– by William Boekestein –
One recent book on hell begins with this line: “If you are excited to read this book, you have issues.” Hell is a terrible reality that rightly makes us shudder. C.S. Lewis was bluntly honest: “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” But Lewis was well aware that his disdain for hell could not change reality. The doctrine of hell, he acknowledged, “has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.” With only a few radical exceptions, the church has understood the Bible to teach the reality of a place called hell. Sincere readers recognize that hell, despite its offensiveness, is not a fringe topic of Scripture. Rather, it is at the center of the warnings of Jesus and the apostles (for example, Mark 9:43–48; 2 Peter 2).
It is appropriate to not like hell. In fact, we can be stronger: it is not right to savor thoughts of eternal punishment. Those who delight in the topic of hell or who love to emphasize hell beyond biblical warrant betray hearts that poorly reflect the attitude of God. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept (John 11:17–37). Of course—he loved his dead friend. But he also wept over the hardness of heart of the unbelievers at that funeral. Jesus cried because he knew that for some in that crowd, he would not be the resurrection and the life. Later Jesus wailed over Jerusalem, over the scores of hard-hearted people who rejected his offer of refuge (Luke 13:34). God does not love hell; he does not delight in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23).