I often hear Christians of every stripe say they wish hell did not exist, or that no people would end up there. I understand what they mean. Hell is a gruesome prospect. The idea of people suffering for eternity is a grim one. It’s hard to be excited about a doctrine like this, particularly when all of us have family and loved ones that we have good reason to believe will end up in hell. On a purely emotional level, there is a sense in which all of us can say we wish there was no hell or that no one would go there.
That said, as Christians, are we truly honoring God when we bemoan hell? It’s as if we are embarrassed of our God, or think that God is making a mistake in sending people to hell for their moral crimes. Our apologies for hell are really apologies for God since hell is His idea. On a certain level, however, I think that all people—Christians and non-Christians—should want something like hell to exist. After all, hell is a place where justice is meted out on evil. We all complain about the problem of evil and lack of justice in this life, so why would we not want justice for those evils in the next? To say we wish hell did not exist is to say we wish there was no place of reckoning for evil. Do we really want to say we hope the wrongs will never be righted? Dennis Prager, himself a Jew, once wrote:
One, therefore, need not be a conservative Christian to believe in some form of hell for the evil. All one need be is a rational believer in a just God. For if there is a just God, it is inconceivable that those who do evil and those who do good have identical fates. A just God must care about justice, and since there is little justice in this world, there has to be in the next. (emphasis mine)
How could we not want to see Hitler pay for the crimes he committed against humanity? How could we want someone like Hitler to have the same fate as someone like Mother Theresa? Everything within us cries out that that would be unjust.
All of us deserve hell for our moral crimes, but thankfully, Jesus paid the penalty for those crimes and now we can be pardoned. In Jesus, God’s justice is satisfied for all those who trust in Christ.
Dennis Prager, “Is It OK to Hope Anyone Is In Hell?”; available from http://www.dennisprager.com/columns.aspx?g=aac5d2b3-b501-491d-be06-1cfcde056444&url=is_it_ok_to_hope_anyone_is_in_hell; Internet; accessed 23 July 2012.