I think it is safe to say that one of the major disputes with Christianity is the Christian concept of Hell. To be fair, I think that most Christians aren't entirely comfortable with the concept. I say that because so many have tried to explain it away. The first objection, of course, is the enormity of "eternity in torment." "No, no, that can't be. That's just ... too big." I mean, eternity is hard enough to grasp. An eternity of torment? Way outside our comfort range. And then there's the obvious objection, "That's not fair!" How is it fair to have a lifetime of peccadilloes answered by an eternity of torment? The question is one of justice, and that just doesn't seem right.
So why would anyone believe in Hell? I don't think most humans like the idea, even if we're all pretty sure it won't be us there. Clearly it's not some internal enjoyment. Like so many other things in the faith, this one doesn't seem like it would be thought up by human beings because it's so repulsive to human beings. So, why?
Well, of course, we believe in Hell because it's in the Bible. "No, it's not!" some will immediately object. Sorry. It is. Jesus (yes, that Jesus ... the One whose title, Christ, adorns our faith) spoke of the eternity of torment (e.g., Matthew 13:41-42,49-50; Mark 9:43,48-49; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 25:46). Other texts do as well (e.g., Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3). Dance around it if you will, but it's still there -- "eternal" and "torment." If we strip that out, there's very little we can't strip out of whatever Jesus might have said ... or the rest of the Scriptures. "It doesn't mean that ... because I don't like it or I don't understand it."
So, how can that be fair? How can that be just? In what possible sense can we consider it correct that someone who spent a lifetime of sinning would need to spend an eternity of paying for it? For reasons I can't quite fathom, most people seem to think in terms of time here. "It's such a short time to be sinning compared the eternity of punishment." Of course, no one actually sees justice that way. If we did, we'd protest life imprisonment for murderers. "Well, it only took him two minutes to kill that guy, so he shouldn't do more than two minutes in prison." No! That's not how it works ... anywhere. We humans understand that the punishment must fit the crime, not the time. Stealing a candy from the local store is not the same magnitude of a crime as murder with malice aforethought. We get that. So what about sin? Scripture isn't vague. Sin is against God (Psalm 51:4). Sin is a violation of God's glory (Romans 3:23). Sin isn't merely breaking the rules; it is an attempt to overthrow God (Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14). Sin is idolatry, replacing God with something less -- generally ourselves in the final analysis. When we transgress the Ultimate Being, it is the ultimate crime. When we violate an Eternal Being, the penalty is likely to be eternal. Not because it took us an eternity to do it, but because of the magnitude of the violation.
Here's the funny thing. If you are one that believes in the biblical concept of Hell, you're likely going to nod your head and say, "Yep, that's right." Maybe you'll say, "Hey, I never saw it that way. That helps me understand a little better." All well and good. But I'm pretty sure that if you are one that does not believe in the biblical concept of Hell, showing you biblical reasons to believe it won't make a dent. I'm pretty sure that you'll be outraged that anyone would stand on mere Scripture for such an unjust thing while you offer no Scripture in response or give an answer to the ones I've given (and there are more). "The Bible never talks about Hell" is a common objection to Hell without actually addressing the fact that it does. I guess that just goes to show that Jesus was right (John 10:16,27). No, we humans are not comfortable with Hell, but the humans who are listening to Scripture still have to accept that it's a reality. And a very good motivation to give the gospel to as many as possible so others can avoid it.
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