To modern ears hell is repugnant. It’s culturally backward, misinformed, and dangerous. People who believe in hell commit violent acts; they picket funerals; they’re angry bigots. If you must believe in hell, then most people would say it’s imprudent to speak of it or even think about it… but this is not a liberty Christians can take. Why? Because of who talked about it.
We like to imagine that Hell is an Old Testament thing, or at least an apostolic invention. We talk about the wrathful God of the Old Testament like the ugly boogeyman Christians hide beneath their beds, but none of this could be farther from the truth. It was Jesus, the gracious lover of whores, tax collectors, lepers, cripples, and beggars, who spoke most about hell than any other biblical teacher (more than Daniel, Isaiah, Peter, Paul and John combined).
How is that possible? How could the man who said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire”, also say “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”? (Mk. 9:43; Matt. 11:). It’s a valid question.
No one revels in the idea of hell. I don’t. God doesn’t (Ezk. 33:11). Eternal suffering and separation from God should not bring us joy, so we know that Jesus did not teach about hell because he loved hell. However, that does not mean that Hell was not important to Jesus. Hell matters to him and therefore it should matter to us.
The truth is, nothing made it into the Bible by accident. So over the next few weeks I’m going to ask some questions about hell, we can not only better our personal understand of what hell is, but also more deeply apply what this teaching means for our lives. Jesus (and the rest of the biblical authors) taught us about hell for a reason–lets endeavor to find out why.