Unending fire. Gnashing of teeth. Torment. Separation from God and all things good.
For most of my life, I believed this was the eventual fate for most people. But not my fate, of course. I knew the right things and the right people to avoid it.
And avoiding it was my prime directive. I recall many car rides in my teens where my stream of consciousness would drop me off at the topic of hell. Upon even a brief imaginative exercise of trying to picture being in hell for eternity, I would immediately turn to God in prayer and plead again for salvation from such a terrible future.
I must have prayed the sinner’s prayer dozens of times.
And further, most of my un-openness to changing my views had in some way to do with the fear of hell. “I don’t want to think the wrong things about God, theology, Jesus, the Bible or anything concerning religion or else I’ll lose favor with God and I might go to hell.” Oh yeah, and I was also in a community where “sinning” or doing wrong things should give you reason to consider you might not actually be saved.
And I am definitely a guy who does wrong things. Like every day.
So, I sometimes thought I was in danger of a one-way trip to hell, unwilling to shift my views out of fear of this potential outcome, and terrified that each new sin increased the likelihood I’d end up there. What a joy to be around at parties, right?
Perhaps surprisingly, it was at seminary that I began to ask a lot of questions about hell. What sorts of people are going there? For how long? Is it really a fair punishment? Does the Bible really teach the view I had held for so long? What other views of the afterlife are out there and what are the reasons to endorse them?
Please understand – I don’t have all the answers. But I have changed my views and am willing to do so moving forward. I want to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Click the button below to listen to our podcast episode on hell if you want to know more about the above questions. Join in the conversation!