I want to pause here for a while to write about the real gospel. Some people seem to have the wrong idea of just how things stand. Lately I have been reading some things by people who think that everyone will eventually be saved, regardless of their faith or relationship with Jesus. They teach that there is no hell or that hell isn’t as bad or as permanent as we have taught. Some think that all people are already saved.
These writers say things that sound right. They say, “It doesn’t make sense that God would send people to hell just for a few years of sins, especially when they didn’t even know they were doing anything wrong.” They believe that any concept of God as judgmental is opposed to His over-riding characteristic of love. So they suggest that there will be a way for people to turn to the Lord after death or that people don’t even have to turn to God to be saved. “After all,” they say, “What kind of loving God would send people to hell?” But there is an error here, an important one.
God doesn’t send anyone to Hell.
The message of the Scripture is that all have sinned and all already fall short of the glory of God. All people are born separated from the Lord. Mankind is naturally sinful and unclean. The normal destination for all people is hell because the normal state of all people is separation from God. God doesn’t have to send anyone there.
Now, I agree with the idea that we don’t really know much about hell. I think it is one of those doctrines that has been preached way past our real knowledge. Fire and brimstone, eternal suffering, demons with pitchforks—I can’t say what hell will be like. What I can say is that no one has to go there. If hell is simply (!) a state of separation from God, then it isn’t God’s fault that anyone is there.
You see, the whole Bible is about one message—God loves us and made a way of escape from hell. God has initiated, has worked, a way of salvation for us. The message of the gospel is good news! Jesus is the one way God has provided. Anyone who comes to God in Jesus will be saved. Anyone who does not will continue on his or her own way, and that way leads to hell.
You know, it isn’t up to you and me to like the idea of hell. In fact, if we hated it as much as God does we might be more compassionate. But we are not free to take it out of the gospel message just because we don’t like it.