My friend Dan Tsouloufis wrote a helpful piece on hell. Here’s the first part:
The Unfortunate Reality of Hell
In today’s climate of theological skepticism, there are many misinformed people who assert that the concept of eternal punishment or eternal retribution is not taught in the Bible. Not only is this assertion completely unorthodox, it seems to be wishful thinking. There is no shortage of unorthodox views out there which can trip us up if we’re not careful. This is often what the pseudo-Christian religions, and other false teachers, try to do. They try to get people to see certain Scriptures in a “new way” in order to challenge them to question traditionally accepted doctrines. Thus, I believe the truth of the doctrine of eternal retribution needs to be affirmed and defended, since the consequence of denying it may be perilous to one’s soul.
If what the Bible refers to as Hell is merely personal extinction (at death), what, then, is mankind being saved from? It seems quite untenable to read the New Testament (especially Jesus’ words in the Gospels), and come away with the notion that there’s no eternal punishment for sins or for those who deny Christ the Savior. Moreover, it doesn’t seem plausible that God would pour out His holy wrath on His only Son, if after Christ’s resurrection, there’s no eternal punishment (or any punishment) for those who reject Christ.
There are, however, many who do believe in the concept of Hell, yet they deem it to be temporal. Additionally, some even view Hell as “redemptive”. But again, if there’s a non-eternal Hell, then there’s a non-eternal punishment for sins. Hence, the doctrine of eternal retribution becomes null and void. Hell, then, is merely a “temporary” punishment for sins, for those who don’t accept Christ. To counter this argument, I believe Hebrews 9:27-28, as one example, precludes the idea of a second chance after death, or that God has a redemptive purpose for Hell. In fact, I think it’s quite a heretical notion. This is similar to the Catholic concept of purgatory, which is supposedly a temporary means of being purified during the intermediate state (i.e. between death and the final judgment). I think it’s quite a stretch to assert that Christ’s redemptive work extends beyond this life (i.e. beyond our natural death) for those who reject Him in this life.
The truth is, Christ did not die on the cross to give us immortality; He died on the cross to secure the “destination” of our immortality. Whether or not we put our faith and trust in Christ determines which destination it will be. This is clearly and unmistakably what the Bible teaches.
But many will proclaim that God wills the reconciliation of ALL men to Himself. Well, if that’s the final word on the subject, then the short answer is everyone would be saved. God certainly has the power to accomplish His will. However, if we’re not rooted in the “whole” counsel of Scripture, it’s easy to drift into universalism, which of course the Bible clearly does not teach.
The bottom line is, no one likes the idea of Hell, whether it’s temporal or eternal. But we don’t get to decide that. Moreover, we don’t get to decide how we think God should be “just” or how He should act justly. We either accept the biblical view of God and man, and Heaven and Hell, or we amend it a little here and there by our own notions of justice and fairness. There are some unpleasant passages even in the New Testament (see 2 Thess. 1:5-9 and Rom. 9:14-24). It’s often easier to ignore or minimize such passages, because they might not square with our concept of who God is or how God should act.