It’s increasingly unpopular to believe anyone will spend eternity apart from God in an eternal hell. I would be quick to take the universalism approach, too, except I believe what Jesus says is true, including his teachings in Luke 13 regarding the narrow door. He states:
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
This is a parable, or story, but includes some specific (and disturbing) features. First, a lot of people will spend eternity apart from God, including many religious people.
Second, this eternal place apart from God will be sad and painful. I’m still not sure about a red Devil with a pointy tail (although the Bible is clear Satan is a real being), but “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth” are clear signs of anguish.
Third, God in His perfect mercy and grace will include people in heaven from all corners of the planet. In contrast with Christ’s opponents who believed law-observant Jews would dominate the comforts of the afterlife, Jesus made clear there is room for all who will run to Him as Lord.
If our decisions in this life determine where we spend the next, we would do well to live with eternity in mind–both for our own sakes and for those God brings our way today.
Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at readdB.com.