“If we understood Hell even the slightest bit, none of us would ever say, ‘Go to Hell.’ It’s far too easy to go to Hell. It requires no change of course, no navigational adjustments. We were born with our autopilot set toward Hell. It is nothing to take lightly — Hell is the single greatest tragedy in the universe.” [Randy Alcorn, Heaven.]
It has been statements like that that have caused me to contemplate the reality of hell far more in recent months. Few people like to think of death in general, and fewer still are willing to give serious consideration of hell’s realities. And when most people do, they think of it in unreal terms, as Ted Turner did several years ago when he said, “Heaven is perfect. Who wants to go to a place that’s perfect? Boring, boring. [In hell] we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess.”
Is that really a possibility? What will hell be like?
- In Hell (Alcorn suggests capitalizing Heaven and Hell as one would any proper noun, since they are literal places), the restraining influence of God the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and believers will be fully removed, resulting in a fullness of sin. All sin will be “fully mature,” so that there will be no rest from it. All sin in all its forms (think of any sin and it will apply — anger, fear, hatred, anxiousness, selfishness) will be unrelenting and unceasing and never abated.
- In Hell, there will be the complete absence of anything good. The capacity to perform even the simplest act of kindness is a result of the common grace of God. Such grace from God will not exist in Hell, so there will be no ability to perform even the tiniest modicum of goodness. There will be no friendship (only hatred), no fellowship (only selfishness), no peace (only anger), and no comfort (only unrest and regret).
- In Hell, there will be eternal (i.e., they will always know it) knowledge of the reality of God and Heaven. It seems possible that not only will there be an understanding that God and Heaven exist, but that in some measure and form, it will even be able to be seen (cf. Lk. 16:22ff). Yet they will never be able to cross over from Hell to Heaven. Which leads to my last observation…
- In Hell, there will be no opportunities to ever change a decision made on earth. They are eternally condemned. (Think on that for a time.) In Hell, there will be full awareness of guilt, full awareness of sin, full awareness that Christ was rejected, full submission to Christ, with no opportunity to ever repent. I’ve made more than one decision that I’ve regretted. But none with the same kind of eternal implication. This will be the great anguish and horror of hell.
Hell is and will be a terror which we have no scale to measure. And people we know and love have gone, are going, and will go there. Which means two things for parents (which is what this sermon was about):
- We must train our children to have a compassion for those who are lost that spills over into clear gospel articulations to the lost. May the training of our children produce in them grief and sadness for those who are unregenerate and headed for Hell, rather than haughty criticism.
- We must train our children to exist in the world (be influencers for Christ in the world), while at the same time maintaining hearts that are separate from and unstained by the philosophy of the world.
Hell is terrible and eternal. Train your children to understand its deadliness. And train them also to have compassion for those who are going there.