Hell: A hard subject for anyone to talk about, there’s no denying that. It’s also a topic that is rarely (and healthily) talked about from modern-day pulpits, but nevertheless, we should talk about it. More than talk about it, we should discover what God’s word has to say about it.
In a recent conversation with Real Truth. Real Quick., Pastor Todd Wagner of Watermark Community Church in Texas did just that for us. Diving into the word, Wagner helps us better understand hell from a biblical perspective, ultimately answering: Is hell forever?
Wagner begins by setting the stage, saying that hell is never a subject that as Christians we should mock or take lightly. He starts, “If we understand the horrors of hell, which I don’t—I can’t get my arms around it, it’s not something we would ever kid about.”
But it is something, as Christians, we should explore—not seeking the limited thoughts of man, but the living word of God, instead. “Well, what does the Bible say [on the infinite suffering of hell]? Not what does Todd say, or John say,” encourages Wagner.
Pastor Wanger then goes on to share a few fundamental Biblical teachings on hell.
1. Hell is a place of eternal torment
“The Bible does teach about eternal torment … It is something that should compel us to be evangelistic, to be humble, to be gracious and to do everything we can to help other people understand what we’ve come to understand. Also, it’s something that will help us wait in the midst of intense suffering. And why we don’t take vengeance ourselves.”
2. Key bible verses on the torment of hell
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
“And the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name” (Revelation 14:11).
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
3. What is hell like?
“The reason I don’t understand how awful hell is, is because I don’t understand how good God is … and I certainly don’t know how awful [hell] is because even those who don’t know God right now are experiencing some of the grace of God here on this earth. The glory of the Lord is all over this earth. And God is kind to the wicked and the righteous. The rain falls on both of us the scripture says (Matthew 5:45). So, we don’t know how immensely awful it is to be completely separated from God. Even the most base, vile, rebellious person on earth is experiencing some level of God’s grace. Which is why we tell people, ‘Look, if you don’t know the Lord this is your heaven. And those of us that do know the Lord, this is your hell.’ It’s never going to get worse than this for us. And it’s never going to get better than this for them.”
4. Why is hell eternal?
“All sins are sins against God … to be wicked to a human being is to be wicked toward God’s opinion and toward God’s decree that man and others are valuable.”
After sharing a personal story illustrating his, at times, abundant desire for human vengeance. Wagner went on to share how human vengeance differs from God’s vengeance. “If God didn’t change my heart to help me to see the real glory of who He is, I think the number one problem I would have with God when I get to heaven is hell. And I think what He’s going to have to show me is, ‘Todd, I know you would [assign punishment to the wicked] for 100,000 years. But this isn’t a sin against you. You’re finite. So, your justice can be satisfied. I am infinite in my glory and infinite in my goodness. So, when they are rejecting me, they’re rejecting my eternal glory and my goodness. And so, if they don’t want to accept my eternal glorious provision for them, which is my Son, and the evidence of who I am—clearly seen throughout creation—then their offense is against me. And since you’re nothing like me, there’s no way you could understand eternal hell. But just know this, I’m an eternal God and to enjoy me is to enjoy me forever. And to not know me is to suffer in being away from me forever.'”
5. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked
“And we do know this, that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. And we do know that’s why He’s slow in bringing judgement. Not because He doesn’t care about those that are suffering right now … but because He loves the sinner and He desires that none should perish but all come to repentance.”
Pastor Wagner than closes by championing this about hell: “The Bible teaches it. It’s an awful truth. We ought to be compelled to do everything we can to let people know that God is eternally good and I can’t explain it away just because it’s too hard for me. It doesn’t make sense to me now and it won’t make sense to me in heaven until I see the fullness and glory of God.”