Many awful things have been done with the doctrine of hell. “You’ll go to hell for that” has been used to condemn all sorts of things that God does not condemn. You know… “Don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do.” Furthermore, those who have swung the idea of hell around like a club give you the impression that they’ll be glad to see you sent there. But not our God, who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The Lover of our souls, the One who has pursued us down through space and time, who gave his own life to rescue us from the Kingdom of Darkness, has made it clear: He does not want to lose us. He longs for us to be with him forever.
Nonetheless, simply because certain people have abused the concept of hell doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
First, you must understand that hell was created not for mankind, but for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). I’m sure you’ll remember with relish the stories where the evil one is destroyed in the end. Commodus being slain with his own knife in the arena. Darth Maul falling to the saber of Obi-Wan Kenobi. A great chasm opening in the earth to swallow Sauron and his army of Orcs so that Middle Earth might be free at last.
Hell is not God’s intention for mankind.
But remember—he gave us free will.
He gave us a choice.
We seem to forget—perhaps more truthfully, we refuse to remember—that we are the ones who betrayed him, not vice versa. We are the ones who listened to the lies of the Evil One in the Garden; we chose to mistrust the heart of God. In breaking the one command he gave us, we set in motion a life of breaking his commands. The final act of self-centeredness is seen in those who refuse to come to the wedding banquet of God (Matthew 22:2–3). They do not want God. They reject his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus. What is he to do? The universe has only two options. If they insist, God will grant to them what they have wanted—to be left to themselves.
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