Focal Passage: II Thessalonians 1:3-12
If you can consider hell free from any pause in your spirit, doubt, or struggle then you might be doing so too flippantly. I feel small and insufficient when I consider a place of torment that people go to forever. If you feel the same way then we are in good company. Commenting on a passage in Matthew, David Platt writes, “If we’re honest, these truths about heaven and hell are a little overwhelming … We wonder, ‘Is it really true?’ ”
Pondering the reality of hell doesn’t carry with it an automatic “low view” of Scripture perspective. No, those who have a high view of Scripture, those who believe that the Bible is God’s Word are the ones who are going to struggle the most with the reality of a place of agonizing punishment that will never end. So let’s ponder together the reality of hell.
In my estimation, it isn’t the fact that hell is a place of punishment that gives us pause. We can all understand that there are consequences for our actions.
In fact, you’ve probably watched some kind of court show on TV. We watch these shows and assume the position of armchair judge. We sit in our living rooms, hear the case, then agree or disagree with the decision of the judge and provide our own ruling in turn.
Sometimes our sentencing would be more severe, sometimes less. I don’t think any judge, actual or armchair, has ever dropped the gavel sentencing someone to 100 years behind bars for jaywalking.
It isn’t the punishment aspect of hell that gets us, it’s the fact that the punishment seems too severe related to the offense. An eternity of consequences seems unjust. Let’s be honest, even for what we would consider the vilest sinners, a couple-hundred years in hell would sit a lot better with us than forever. That’s because we are trying to measure “severity” by worldly standards.
We assign adjectives like “good” and “bad” to human behavior. God doesn’t view His own creation in terms of good and bad. His gaze is transfixed on His own glory. It should be, He’s God. Anything that falls short of His glorious, holy nature cannot abide with Him in the ages to come.
I Thessalonians 1:9 speaks of the “penalty” people will pay who are separate from the power of the Gospel. The Greek here denotes a sentence as a result of a judicial hearing. People are not neutral parties existing in the world. All people are sinners that fall short of God’s holy nature (Romans 3:23). But why eternal punishment?
We can understand the eternal aspect of hell by noting the differences between our penal system and God’s. Our sentencing for crimes is in part for punishment but also for rehabilitation. Criminals are meant to change within the walls of a prison and reenter society no longer criminals.
The reality is, there is no rehabilitation to holiness. We are only made holy by the work of Jesus on the cross accepted by our own repentance which brings about the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Hell is a place of no repentance, only bitterness and anger toward God (Revelation 16:9-11). The cycle of unrepentance and just punishment continues eternally.
Let us pray and ask God for these truths to create in us a sense of gratitude for God’s loving redemptive work and a sense of urgency with the gospel. B&R