Since the Net is all abuzz* about Rob Bell’s quasi-ambiguous questions that appear to deny hell in his infamous book trailer (maybe he’s someone who would now agree with me that book trailers are a bad development for Western civilization), I thought I would add my own dim echo to the discussion by citing the Puritan Thomas Watson’s answer** to the question of eternal punishment:
Here the question may be asked, Why should sin that is committed in a short time be punished eternally?
We must hold with Augustine, ‘that God’s judgments on the wicked, occultu esse possunt, injusta esse non possunt, may be secret, but never unjust.’ The reason why sin committed in a short time is eternally punished, is, because every sin is committed against an infinite essence, and no less than eternity of punishment can satisfy. Why is treason punished with confiscation and death, but because it is against the king’s person, which is sacred; much more that offence which is against God’s crown and dignity is of a heinous and infinite nature, and cannot be satisfied with less than eternal punishment. (Body of Divinity, 63)
We should observe that the denial of eternal punishment is not new, nor is the ever constant tendency of man to make both the eternal God and our sin against him a light thing. God does not rest upon us with the glory and majesty due him.
It should also tell us something that we never object to an eternal heaven for the saints, but we stumble at an eternal hell through the ever-constant noetic effects of sin.
Truly, though, the thought of an eternal hell is a terrifying idea. And there are countless remaining under the wrath of God even now. Let us not rest to be merely orthodox in our eschatology, but may we give great thanks to God for his incomprehensible mercy in our salvation and with zeal proclaim the good news of the reconciliation that Jesus brings through the forgiveness of sins in his blood, the one sacrifice that secures for us an eternal inheritance.
*Your heart goes out to Justin Taylor who is at the center after his initial post (now revised). In a Washington Post blog, Rachel Held Evans aptly but devastatingly put it: “Christians take to Twitter to debate the doctrine of hell.” Kevin DeYoung added sanity to the discussion here.
**I have also found Jonathan Edwards’s The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners very helpful on this issue; it is well worth your time.