“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
When speaking about hell, often times this question (and rightly so) is asked, “Why is hell everlasting?” Sin deserving punishments is understandable for many, but the duration of that punishment often breeds confusion. Why forever?
Locked from the Inside
There are many good answers to that question, but I will share one: hell is forever because those in hell never repent of their sins. In his excellent book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D.A. Carson explains this well:
Some people think of hell as a place where sinners will be crying out for another chance, begging for an opportunity to repent, with God somehow taking on a “tough guy” stance and declaring, “Sorry. You had your chance. Too late.” But the reality is infinitely more sobering. There is no evidence anywhere in the Bible that there is any repentance in hell. The biblical pictures suggest that evil and self-centeredness persist and persist – and so does the judgment. Men and women wantonly refuse to acknowledge God as God; they will not confess his essential rightness; they will not own his just requirements; they will not give up their perpetual desire to be the center of the universe; they will not accept forgiveness on the ground that God himself makes provision for sinners in the sacrifice of his own Son. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). (p. 49).
Hell is a place for rebels who gladly continue to rebel against God. There is weeping in hell (Luke 13:28), but it is not weeping of regret or repentance, but of anger and pain. However, though the pain is unfathomable, even the flames of hell are not hot enough to melt the hearts of its inhabitants. Those in hell willingly and spitefully continue in their sin, continue their rebellion, and continue their hated for God and therefore, hell will continue to shackle them. Hell is forever because repentance is refused. In this sense, hell is locked from the inside.
Resources on Hell
For some helpful resources about hell, make sure to check out the following:
- Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality. A free online journal with several helpful articles about hell and a helpful list of books on the subject for further study.
- The Importance of Hell by Tim Keller
- Paul On Hell by Douglas Moo
- Francis Turretin on the doctrine of Hell
- Hell by Thomas Boston
- Hell and Annihilationism by Sam Storms
- Speaking Seriously and Sensitively About Hell by Ligon Duncan
- A Review of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” by Kevin DeYoung
- Hell: Remembering the Aweful Reality in the 9 Marks Journal
- What Happens to Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel? by John Piper
- Universalism and the Reality of Eternal Punishment by Sinclair Ferguson
- The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell by John Piper
- How Could a Loving God Send Someone to Hell? by Al Mohler