In an essay published in the last issue of Life News I argued that there is “One good thing about hell”—namely, that no one has to go there. Anyone and everyone who turns in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved from the eternal torment that God has prepared for rebellious angels and humans.
It now occurs to me that there is another good thing about hell: the dread of it can deliver people from the damnation of it. Warning people about it can help people escape from it.
The awful fear of hell can drive people to the awe-filled fear of God, which is the beginning of both wisdom and salvation. Jesus urged this fear upon people: he urged them to feel and act upon both the negative fear of hell and the positive fear of God. He does this repeatedly throughout the four Gospels and most emphatically in Matthew 10:28 (cf Luke 12:5): fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The gospel—the good news of salvation through faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us—the gospel is not just about entering heaven: it is also about escaping hell. It is not just about attaining God’s commendation: it is also about avoiding God’s condemnation.
Granted, fear of hell is a negative reason for coming to Jesus. But although it may not be the best reason, it is nonetheless a legitimate reason. If people cannot be allured by heaven let them be alarmed by hell. If they will not be drawn by love let them be driven by fear. Only, let them come! By all and any true means, let them come! There is time enough—there is an eternity of time—for them to learn of love and life and liberty, provide only that first they come! Believe in the Lord Jesus—truly believe in him for whatever true reason—and you will be saved!
It was the fear of hell, courtesy of a visiting evangelist, that first drove me to Jesus at the age of seven. After that, it didn’t take long for the love of Jesus and the loveliness of Jesus to become my main reasons for trusting Jesus. The fear of hell, having worked its good, fell away and I fell in love with the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, and he became the fairest of ten thousand to my soul. But he became this to me only because I came to him in repentance and faith; and I came to him primarily because I feared hell; and I feared hell because I was warned about it during the preaching of the gospel; and, to come full circle, I turned to Jesus because I realised that he is the only one who could save me from that dreadful place and lay to rest the dread of it.
A realisation of the reality and horror of hell can frighten a person into the arms of Jesus. And once his almighty arms are wrapped around someone, that one soon senses that he is gentle and kind-hearted and soon yearns to love and adore him. Thus the Great Escape from hell and torment quickly turns into the Great Endeavour of forever finding out the greatness of his loving heart.
We Christians need to stop thinking we are more sophisticated and sensible than Jesus, who plainly and repeatedly spoke of hell in order to save people from it. Occasionally, at least, we need to follow his lead and warn the lost that hell looms for them if they do not repent.
One good thing about hell is that no one has to go there because God desires all men to be saved and has made provision for their salvation through his Son, who gave himself as a ransom for us all, to be received by faith. Another good thing about hell is that it can prompt sinners to flee to Jesus, the one who has “the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18), the one from whose hand we cannot be snatched.
As for me, I was hounded into heaven by hell and I will forever thank God for it.