WONDERFUL THINGS: Is God too loving to send anyone to Hell?

James Calderazzo
James Calderazzo

We hear it all the time, “My God is too loving to send anyone to Hell,” or “A truly loving God would not torture anyone in Hell forever.”

Hell is — no doubt — a difficult doctrine to hold and to teach.  It is labelled outmoded and unloving.  One theologian calls it “repugnant, immoral and sub-Christian.”  Who wants to be unloving or immoral or sub-Christian (whatever that is)?  I certainly do not.

But here is what we must take into account:  Jesus spoke about Hell . . . a lot.  Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers, rightfully reminds us, “It is a very remarkable fact that no inspired preacher of whom we have any record ever uttered such terrible words concerning the destiny of the lost as our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The loving Jesus used such terms as “eternal fire” (Mt. 25:41), “eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:46), “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48), “the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 13:42), a place of “anguish” (Lk. 16:24), and “torment” (Lk. 16:23), and “darkness” (Mt. 22:13).

They are truly terrible and fearsome words, and they come from the mouth of our loving Lord, Jesus Christ. To call into question the doctrine of Hell is to call into question the teaching of Jesus, himself.  But it does even more than that: If there is no Hell, then the cross of Christ is emptied of almost all its meaning and purpose.

The Scriptures teach us that for all those who place their faith in Jesus, that on the cross He bore the wrath of God that we rightfully deserve (Romans 3:23-26).  His body was broken;  His blood poured out; thorns pierced His head—but all that was nothing compared to the torment of His soul as He, God, the Son, was forsaken by God, the Father.  For that is the essence of Hell: to be utterly cast away from the goodness and love of God--from everything good, everything joyful, and everything satisfying.  When Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God!  Why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46), He was experiencing the full weight of Hell and the complete wrath of God for His people.

Jesus’ willingness to die and experience Hell on behalf of sinners is love, unspeakable love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:20).

If there is no Hell, then the Jesus we are left with is not more loving, but less loving.  The cross we are left with is not more glorious, but less glorious.  As one pastor has said, “The cross of atonement will vanish where [H]ell vanishes, because Christ bore the wrath of [H]ell at the cross. And if you don't believe in [H]ell then you have to turn the cross into something else, and it usually becomes sentimental.”

You will never truly be in awe of Jesus, you will never truly rejoice in forgiveness, you will never really have joy in your salvation, until you begin to understand what Jesus saved you from and what he bore upon Himself. The Gospel is only Good News if there is correspondingly terrible news for all of us, that we all have disobeyed God, and what we have earned for our rebellion is to be cast away from Him forever in Hell.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Without the understanding of the eternal separation from God in Hell that sin really deserves, we will never see the glory of the love of Jesus, and the infinite cost of the free gift of salvation that He offers: “Love so amazing, so divine, that demands my soul, my life, my all!

James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at safeharborpca@gmail.com.