Of all the conversations you can have about theology I find hell to be the most unsettling. This is for the obvious reason that thinking about anyone going to a place where they will be separated from their Creator by their own choice is alarming, to say the least. What could be worse? I’m sure many would rather hell not exist at all, yet scripture is clear that it does. Right now, somewhere on this big blue marble, someone is stepping into eternity. Suppose they have not sought Christ’s redemption… Does the thought make you sick? It should.
When we study scripture, preferences or what appeals to our human sense of justice and comfort doesn’t matter. We are not seeking our own version of the truth when we read scripture, we are seeking God’s truth. God’s ways are higher than ours (Is. 55:8-9), He looks at our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7), He decides what justice is (Job 34:12, Is. 30:18), and He takes no pleasure from the pain he inflicts (Ezek. 18:23, 32).
Within the church, three different views of the nature of hell have been debated over the centuries. The first is the Traditional View which holds that hell is eternal conscious suffering. Some proponents of this view were Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin. Eventually, the Roman Catholic church decided the traditional view was the most accurate and it has been predominately, although not exclusively, taught ever since.
The second view is known as the Conditional View or Annihilationist View and was held by Irenaeus of Lyons, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale. It concludes hell is a punishment leading to annihilation, there will be suffering but only for a time decided by God, then you will cease to exist. This view may be more appealing than the traditional view due to the temporal nature of suffering.
Finally, the last view is Restorationism or Christian Universalism as it is sometimes called. It claims that hell is temporal conscious discipline ultimately leading to salvation. It was held by Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and William Bradley. In 2011 this view was made popular by Rob Bell following the release of his book Love Wins. It caused a great deal of controversy and many called him a heretic. Many Bible teachers and pastors wrote articles, books or held seminars to rebut this view.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that the bad news of our sin-cursed circumstances is not the only important headline here! While it is true that God in His righteousness requires punishment for human wickedness, it is also true that He provided our redemption! God demonstrated His own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed (Is. 53:5). Whatever your position on the nature of Hell two things are clear: It is real, and it is awful enough that Christ gave Himself up, to be bloodied on a cross no less, to save us from it.
Rachel McDonald | September 1, 2018
To hear what the Quick Study team thinks about Hell check out Quick Study Unplugged: Heaven & Hell