As we gather in homes across the United States tomorrow for Thanksgiving Dinner, many people will be seeing one another for the first time in long time. The day will be filled with family, food and fellowship—often too much of each! As you sit around the dining table, or around the TV screen, I want to encourage you to think of those with you in a new and different way. Ask yourself, “Will I spend eternity with them?”
The Bible tells us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45b). In this life, everyone enjoys the blessings of God, but not everyone recognizes the source of those blessings. In James 1:17, the Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” God loves each and every person who has ever lived, and He blesses them daily with what theologians call ‘common grace’—meaning that everyone receives this unmerited favor from God.
But many people often wonder, “How can an all-loving God punish people with eternal suffering in hell?” First, we must understand that hell was created by God to punish Satan and his demons. Matthew 25:42 says that the place of eternal punishment was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Second, just because I don’t like something (e.g. punishment in hell) does not change whether or not it is true.
We have many descriptions of hell in the Bible. What we know for sure is that hell is a place where the presence of God is nonexistent. And if hell is the absence of God, then it is also the absence of everything good—joy, pleasure, laughter, music, art, food, water, etc. Can you imagine?
Mark Clark concludes that hell “is a place of emotional, psychological, and relational suffering and anguish. That’s what the images of darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and a ‘lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:15) are trying to convey” (The Problem of God 143). God patiently offers us the free gift of eternal life with Him, but when man exercises his free will and chooses not to follow God’s plan, then his choice has determined his fate.