A Bible teacher in the Northwest asks for comment regarding the statement of Jerry Walls of Asbury Seminary, who wrote: “We cannot be moral without God, and we cannot have God without hell. Hell needs to make a comeback” (Christianity Today 6/16/97, “Can We Be Good Without Hell?).
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Many conscientious Christians, dedicated to evangelism and deeply committed to the authority of Scripture, simply cannot conceive that the God who loved sinners so much that he gave his Son on the cross for their salvation intends to preserve the lost alive for the sole purpose of torturing them throughout endless ages. These people hesitate to teach on hell — not for lack of biblical boldness, but from a nagging suspicion that the traditional understanding of hell is not biblical.
A return to simple scriptural language concerning final punishment looses these hesitant tongues. God will raise the saved unto immortality and incorruption, but Scripture breathes not a word about the wicked receiving either (1 Cor. 15:50-58). The lost will be raised, to be sure — but to condemnation rather than to live forever (John 5:28-29). Judged and banished from God’s presence, they will be expelled into the Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death (Matt. 13:40-43;.25:30, 41; Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8).
Jesus warns of everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46), and Paul tells us exactly what that punishment will be. It will be everlasting destruction (2 Thes. 1:9) — at the hands of God who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). We cannot possibly say it more plainly than this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Against such a backdrop of eternal death, the gospel promise of eternal life shines all the more brightly. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Those are our only alternatives, and now is the time to make them plain to a world so desperately in need of life.