The title question comes from the headline story in Time Magazine. After reading the article, the writer did not deal so much with that particular question as he did with Rob Bell and his new book. My goal is not to write about Rob Bell or the book (since I have not read it), but I do want to talk briefly about the question: Is Hell dead?
Really to me the issue is not the question of whether there is hell, but rather it is the question of the wrath of God. Hell is the place where God pours His wrath out on those who “do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:7, read more about that verse here).
We are uncomfortable with the idea of the wrath of God, and because of this we are uncomfortable with hell. We have trumpeted God’s attribute of love, to the exclusion of His other characteristics. This has created a false image of God in our society. This false image has no place for a God of wrath.
But what does Scripture actually teach about God’s wrath? Does Scripture show that God pours out His wrath on people? Well, let’s look.
In the days of Noah the world was populated. Yet, the population was disobedient to God. The result, as we know, was God determined the destroy the world by the flood. God poured out His wrath upon all mankind because of their sin. In fact, only 8 souls were spared from God’s wrath.
Sodom and Gomorrah had sinned to the point that God had to act (read about the sin of Sodom here). Their unrighteous deeds resulted in God turning His wrath toward them in judgment. God’s wrath was poured out and the cities were destroyed. Once again we see that God pours His wrath out on disobedience.
We go on to the nation of Israel and the times God poured His wrath out upon His chosen people. No one could doubt that God loved Israel, but their rebellious disobedience resulted in God pouring out His wrath. He did so when they worshipped the golden calf. He did so when David issued a census. We could continue, but these examples are clear. We cannot understand the nature of God if we do not recognize God pours His wrath out on disobedience.
Jesus continued the discussion of God’s wrath, speaking of the day of Judgment when people will be separated between those who will receive God’s blessing and those who will receive God’s wrath. In the early church we are told of the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who were both killed because they lied to the Holy Spirit. Another example of God’s wrath being poured out.
God is love. 1 John clearly teaches that. 1 John also states God is light, and we must walk in the light if we are to have fellowship with God, and the blessing of the atoning work of Christ. If we refuse to walk in the light, but instead walk in disobedience, then God’s wrath will be poured out upon us. It might not be a popular message, but it is the truth. And sometimes we just need to be told the truth. The truth is God pours out His wrath against disobedience. And this will happen in hell. I wish hell was dead, but as long as men are rebellious hell is necessary.