Dismiss Hell and You Dismiss Jesus, by Randy Alcorn

20120821-124259.jpgDismiss Hell and You Dismiss Jesus

The author of this article makes the valid point that if we try to distance Jesus’ teaching from hell, we distort his teaching and slight his work.

We may pride ourselves in thinking we are too loving to believe in Hell. But in saying this, we blaspheme, for we claim to be more loving than Jesus—more loving than the One who with outrageous love took upon himself the full penalty for our sin.

Christ says the unsaved “will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). Jesus taught that an unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked in Hell from the righteous in paradise. The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their desires and memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope (see Luke 16:19–3 1).

Our Savior could not have painted a bleaker picture of Hell.

C. S. Lewis said, “I have met no people who fully disbelieved in Hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in Heaven.” The biblical teaching on both destinations stands or falls together. If the one is real, so is the other; if the one is a myth, so is the other. The best reason for believing in Hell is that Jesus said it exists.

It isn’t just what Jesus said about Hell that matters. It is the fact that it was he who said it.

“There seems to be a kind of conspiracy,” wrote Dorothy Sayers, “to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of hell comes from. The doctrine of hell is not ‘mediaeval priestcraft’ for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin…. We cannot repudiate hell without altogether repudiating Christ.”

Why do I believe in an eternal Hell? Because Jesus clearly and repeatedly affirmed its existence. As Sayers suggested, you cannot dismiss Hell without dismissing Jesus.

By denying Hell’s reality, we lower the stakes of redemption and minimize Christ’s work on the cross. If Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection didn’t deliver us from a real and eternal Hell, then his work on the cross is less heroic, less potent, less consequential, and less deserving of our worship and praise.

Theologian William Shedd put it this way: “The doctrine of Christ’s vicarious atonement logically stands or falls with that of eternal punishment.”

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3 responses to “Dismiss Hell and You Dismiss Jesus, by Randy Alcorn

  1. Annihilationists–or at least many of us–fully affirm eternal punishment. We just disagree when it comes to its nature. The punishment of annihilation is eternal; the unredeemed will rise from their temporary death to be judged and then executed, never, ever to live again.

    Being Reformed, I held to the traditional view of hell until a little over a year ago, but upon taking a closer look at the relevant texts–including several which records Jesus’ words–I discovered that with virtually no exception, every single one of them was far, far better support for the final annihilation of the unredeemed than for their eternal torment. I now see that annihilation is one of the clearest teachings in Scripture.

    I’d encourage you to check out the Rethinking Hell blog and podcast at http://www.rethinkinghell.com. You might find yourself challenged.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment. Is the punishment for sin expressed more commonly in the New Testament as annihilation/termination/execution, or as torment/pain/suffering? As an insensible state of non-existence, or a conscious, sensory experience?

  2. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Those who do not receive everlasting life will *not* receive everlasting life but will perish (John 3:16). Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). Where, like chaff completely consumed in a furnace of fire, so, too, will the wicked be (Matt. 13). The fire which killed the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah serves as a specimen (Jude 7). And on and on.

    Yes, there are some texts which speak of suffering, but so what? The death row criminal suffers on the electric chair. If the unsaved will be burned up by fire, or be executed by a host of other means, there will be suffering involved. No text indicates that that suffering goes on forever, or that the suffering, in and of itself–rather than as part of execution–is the punishment for sin.

    Yes, the Bible says the final punishment for the unsaved is an everlasting, insensible state of non-existence–the result of being executed, and likely violently so.

Please let me know what you think! I learn from your comments.

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