“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 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10
I didn’t write these verses. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, under the sovereign command of the Father himself, did. The Trinity commissioned this passage for you and I to read and embrace, whether we find it palatable or not.
Honestly, where’s the debate? If you take God seriously and Scripture seriously then you have to take hell seriously. This passage in particular is painfully straightforward and graphic about what happens to those who die without believing in Jesus. It doesn’t leave much room for intellectual naysayers to nay.
There’s a few blunt truths that pop out to me in these verses. First of all, hell is punitive. It is a punishment for not accepting (aka “obeying”) the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John put it this way in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for Godâ€™s wrath remains on them.” In the words of my friend Jason Petty (aka “Propaganda“) hell is “licking its lips” waiting to pounce on those who die without Christ.
It is real. It is raw. It is beyond my pay grade to understand but within my realm of responsibility to accept.
The second truth that jumps out to me from this passage in Thessalonians is that those who go to hell will suffer “everlasting destruction.” It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or Charles Spurgeon to figure out what this means. It means that people who go to hell will burn forever its flames (see Revelation 14:10,11; Revelation 20:11-15; Luke 16:19-31.)
Finally, it is clear from this passage that those who suffer this everlasting destruction will also be “shut out from the presence of the Lord.” This is not a temporary transition but an eternal condition.
It may be hard for our fishy, squishy theologies to absorb such a hard fact but, last time I checked, how it all pans out in the end is up to God not to us.
So is hell real? Yes. Is it eternal? Yes. Do the people who die without Christ suffer in its flames forever? Yes. Is it crystal clear in Scripture? Yes.
Does God want people to go there? No (2 Peter 3:9.) Does God enjoy the thought of sinners suffering forever in its flames? No. As God himself said in Ezekiel 18:23, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
Should we sit around, chit chat about this and that and watch people live their lives and die their deaths without doing our best to introduce them to Jesus Christ? No.