7th February 2024

Greg Morse considers



"Hell Is for Real"

Weeks ago, I discovered how little I really believed in hell.

I am not sure how else to explain it. I realized it while at a children's play area, watching my three little ones run, jump, and waddle about.

Seated on the other side of the play place sat a young man lost on his phone.
He had several kids, several tattoos, and no wedding ring.
How he dressed and how he carried himself reminded me of the men I grew up with, the young man I was at his age.

Having read my Bible and having grown up in the area, I assumed he did not know the Lord.
More likely than not, he had never heard the true gospel. More likely than not, he didn't want to.

In that moment, I imagined myself walking over to share Christ with him, only to have him dismiss me as some corny, churchy, preachy-type (as I might have done at his age).
And there we would sit - me wishing I never walked over; he wishing the same.

Instead of getting up, though, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. And that is when it hit me:
I do not really believe in hell right now.

How could I?
My compassion blew away at a mere inconvenience. Jesus's doctrine of eternal, conscious torment was no real thing to me.
Nor was the eternal blessedness of heaven.

Missionaries have crossed oceans, left families, brought their coffins with them to foreign lands; yet there I sat, retreating at the mere thought of rejection.
What kind of faith was this?

The scary part, I realize, was that in that same moment, I could have started writing an article about hell, preached an impromptu sermon, debated an atheist on its necessity.

Yet, reciting Bible verses wasn't what was required - believing them was.
Across from me sat an immortal soul, and yet there I just sat, unwilling to travel even a few short steps to enter an awkward conversation that could have led him to eternal life.

I wish I could report that I stood up and began preaching.
I wish I could tell you that I walked over to that young man and prayerfully spoke words of life to his soul.
But I didn't.

To my shame, I suppressed the stirring, indulged unbelief, and heartlessly packed up my kids and left that man just where he sat.
Lord, have mercy upon us both.

How would our lives look differently, yours and mine, if we believed that hell is for real?
How many trivialities would simply shatter by believing what Jesus himself told us about the judgment to come?
Our Christlikeness can be rather selective at times, can't it?
Who believed in or spoke of hell more than Jesus?

All the apostle's teaching is Christ's teaching, but what did Jesus himself say about hell?

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'

Jesus gives us shocking glimpses of judgment in scalding and scarlet letters.
Scripture contains many more. We need them to rouse us to love, forgiveness, purity, patience, and to God himself.

Will we nod at them, close the book, and leave it upon the dresser?
Will these words not send us to the nations, to ambush sin, to walk across a playground?
Did Christ leave us here to wave at unbelievers as they sprint past us off the cliff?
Is this love for God and love for neighbour?

This is an edited version.
The full article (MUCH MORE) and Bible references are avaiable on request

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their son and two daughters.

John Piper
(@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Foundations for Lifelong Learning.


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