Atheists consider the teaching in the Bible about a place called hell to be a conclusive argument against Christianity and its belief in a loving God. As a Christian, I consider hell to be part of the good news. I don’t any vindictive feelings against other people, but if heaven is to be a good place, there must also be a place for all the bad things in this world.
And the world is full of bad things: hatred; envy; jealousy; greed; lust; terror; anger; bitterness; and the pain. suffering, sorrow and grief that they cause. We understand from the Bible that these things have their origin in Satan, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, along with the host of angels who followed him. It was for them that the everlasting fire of hell was prepared.
The hatred of Satan and his demon angels for God and all that is good drives them to attempt to destroy all the works of God. But they do not present themselves to us as enemies, but rather as our most reasonable friends. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Atheists have no explanation for the existence of evil. Nor do they have any explanation for good. Since man is purely an accident of natural forces, there can be no objective moral basis for right and wrong. All is rationalized as man’s instinct for self-preservation. Thus it would be perfectly natural for me to try to preserve myself at the expense of someone else. Societies therefore must make laws to create order and protect the weak, but their is no objective moral foundation for those laws.
Thus our world becomes more and more chaotic, with numberless special interest groups shrieking out their demands for recognition of their rights and for protection from everyone else. The Bible’s claim that all this is happening because the devil knows that his days are numbered and has sent out his spirits to deceive the whole world begins to seem the best explanation for what is happening.
Hope is offered to us in a most paradoxical way. God sent His Son into this world who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; therefore Satan stirred up so much hatred against Him that He was nailed to a cross and left to die. Yet it was precisely by His death on the cross that Jesus won the victory over Satan and his powers.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15).
This is the source of the hope of heaven for a Christian who has repented of his allegiance to the forces of evil and turned with all his heart to follow Christ. However, in order for heaven to be a place that is holy and pure, free from all the toxic effects of Satan’s realm, there must also be another place for all these spirits that have had such a toxic effect on mankind. Unfortunately, this means that in order to maintain the purity of heaven, all people who have willingly contaminated themselves by their allegiance to these toxic forces must also be sent to hell.
This is not vindictiveness on God’s part. He has made a way for all mankind to avoid such a doom, He is calling all men, everywhere and not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The most horrible part of the eternal torment of hell will be the knowledge that one is there by his own choice. The memory of the time, or times, that the way of escape was offered in this life will be forever engraved upon the memory of the damned.
Yet this terrible reality is not the reason that most people turn to God for salvation. It is not the fear of hell, but the longing for something better than this world has to offer that leads us to search for answers to the troubles of this life. And the only answer that makes any sense is that we are made in the likeness of God and there is something within us that continually searches to be reunited with our Creator. To attempt to deny this leads to alienation from anything that would give life meaning and purpose.