Many of us do not thank God for hell. We may not even think about the idea. I know I (Mike) haven’t until the last year or so. There has been a nagging feeling in me about the limits of human justice that has made me more thoughtful of and thankful for hell. Let me explain.
Last December, in Newtown, CT, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot and killed 26 people (6 adults and 20 children). This Summer, reports came out of Ohio that Ariel Castro had kidnapped 3 ladies and had held them in his home for over 10 years. He would rape them, beat them, and even killed one of their babies by punching the lady in order to cause a miscarriage. The nation was shocked to hear of the evil that one man could invoke. Both events brought tears, anger, and fear. Both events have also brought a desire for justice to be served on these men, but both men have committed suicide. They murdered and raped and caused tremendous human pain, but now they are dead and the human justice system cannot give them jail time or torture or anything, they are dead.
If I believed that hell did not exist or that somehow these men will just reincarnate or be annihilated and cease existence, I would struggle. They would not have to pay for their crime. They would not receive punishment for the evil they had imposed.
How would I comfort a parent in Newtown if there is no hell? How would I counsel the rape victims who had a decade of torture if Castro just got away with it? If there is no hell, there is no comfort in justice being served when suicide follows heinous evil.
However, I’m thankful for hell. A Christian worldview shows that though human justice has its limits God’s justice does not. God’s justice extends to each and every human. A shooter cannot escape it and a rapist cannot avoid it. I’m grateful that these men who did monstrous crimes are now suffering for them. A man who beat a woman’s belly so she would miscarry a child is now experiencing weeping and gnashing of teeth. A man who heard the screams of children as he pulled the trigger now screams in unrelenting pain. Punishment is given and justice is served. I know it might sound odd, but I’m thankful for hell.
The Bible, however, says that all of us are running toward hell. We are children of wrath pursuing hell and fighting God. But this is where Jesus steps in. Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved.” Jesus stepped in and took the wrath for all who believe in him. He took the wrath and paid for it on the cross. He took our hell and he gave us His heaven. He took our sin and he imputed his righteousness to us. That is grace! And that is the only thing that separates me from same eternity as a murderer or a rapist. It doesn’t appear that Lanza or Castro ever experienced this grace. Let’s pray that others who are contemplating such crimes will know Jesus’ grace.
I’m thankful for hell, though I deserve to go there and I’m thankful for a future in heaven, though Jesus is the only one who deserves to be there.