Hell is real. That’s not a popular belief, but the validity of hell’s reality is not dependent on its acceptance. This realm set aside for those who, having not been forgiven of their cosmic rebellion against God and therefore will be eternally separated from Him, is real because the Bible says it is in various places (Matt. 10:28; Matt. 25:41; Jude 1:7; Rev. 21:8).
Hell is real whether or not we want to admit it is. But frightening as it is, the reality of hell is actually good news. Here are three reasons why:
1. Because it means Jesus is trustworthy.
Though the Bible talks about hell lots of times and in lots of contexts, many of them come from Jesus Himself. In fact, perhaps the most vivid description comes one of Jesus’ parables about a man who lived on the lowest rung of the ladder in life and another who lived in luxury. But when both died, their positions were reversed with one existing in eternity in heaven and the other languishing in hell.
If hell were not real, then Jesus was badly mistaken. And if Jesus were badly mistaken about something as important as this, how can He be trusted when He tells us anything else? That’s the first reason the reality of hell is good news – it’s because it once again reminds us of the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ.
2. Because it means justice is real.
Everyone would say that justice is a good thing. We generally want our laws, our nations, and our judges to be just. People should be treated fairly in our society. Though we agree with this, we would also have to admit that justice is idealistic. We look around all the time and see the wicked seeming to prosper while the righteous continue to suffer. Like Jeremiah the prophet, we look at the world and cry out:
You are always righteous, Lord,
when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease? (Jer. 12:1).
This is why the reality of hell is good news. It means our current concept and experience of justice is not final. It means that there is more yet to come, and that justice will, eternally be executed.
3. It means God is good.
One of the reasons we don’t like to think too much about hell is because we struggle with a God, who is good, sending people there. But consider for a moment what the “badness” of hell really means.
We often judge an action not based purely on the action, but on the person that action is committed against. For example, I might slap a buddy on the back – hard – and not think twice about it, but if I did that same action to a 5-year-old it is suddenly much worse.
In a similar way, the badness of hell reflects the goodness of God. Indeed, this is why sin is so heinous – it’s because God is so loving. So kind. So good.
Let us not be the kind of people who pick and choose the parts of faith that taste the best to us, as if Christianity is like some kind of cafeteria line. Instead, let us believe in what God has told us is real. And may that belief draw us into a greater appreciation of who He is and what He has done on our behalf.