Is Hell Real? Well, Here’s the Thing

Jason Inman • 3 minutes

Is hell real? Let’s get into that. But first, a quote from a well-respected British-born Canadian theologian.

“Hell appears as God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves.” —J.I. Packer

The Bible has two consistent settings. We hear about them from the beginning to the end, over and over. Heaven and earth. But there’s a third setting in the Bible: Hell.

Many of us are uncomfortable with even the notion of hell. So we ask this question, “Is hell real?” not just because we don’t know much about it or because of the ways Jesus refers to it, but because we wonder, “How could a loving God allow people to go to hell?”

God in His goodness gave us choice, showed us where it can lead us, let us choose our way, and then allowed us to walk in the way we choose.

Here’s the thing, God didn’t create choice and then force us to choose Him. That would remove the reality of choice. He didn’t create choice and take away its consequences. That would remove the validity of choice. Finally, God didn’t create and then fail to show us the outcomes. That would remove the transparency of choice. No, God in His goodness gave us choice, showed us where it can lead us, let us choose our way, and then allowed us to walk in the way we choose.

What Is Hell Like?

Hell is at the end of a long road of choices to live without God. It’s the outcome of making that choice so many times that it becomes a belief system, so many times that it becomes a reality, forever. Hell is a result of God’s loving decision not to force us to choose Him.

Jesus’ life on earth, death, and resurrection provided a way for anyone to choose eternal life with God. Basically, He came to defeat the power of death and hell.

Jesus often called hell by the name of a local dump and mass grave where criminals’ bodies and trash were consumed by fire and maggots—Gehenna. Another time, He called hell a place where even the maggots never died. In other words, hell eternally consumes its residents. It’s the return on every effort to quench desire outside of God’s graces. It’s where everything there is comes from the never-ending desire to fill up with self-made emptiness. It’s thirst embodied, burning up just by trying to drink itself.  

Good News!

If you’re following Jesus, hell will not be the setting of your soul. Still, following Jesus means living lives that defeat and empty hell. The Lord is willing that none should perish. So, how can you partner with God’s will so that nobody will choose hell?

Still asking is hell real? Here are some parts of the Bible I read while writing this post.