Jesus went to prepare a home for us. A place is also being prepared for the devil. He doesn’t live there yet. He is called “the prince of the power of the air.” If someone told me to go to hell, I would tell him, “As best I understand, it is under construction and not yet ready for occupation.”
That changes at the end of the age when Satan is thrown into the lake (he does not go willingly) and meets up with the beast and false prophet, already there (Rev. 19:20, 20:10). They are the first three residents of hell, also called the lake of fire.
Hell is not created for human beings. They go there if they resist the evidence given them of a benevolent and purposeful Creator. The Judge, the Supreme Court of One, will say on that final day, “’Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:41,46).
The same Greek word for “eternal” is used for the saved and the unsaved. The destiny of the lost is not something to look forward to. And I don’t enjoy thinking about that. Like others, I have struggled with the idea of eternal judgment for temporal sin, for being good and kind as some are but for being blind to the reality of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.
How do I resolve this? Only by saying that I am not God. I know of two options out there. One is called annihilationism. It says that the unsaved are extinguished (annihilated) rather than suffering for an eternity. The other option is universalism, a doctrine embraced by many in the nominal church who have left their moorings in the authority of the Scriptures and have capitulated to the culture of humanism.
I say with much shame that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has taken this detour, and its leaders will stand in the judgment for their guilt in leading a large body of people into apostasy. I would not want to take their place on Judgment Day before the Lamb of God. They have made His sacrifice meaningless and unnecessary by inviting people regardless of creed or conduct into eternal salvation. They will discover to their horror that they were called instead to eternal judgment. And the verdict of the King will stand without an appeal.
Annihilationism comes closer to the truth, but it does not stand up under the scrutiny of the Word of God. Those who invent a safer place for the unredeemed do so perhaps with loving hearts. Bottom line: they fail to let the Scripture speak for itself. Who are we to tell a holy, just and true God what is fair? In the words of Paul, “Is there injustice with God…Who are you, a man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:14, 20).
A better alternative is to do what I can to see that people are given a clear choice between eternal salvation by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ or eternal punishment for rejecting the same. To share the good news, like Jesus we also share the bad news. Not to do so is like watching the blind head toward a cliff and not warning them. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you my six-page article on hell).