Why Does the Truth of Hell Rise to Watershed Significance?

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3).

My eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lamentations 3:48).

If God is not bound to save anyone from hell, he is not bound to save anyone from suffering.

If God would be just to sentence all of us to hell because of sin, then he is just when any of us experience suffering that is less than hell on earth.

If all of us deserve hell, that is the main “problem of evil,” not cancer and tsunamis. Compared to hell, the horrors (unspeakable horrors) of this world are short and moderate. If that sounds like an overstatement to you, it’s not because God hasn’t seen your suffering, but, perhaps, because you haven’t seen God’s hell.

This is one of the main reasons why the biblical teaching on hell rises from time to time as a watershed doctrine. Included in the truth of God’s justice in throwing people into hell (“throw” is the biblical word), are implications for God’s justice in all suffering.

One implication: None of us ever experience suffering more severe than we deserve. If we are not in hell at this moment, we are experiencing massive mercy.

Loud love is calling us from heaven. O that we may have ears to hear:

Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:4–5)

Instead embrace Christ as your God-given substitute: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ endured hell for all who own him as their Life.