by Jeff Foerster
I am troubled by Hell. I don’t like it. No, not one bit. I cheer for the happy ending in movies and take pleasure in life’s lessons learned in literature. Those I know with ease, and those I find little in common with in this life; I want for all of them to know Jesus, and to love Him for who He is. I want their spirits to shout with mine for joy that God is the Redeemer and Guardian of our souls. I want fellowship with even those I should hate if not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
I want warm summer days all year through, and golden fields of endless grain undulating from the rhythmic touch of an unseen hand. I want sunlight glinting and rainbows bursting. I want laughter—uncontrollable ‘til it hurts laughter. I want to star in my own movie, with clever conversation and admiring eyes upon me. I want a soundtrack playing pitch-perfect melodies, mounting to crescendo at just the right moment. I want vine-ripened watermelon sliced, seeded, and chilled, never seeing nor sensing dirt nor sweat of the field.
Oh yes, and I want a universe where Hell is unpopulated. In fact, I would like for Hell to not only lack people, but even its own existence. I want God to take us all, like naïve two-year-olds, by the hand and lead us forcefully, if necessary, where it is good to go. I want Him to usurp the authority of the individual to choose and save them from the consequences of their choices.
This is my desire, though reality presses in upon it. Narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and few there are who will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). I want to ask questions like, “Why did God make people who He knew would never believe?” and, “Why does Hell last for an eternity?” These are two of many problems that continue to perplex me about the reality of Hell.
Wherever we go and whatever we say about Hell must be informed by the complete context of Scripture. We must listen carefully to what God has determined we need to know about any subject, and that includes the staggering significance of our place in eternity. There are answers available to some of our questions if we will spend time seeking them where they may be found (the Bible) and lay down our defenses, looking to the character of God for insight and rest.
You see, we have a God who, though entirely able, does not seek to escape hardship and anguish. Instead, He brings himself right in the middle of it. Scripture tells us that God does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, this is the same God who created man, knowing what he would do, choosing to turn away from his Creator and toward sin. Even so, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33:11).
And then there was the cross—God laid out. Jesus on the cross was God made visible to human eyes for all of history to come. Jesus took suffering upon Himself, He did not run nor hide. This act of great humility should not be set aside when hell comes into view.
I have not yet come to a place without questions and thoughts which trouble me. But this I know: If there is anybody I trust with Hell, anyone I would rest at ease knowing control is in His hands, it is the LORD God, righteous and holy, compassionate, and longsuffering.