Hell and the Gospel
What does the Bible say about Hell? Is it a real place or just an idea? Where you fall on that question is of paramount importance.
By Gregory Koukl
Hell is an offensive idea to a lot of people. Eternal punishment seems harsh to both believers and unbelievers. It could even be a stumbling block. Consequently, some pastors are revising what the Bible teaches and what the church has taught since Jesus.
There are a couple of different revisions: annihilationism and universalism. Both get rid of Hell in different ways. The more aberrant one from Biblical teaching is universalism, which holds that everyone eventually will be in Heaven. This view is contrary to Christianity at the most foundational level, yet it’s something some very public Christian pastors are teaching. Universalism encourages people not to do what they need to do in order to be rescued from the wrath of God, which is put their faith in Jesus, because it doesn’t matter. According to universalism, everyone is going to be ushered into the Kingdom regardless of what they believe or what they do.
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Let me make an observation as a person who is committed to defending the Gospel—and that’s what an apologist does. I hope that’s what all Christians do. They proclaim it, and in a certain sense, proclaiming it accurately is a defense of it. By ignoring the Gospel, you’re acting as if it’s inconsequential. By not talking about the Gospel, it’s like it doesn’t matter, and that is almost an attack on the message itself. A careful, accurate proclamation of the Gospel is an acknowledgement that it is true, an affirmation of its importance. It’s a bare minimum, but this bare minimum is under attack. It is certainly under attack outside of broader Christian circles, because people think it’s ridiculous to think that one religion is the only true religion.
People don’t mind Christians who love Jesus. You’re welcome to Him and to your truth. They do mind Christians who love Jesus and say the same things about non-Christians that Jesus Himself said: They are lost. “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) “He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who does not believe, the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) “He who believes is not judged, but he who does not believe is judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
Every one of those sentences is from the mouth of Jesus Himself. There is no twisting or distorting them when you cite just the verse, because understanding the context only intensifies the meaning that is obvious in the verse itself. So when someone argues there is no final reckoning and there is no Hell, either because of annihilationism (nonbelievers cease to exist when they die) or because eventually all nonbelievers are drawn into Heaven, then they are communicating a message that is diametrically opposed to the Great Commission, the last command that Jesus left the Church.
I know this sounds offensive to a lot of people, but we cannot change what the Bible teaches because it’s offensive. Jesus warned us that there would be wolves that come in and destroy the flock. Paul said in his first letter, “If anyone preaches to you a Gospel other than what I’ve received if anyone brings another message, let him be damned to Hell.” (Galatians 1:8) That’s what the word “anathema” means: “Let him be accursed.”
This is serious business. I have seen this tendency to avoid difficult teachings not only outside the Church, but now increasingly in the Church. People are removing the stumbling block of the cross in the Church and it’s undermining the Gospel…
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