Truth Is The Word

Hell

Why Hell?

Over the last few years Hell has become quite a hot topic (please excuse the pun but I just couldn’t resist it).  Rob Bell stirred up the flames of controversy with his book ‘Love wins’ and more recently Francis Chan has responded with his ‘Erasing Hell’. Bell and others claim that Hell can’t possibly exist as a ‘place’ of endless punishment because God is all loving. Chan, and most other evangelicals, claim that although the idea of eternal Hell is disquieting to say the least, it is unequivocally taught in scripture. I am not going to add to the debate concerning the biblical validity of Hell. I am satisfied that the scriptures, and Jesus in particular, provide ample evidence of its existence. I believe in the inspiration, authority, and trustworthiness of the Bible and so I see no point in re-asking the question ‘does Hell exist?’ because the biblical answer is a clear ‘yes it does.’ I want rather to ask, and attempt to respond to, a related but different question; why does Hell exist?’ A reasonable answer to this question will help those of us who are struggling to evaluate the various alternative theories that form the basis of the current debate. The immortality of the soul/spirit is one such theory – if the immaterial component of human nature does not exist eternally then perhaps there is no need for Hell and God could simply annihilate ‘sinners’. Another strand is Universalism – everyone will ultimately be saved, perhaps even the devil, and so Hell is redundant. I won’t attempt to address these issues in this short article but Bell and Brian McLaren have stated why they believe there is no purpose to a hell, so I want to state two reasons why I believe there is a need for Hell.

One reason Hell exists is because God is righteous and just. In Deuteronomy 32:4 God is described as, ‘a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he’.
Again, Abraham appeals to God’s character of righteousness with, ‘Far be it from you to do such a thing — to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:25). We come to understand what is right and fair because God has established the standard of justice and righteousness. Yet we know through observation and logical deduction that great injustice is not always punished, or even accounted for, in this life time. However, if God is righteous and just then how can a Hitler, Stalin, or Bundy receive the same eternal treatment as a Billy Graham? If there was no Hell then there would be no reason to believe that God was righteous and just.
Another reason Hell exists is because of the consequence of sin, which is death.
God told Adam that he would die if he chose to sinfully rebel against Him. Thousands of years later Paul wrote that ‘sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.’ (Romans 5:12). Unregenerate humankind exists in a state of separation from the presence, life, and wisdom of God. Unless people are spiritually born again (John 3:7) they remain separated from God. There is no biblical indication that this separation does not continue after physical death and there is ample biblical evidence that it does (Matthew 25:41-46 et al). This on-going, post-earth separation makes Hell a necessity. By the way, on earth nobody is totally separated from the influence of God because He is present by His Spirit through the church. However, Hell is characterised by an absolute separation from God. God is good, merciful, and loving so a state devoid of His qualities is indeed hellish.

I am a passionate advocate of Christocentric interpretation of scripture (see http://www.satsonline.org/userfiles/Peppler,%20The%20Christocentric%20Principle-A%20Jesus-Centred%20Hermeneutic.pdf) and it is significant that Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else recorded in the Bible. He taught, alluded to it, and told several parables concerning it. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3) and in Him ‘all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). So what Jesus said is definitive, and He said that the original reason why Hell was created was to provide an eternal abode for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Unfortunately, He made this statement in the context of the fate of those who do not live out a relationship with himself and His disciples.

Does Hell exist? Yes I surely believe it does. Is Hell necessary? Yes it is, as an eternal consequence of Gods righteousness and justice, and man’s rebellious separation from Him.

Suicidal message

The Sin of Suicide

The sin of suicide

Over one million people worldwide commit suicide every year, and for every one of those, there are another 25 people who attempted suicide but failed.

But surely, you say, this problem does not exist in the Christian community to anything like the same extent. Well, according to an article in Christianity Today ‘suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians’.

As a retired Pastor, I just hate to acknowledge that suicide is a problem for Christians… but it is.
Just over a month ago I spent two days ministering to a beautiful young Christian woman who had attempted to take her life three times in as many weeks. This last Sunday a Christian man gave testimony in the church service of how Jesus had recently changed his life, and then mentioned that just a couple of years ago he had tried to end it all. The reality is all around us and we dare not ignore it!

Some folk who believe in ‘the perseverance of the elect’ don’t believe that a Christian is not capable of committing suicide. So, if someone in their circle takes his own life, then he is deemed to have been ‘unsaved’ and his family and friends have to bear the pain of this judgement along with the agony of loss and guilt. I think that this sort of denial is singularly unhelpful, and actually very cruel.

The Roman Catholic church used to deny burial to those who took their own lives: They still hold that suicide is a mortal sin but have softened in how they deal with this tragedy. Some‘evangelicals’ are, I am sad to say, even more hard-line than 19th century Roman Catholics and label suicide as ‘a quick ticket to Hell’.

Is suicide offensive to God? Yes, I believe it is; it is a violation of His command not to murder (Exodus 20:13), and suicide is self-murder, and it is also a rejection of His gift of life. The violation of any of the Ten Commandments is surely offensive to God so why then is self-murder regarded as an irredeemable sin condemning the offender to Hell but, say, giving false testimony is not? The answer given by the ‘fast ticket to Hell’ brigade is that a person who commits suicide has no opportunity to repent and thus cannot be forgiven. But what then do Pauls’ words mean when he says; ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39)?

When I counsel a woman wanting to divorce her husband, I tell her that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) but that it is not the unforgivable sin and it will not consign her to Hell. Similarly, I would beseech someone contemplating suicide to NOT DO IT, and would certainly point out that it is offensive to God and devastating to loved ones… but I would NOT tell them that they will go to Hell if they act out their morbid wishes.

It is commonly said that suicide is the most selfish of sins because it leaves behind so much hurt and devastation in the lives of others, so why do people take their own lives? Here are some of the reasons I have encountered:

  • God is loveSome Christians are so beset by demonic powers, and so unaware of the authority they have in Christ Jesus, that they succumb to the voices in their heads and act to end their lives.
  • Others are brought so low by addictions and failures that they just cannot see a way to rise above the chaos they have created for themselves and others.
  • Yet others have come to the end of their resources and cannot face another day of living with crushing pain, poverty, or guilt.They are not will not be able to see even a glimmer of the hope we have in Jesus Christ and find thus their lives unbearable.
  • Some people even take their own lives because they truly believe at the time that it is the best solution to the problems confronting those they love most.
  • In many cases, it is a combination of several of these factors, and in most instances, alcohol, drugs or deep chemical depression play a major role.
A person contemplating suicide needs our love, compassion, and practical help, not our condemnation and judgement.Those who were close to a person who has committed suicide need our support, not our theological opinions.
We need never compromise our belief or sugar-coat what we understand the Bible to teach BUT we surely need to represent Jesus in such circumstances and talk and act as we know He would.

Do you know why I regard the suicide of a believer as such a tragedy? It is because a Christian who ends their own life is cutting short the opportunity that only this life on earth can offer; the opportunity of coming to know Jesus, becoming like Him, and helping others to do likewise. It is also tragic because it leaves behind a legacy of guilt, confusion, and excruciating emotional pain, and it breaks God’s heart.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.