Appendix 2. How Can There Be a Hell Like the Bible Describes?

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (4:44)

Second Thessalonians 1:9 talks about terrible judgment for those who reject Christ. In response to Biblical teaching about judgment, people often ask a difficult question: "How can there be a hell like the Bible describes?" While we can't cover the entire subject here, let me sketch the outlines of a response to this question.

Christian apologists Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli note that, "Of all the doctrines in Christianity, hell is probably the most difficult to defend, the most burdensome to believe, and the first to be abandoned."[344] That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't true. They observe that if there were no hell:

  1. Both Scripture and the church lie, for both clearly teach the reality of hell.
  2. Jesus himself must be a liar, for he was more explicit than anyone else in the Bible.
  3. We can change whatever doctrines we find unbearable or unacceptable.[345] 

If hell is true, then many other belief systems must be false. These include:

  1. Universalism or universal salvation.
  2. Hell is only in this life.
  3. Souls aren't eternal; they can be annihilated.
  4. Reincarnation.
  5. Hell is temporary.
  6. Hell is empty.[346]

These beliefs must be false, but we must assert that:

  1. God is not primarily a God of wrath, vengeance, and hate.
  2. Hell is not forced on the damned. Rather, God respects our freedom of choice.
  3. God's creation does not require a hell. Rather it was caused by rebellion and disobedience of angels and humans, not by God. God doesn't will damnation on anyone (Matthew 18:14).[347]
  4. Some say that we can't have eternal joy in heaven if we know that friends we had on earth are in hell. But that presupposes a lot of things about hell that the Bible doesn't teach.

Kreeft and Tacelli argue that:

  1. The punishment of hell is inevitable by natural law. If you reject the true God, the Source of all life, and his Savior Jesus Christ, then you naturally find death and misery as your inevitable punishment.
  2. If God is the source of love and joy in reality, then our rejection of him should result in pain and joylessness.
  3. Hell is privation, or deprivation of God.[348] It is "outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." It is being "shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

In the short scope of this lesson we can't develop all these arguments -- but they are powerful. To learn more, consult a book on Christian apologetics.

End Notes

[344] Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 282.

[345] Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook, p. 283.

[346] Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook, pp. 285-289.

[347] Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook, pp. 289-292.

[348] Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook, pp. 292-295.


Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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