Hell is real, and Hell matters.
If this were not the case, then the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, is totally ridiculous (click here for Pastor Jake Johnson’s helpful review of Bell’s book). But Hell truly does matter—and not for just theological reasons, but practical ones also. Believing that Hell is real should impact your life.
So, here are four practical ways that believing in Hell should affect your life here on Earth:
1. It should give you greater love for what Jesus accomplished on the cross
Jesus did not die merely to save you from feeling bad about your unfulfilling life. He died to save you from his Father’s wrath against sin and then bring you into a relationship with him that could never be broken.
One of Hell’s greatest horrors is being cast away “from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9). If everything good and perfect comes from God (James 1:17), then to be shut out from his presence means solitary eternity without good—nobody to laugh with, nothing beautiful to admire, nobody to sympathize with your pain, no taste of food or drink, and no longing for friendship fulfilled.
In contrast, Jesus’ death accomplished eternal life—and all that goes with it: friendship (with God himself), camaraderie, singing, eating, drinking, working, delighting, laughing, and rejoicing—all centered and focused around Jesus and what he won for you. This new life with God begins now, and you should enjoy it.
2. It should give you a greater appreciation for what Jesus experienced on the cross
Jesus’s death on the cross was violent and awful. It was torture. But it was torture for two criminals next to him as well. What made Jesus’s crucifixion truly hellish was that he was experiencing separation from his Father—a taste of Hell. Let’s be clear: Jesus did not go to Hell when he died to suffer more there (he told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise”). But Jesus’s suffering on the cross was a taste of the agony of Hell. The weight and guilt of sin crushing down on him while his Father turned his face away. The Savior you treasure has tasted Hell for you.
3. It should remind you that even the smallest of sins sent Jesus to the cross
Jesus mentions Hell twelve times in the Gospels. A number of these times warn of the seriousness of sin. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus declares that it’s not just murderers who deserve Hell, but those who angrily say to a friend “You fool!” One of the major themes of Jesus’ teaching on Hell—appearing five times (Matt 5:30, 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47)—is that sin is so serious that it would be better to lose a body part causing you to sin than to keep it and go to Hell. Thus, Hell instructs us to fight sin with an amputation-level seriousness.
4. It should propel you into conversations about Jesus’s cross
The Bible says that those who reject Jesus will “perish” (John 3:16) and that “the wrath of God remains” on those who do not obey him (John 3:36). In other words, the stakes are high. People need to hear the good news about Jesus’s saving death. If you believe that being with Jesus is the most delightful thing you could experience and that those without him will experience a solitary eternity of misery apart from him, then you must offer the only hope—the cross of Jesus Christ. To say you believe in Hell but don’t ever talk about Jesus with those who are going there is, at best, inconsistent hypocrisy and, at worst, hate-filled indifference. This is why even Penn Jillette, a committed atheist, can applaud a Christian for genuinely sharing Jesus and ask, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Do you believe in Hell? If so, then let it transform the way you adore Jesus, the way you fight disobedience to Jesus, and the way you talk about Jesus.
What are some other practical reasons that Hell matters? What would you add?