It has truly been a while since this topic has been approached with much force these days. Most of the time it is avoided because it is believed to drive people away. Instead we choose to describe the way of love, joy, and peace... the finer things of life. The fear has been abandoned, and that has allowed some to become too comfortable.
I do not choose to discuss why we conform to what this world desires to hear instead of what it NEEDS to hear (however this may come later). Instead I will focus on a group of questions: Why is the idea of an everlasting Hell is so widely rejected; what makes it seems so forlorn and estranged from what we normally see in the world? What explanation can we give for its existence?
The definition of Hell as defined in Webster's as: a place or state of punishment of the wicked after death. It is often described as a lake of ever-burning sulfurous fire. Some believe it to simply be total separation from God. Whatever the view, the name of Hell itself carries its own amount of foreboding and dread. It is not the idea of Hell as a place that most people struggle with, though. It is the place of Hell as an idea relative to the world we live in that is commonly rejected. Let me explain.
We live in a world full of suffering. Children are shot and killed in Israel over a petty land dispute. Babies are aborted by the thousands. There are homeless in every city of the most prosperous nation in the world (*coughs* U.S.A.). The world looks back in horror at the victims of Hitler in WWII. We dread to be reminded of the recruits lost in Vietnam. We see the innocent children die in Israel, pure and innocent fetuses are murdered almost by the minute, innocent and decent people have lost everything they owned because a company has made "efficiency" cut-backs, innocent women and children died in the furnaces of Auschwitz, our young and innocent troops were sent to Vietnam fight a war that nobody won. When we look to the past, even if we just listen to the news every night, what we see does not seem fair--the suffering of so many innocent seems unjust to say the least. What's more, it even seems to be without cause and wholly indiscriminate. We witness the injustice on a daily basis, and sometimes it strikes too close to home. Over a period of time the world has become numbed to this suffering. The conclusion it has reached is that suffering, in general, is unjustified. This is where the problem lies.
You see, the Bible describes Hell and accordingly by the Church as a place of justified suffering...a place where those who remain unsaved at death will go and thus suffer for eternity. This view of justified suffering is incompatible with society's formulated opinion. Because they have deemed all suffering within this world to be unjust, the idea of justified suffering after death becomes unacceptable. Any God who would allow such unjust suffering in the world, but endorse such after-death suffering also becomes unacceptable, and anyone who would follow such a basically illogical God would be labeled as fools and idiots. The aversion of the world towards an idea of justified suffering is deep-seated, and thus they flee from anyone who would adhere to its existence as fact. In their minds, the place of Hell is juxtaposed to the ideas we learn in this world, and thus it is summarily rejected.
So, it would seem, in order to justify the existence Hell, we must answer the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people and also prove the existence of a just God. Both of these can be accomplished by citing two facts:
The first is that suffering is a result of sin. Many people still believe in the basic goodness of man. As Christians we know that nothing within us is good. The Bible describes everything we attempt as nothing more than dirty rags. I have been told that the literal meaning of this word in the Greek is dirtied menstrual rags. Pretty disgusting right? That's the point. We are infested by a sin nature that taints and ruins everything that we are. How did we obtain this nature? By choice. Adam was given the free will to do whatever he pleased. He made the wrong choice, and as a result he brought down suffering upon endless generations who have come after him. We could have been in paradise... now look where we are. Throughout our lives we are given the same type of choices (to follow God's command or not) and time and again we mess up. The results are the same. In some form or fashion, suffering is the end result of sin. The abortion of a baby conceived in an unwed intimate relationship is a result of an initial single thought based on lust...the consequences were the death of a child. People in third world countries die daily of starvation while free-enterprise gluttons sit by and watch. By their selfishness and inaction they condemn those people to suffering and death. These are only two very simple example of how sin causes suffering. The conclusion, then, which I will state again, is that suffering is a result of sin, and sin is a result of man, not God. Bad things happen to good people? No. Bad things happen to bad people because bad people commit sinful acts that derive from sinful thoughts. It may be a little blunt, but itâ?¬ "!s the truth.
The second fact that we must establish is an answer to the question that must ensue: How can God allow such things to happen? As I said before, God gave Adam a free will. Why did he do this? He wanted Adam to have the ability to feel the fullness of God's love, and to love Him in return. In order to do this He had to allow Adam to make his own choice to love. He allowed Adam free will. Adam messed it up. But the extent of God's love reached further than that. He love Adam so much, that He would send His own Son to die for Adam's sin. He sent His own flesh and blood to take the blame for the multitudinous suffering that Adam brought about. This makes Him not only a just God, but also a merciful, loving God, and a God of grace. Again, however, he allows us the choice to love Him in return. If we choose to love Him in return we will spend an eternity in the presence of that love. If we do not, then we have rejected the love that he has shown for us and, as a result, will bear the suffering for the sins we have committed ourselves. This brings up the final point: God did not bring about the suffering of sin, and does not desire to punish us in Hell...that is our choice alone. The horrible fact is revealed, Hell is a place of choice--our choice.
And thus it is seen that the number one reason for the desire to deny the existence of Hell is that man wants to deny the sin nature and the fact that we MUST rely on God. Man does not want to take the blame. Hell is a real place, and worth a bit of everyone's time in consideration. The world might try to tell us that we worship a cruel and illogical God, but they have been blinded and enticed by their own sin. To a Christian, however, the thought of Hell no longer has to carry a sense of foreboding and dread, but instead can bring us closer to the knowledge of Christ as our Savior, and our Lord as the God of love.