C. S. Lewis once wrote: “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than [hell], if it lay in my power …. I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully: ‘All will be saved.’” Can you relate?
I had no problem with heaven. Heaven was perfectly consistent with my beliefs about God. But hell was another story. How could hell exist? And if hell didn’t exist, was heaven a myth as well? It was not an easy crisis to overcome, but through it God showed me some things that not only laid my doubts to rest but actually strengthened my faith. As much as I resisted the idea, I finally saw that without the reality of hell, God could not be a loving God. Confused? So was I.
But let me try to explain. If there is no hell, God is not just. If sin is not punished, then God is apathetic toward evil. If God is neutral on the subject of evil, then what does that say to the rapists and murderers and adulterers? What does it say to Satan and all he stands for? More important, what does it say to those who strive to be faithful servants of Christ? To say that hell does not exist is to say that God has turned his back on those who serve him. And in the end, it is to say that God and the teachings of Scripture are untrue. That question is resolved by simply looking at the abundance of evidence that proves the accuracy of God’s Word. The question is not whether hell exists, but why we struggle so much to resist the idea. Jesus didn’t shy away from the hard teachings about hell. More than half of his parables speak about God’s judgment of sinners, and 13 percent of his teachings deal with the subject of hell. No one in Scripture speaks more about the consequences of sin than Jesus. And that truth shouldn’t surprise us. God isn’t obsessed with wrath; he’s simply consistent with his nature. Hell is critical in the grand scheme of God’s justice and plan of salvation. God loves us dearly. That’s why he gives us the choice between accepting his love and rejecting it.
He doesn’t send people to hell—they choose to go there. He simply honors that choice in spite of the pain it causes him to do so.