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Rick Warren Answers the Most Asked Questions on Hell

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John Piper asks Rick Warren straightforward questions about the nature of hell. Rick responds affirming a biblical view of hell as a literal place, but points out that the ultimate punishment is eternal separation from God.


John Piper sat down with Pastor Rick Warren, author of the New York Times best-selling book Purpose Driven Life, and asked him the straightforward questions about the nature of hell that we’ve all asked ourselves one time or another.

Ultimately, Warren “responds affirming a biblical view of hell as a literal place, but points out that the ultimate punishment is eternal separation from God.”

You can watch the full and extremely informative exchange below with a brief outline of Warren’s responses following.

1. What is hell? Is it literal?

“I believe in a literal hell. Jesus believed in a literal hell. Jesus talked about flames of fire. I believe in that. But to me, hell is eternal separation from God. It’s ultimate loneliness. This myth that people are going to see each other in hell, that they are going to party in hell—that’s just…It’s unloving to not tell the people the truth when you know its there.”

2. How do you answer people when they ask, ‘I don’t believe in Jesus, am I going to hell?’

“The way I [answer that] is a way that takes it off of me … Don’t make this your opinion versus their opinion. Lay if off on Jesus every time. And so I [answer like this], ‘Everybody is betting their life on something. Atheists are betting there is no God. Buddhists are betting on Buddha. I’m betting my life, that Jesus Christ was not a liar. That Jesus Christ was telling the truth. Jesus said, ‘No one comes to the Father, but by me.’ Now I didn’t say that. He said it. ‘I am the way.’ Not a good way, not the best way, not one of the ways, not a nice way—’I am the way, the truth and the life.’ I’m betting my life that He was telling the truth.”

3. Is the torment in hell conscious?

“Oh, I believe it is. And I believe it’s eternal.”

4. Can anybody get out of hell?

“No. No. Of course not. [I’m] not a universalist and I don’t believe in purgatory, which obviously isn’t in scripture. No, this is what motivates me toward evangelism … I am motivated by the fact that in the next 365 days 136,000 Californians will die and most of them will go into an eternity without Christ. In the next 365 days, 2.4 million Americans will die. Most of them will go into eternity without Christ. In the next 365 days, 74 million people in the world will go into eternity without Christ and without hope. I can’t live with that. Love compels us.”