Category Archives: Heaven Hell and the Afterlife

Hell: Should We Keep Quiet About It?

by Peter Ditzel

Laurel and Hardy making shush faces
Is it better to not talk about hell?

The thinking I want to address in this article is this: There are some people who profess Christianity who say that it doesn’t matter whether hell is real or not, the doctrine of hell is an unnecessary teaching that can be dispensed with, and, in fact, speaking of hell as a reality is harmful to the furtherance of Christianity. Their reasoning goes like this: Since (whether we believe in a literal hell or not) we would all agree that Christians are not going to hell, therefore Christians don’t need to hear anything about hell. They may as well just forget about it. Further, since many non-Christians refuse to believe in a God so cruel that He would condemn people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior to eternal torment in hell, then it would be better if we also stop talking to them about hell. In other words, we would get more people saved if we dropped hell from our vocabulary. Thus, why don’t we just stop talking about hell altogether? This sounds reasonable to many people. Is this sound thinking? Does the Bible support it? Is there a flaw somewhere?

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Q. Will the wicked really suffer eternal punishment in hell? It seems to me that the Bible may teach that they are merely executed.

A. The belief that the wicked will be executed after the resurrection is called annihilationism. Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the followers of Herbert W. Armstrong all believe this doctrine. A number of other theologians in more mainstream churches have also promoted annihilationism, or at least believed it to be a legitimate possibility based on their understanding of Scripture. Perhaps the most well known of these was the Anglican evangelical, John Stott. I believed a form of this teaching for many years when I was in the Worldwide Church of God. I no longer believe it to be the correct understanding, and I will try to briefly explain why.

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