gift of life #20
the purpose of hell
I’m a little bit older now, and I’m glad for it. I enjoyed raising my three daughters, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. I am glad some aspects of parenthood are now over for me. Top of that list is punishing the kids. I did it when I had to, but I never enjoyed it, and I didn’t want it to last any longer than necessary.
In the last session, I introduced the concept of the wrath of God. Yes, God will have to punish his naughty kids, too. But people teach a lot of ideas about God’s wrath that just don’t add up. Listen to what John the Baptist taught about the wrath to come:
Luke 3:7 “So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
Luke 3:9 “Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:17 “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.”
This was the very first message about final punishment in the New Testament. It was preached by John the Baptist, to his own fellow Israelites. In it, he spoke of God as if he was an orchard owner, who is going to cut down all his unfruitful trees, and burn them up in a fire. He spoke of God as if he was a wheat farmer, who is going to gather up all his good wheat, and throw the chaff into a pile and burn it up, in a fire that no one can put out.
Now what does this message tell us about the purpose of hell. Well, consider what it does not say. It does not say that the orchard owner takes pleasure in torturing his unfruitful trees for eternity. It does not say that the wheat farmer will try to burn up the chaff, but he will not be able to, because for some reason the chaff will prove to be indestructible. You see, an inextinguishable fire still burns up chaff. It’s not the chaff that’s inextinguishable. It’s the fire which the wheat farmer uses to burn the chaff up.
As a parent, I did not want to punish my children. But when I had to do it, I did it, and got it over with. That’s what John the Baptist taught about final punishment. At the end of the day, there will only be fruitful trees, because the fire will serve its purpose, destroying the unfruitful trees. At the end of the day, there will only be good wheat, because the fire will serve its purpose, destroying the chaff. That’s what hell is for. That is the purpose of hell.
I know, you’ve been taught something else. You have been taught that God’s holiness requires that unbelievers be consciously tortured for eternity. But what this text teaches is that God’s holiness requires an eternity without unbelievers. That’s what hell is for. That is the purpose of hell.
If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.
Listen to the audio file at Afterlife.