Tag Archives: hell

The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment and Why We Need It

“When I pastored a country church, a farmer didn’t like the sermons I preached on hell. He said, Preach about the meek and lowly Jesus. I said, That’s where I got my information about hell.” – Vance Havner

One of my favorite chapters in Why We’re Not Emergent is the one where Kevin DeYoung examines the modern tendency to soft-peddle the doctrine of eternal punishment. This is not, he says, merely a “liberal” problem – many evangelicals do it, too, “opting instead for a therapeutic God who encourages our self-esteem.”

As a result, God’s wrath and the reality of hell are downplayed, avoided, reinterpreted to suit our sensitive palates, and even outright denied. We’ve all heard people complain about hellfire-and-brimstone preaching; but considering the state of the modern church, one has to wonder how many of those complainers have actually heard a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon. My guess? Not many. If any.

“We need the doctrine of eternal punishment,” observes DeYoung. “Time and time again in the New Testament we find that understanding divine justice is essential to our santification. Believing in God’s judgment actually helps us look more like Jesus. In short, we need the doctrine of the wrath of God.”

And here’s why (pp. 198-200):

“First, we need God’s wrath to keep us honest about evangelism. Paul reasoned with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). We need to do the same. Without the doctrine of hell, we are prone to get involved in all sorts of important God-honoring things, but neglect the one thing that matters for all eternity, urging sinners to be reconciled to God.

Second, we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forego repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19 NIV). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross or will be punished in hell. We don’t need to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Third, we need God’s wrath in order to risk our lives for Jesus’ sake. The radical devotion necessary to suffer for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus comes, in part, from the assurance we have that God will vindicate us in the end. That’s why the martyrs under the throne cry out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10 NIV). They paid the ultimate price for their faith, but their blood-stained cries will be answered one day. Their innocence will be established when God finally judges their persecutors.

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God Is All Mercy and Love!

“There is a school of theology rising up in this day, which appears to me most eminently calculated to promote infidelity, to help the devil, and to ruin souls! It comes to us like Joab to Amasa – with the highest professions of love and liberality. (2 Samuel 20:9-10)

“‘God is all mercy and love!’ according to this theology. His holiness and justice are completely left out of sight! Hell is never spoken of in this theology – its talk is all of Heaven! Damnation is never mentioned – it is treated as an impossible thing. All men and women are to be saved!

“‘Everybody is right! Nobody is wrong! Nobody is to blame for any action he may commit! It is the result of his circumstances! He is not accountable for his views, any more than for the color of his skin! He must be what he is! God is so entirely a God of mercy and love – that He never does, and never will punish sin.’

“Of all this theology I warn men solemnly to beware. In spite of big swelling words about ‘liberality,’ and love,’ and ‘broad views,’ and ‘new light,’ and ‘freedom from bigotry,’ and so forth – I do believe it to be a theology that leads to Hell!

“Imagine a Heaven which would contain all mankind! Imagine a Heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and evil – would be all gathered together in one confused mass!

“Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a Heaven in which there would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between Pharaoh and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero, between John and Judas Iscariot! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd, would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely, such a Heaven would be no better than Hell!”

~ J.C. Ryle, Heirs of God

HT Grace Gems

Why the Devil Is Not the Ruler of Hell

It is a widely-held misconception among evangelicals that hell is the devil’s domain. We picture a fiery little red man with sharp horns and a pointy, reptilian tail sitting on a throne of some sort. This malevolent being wields a pitchfork, sports a nasty grin, and draws much satisfaction from torturing the souls of the damned.

It’s a popular notion – but is it scriptural?

  • According to the Bible, hell was created by God for Satan and his fallen angels. Nowhere is there evidence in Scripture to support the idea that Satan holds some sort of kingly sway over this place.

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matt. 25:41)

  • Further, hell is described as a place of torment for the devil, as well as for man. We simply have no grounds for assuming that he will derive pleasure out his damnation, or that he will gain some kind of satisfaction or enjoyment from tormenting hell’s other inhabitants.

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev. 20:12)

  • God is sovereign Lord, not just of heaven, but of hell also. It is He alone who created hell, it is He alone who governs it, and it is He alone Who will separate the wheat from the chaff.

“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17)

“As frightening as the devil is, he’s God’s devil
and he’s on God’s leash.” ~ R.C. Sproul, Jr.