sinners to repent. C. S. Lewis believed that hell is the result when God grants the wish of those who finally reject His love. In The Great Divorce, Lewis wrote,“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God,‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end,‘Thy will be done.’ ”Where is God’s love when it comes to hell? It is excluded from hell. That’s what makes it hell.

FOR FURTHER READING

To learn more about hell, read Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment by Robert A. Peterson (P & R Publishing).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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