Now that we’ve asked, ‘who?’, ‘what?’, and ‘how?’, we must ask ‘why?’ Why does God tell us about hell? Why allow hell? Why send people there? I know these are heartfelt questions, because we all have friends and family who, according to the biblical standard, would be condemned. We rightly want to know why those we love go to hell?
First, God taught us about hell so that we could understand the seriousness of our sin. When humanity fell, every sphere of human life was cursed: our psychology, our emotions, our will, our sociology, our theology, our sexuality, our morality, our ethics, our everything. As a result, humanity does not rightly feel the weight of sin.
It’s interesting that in Genesis 3, before the fall, humans must be persuaded to sin. In Genesis 4, after the fall, humans must be dissuaded from sin. Prior to the fall, humanity saw the weight of sin and resisted; after the fall we began to say, “It’s not that big of a deal.”
In truth it is. Because of sin we murder, rape, lie, steal, destroy, deceive, gossip, hate, and curse. We worship anything and anyone, but God. We destroy our world and our lives as a result. We despair, we ache, we malign, we weep, we boast. Hell is the natural consequence of our sin against God (see ‘What the Hell?’ below). It is the result of God giving us what we want: to be left alone. Therefore, it is out of love and grace that God warns us of the consequences of sin, like a parent warning his child that the stove top he’s reaching for is hot. He wants us to know the cost of sin, so that we will seek a way out.
Second, God taught us about hell so that we would understand the depth of his love. If universalists are right in claiming that God welcomes everyone to heaven, then God is hardly loving. How is it loving to say, “Well, you’re a filthy, ugly being, but I’ll let it slide. You can come to heaven anyway.” Doesn’t true love work for the betterment of it’s object? Doesn’t true love cost something? Isn’t true love honest and good? If universalism is true, then God paid nothing to gain us, and he cares nothing about our spiritual condition. He sees our spiritual cancer, but does nothing to heal it.
The gospel tells us the story of a different God. It tells of Jesus Christ, the God-man, who loved us so deeply that he paid the cost of our sin. Jesus loved us so much, that he went through our hell on our behalf. He spilled his blood. He drank God’s wrath for us! He did this to make us more lovely, to heal our cancer. He paid a great cost, to make us his great treasure.
By getting rid of hell we disfigure God into a creepy grandfather just who wants all the youngins’ to have a fun time. But by trusting in the gospel, we unveil the scandoulously loving God. The God who went through hell to save his treasure, you and I.
That’s why hell matters.