There has been a lot of press on hell this year. With books by Bell, Chan and everyone else it seems if it is a hot button topic. It was weird when Love Wins by Bell came out because it felt like some of us young Reformed guys had restate the doctrine of hell so passionately that it seemed like we were glad that people were going to hell. I think this has to do with young guys (myself included) and our fight mentality. See, when people are attacking a biblical doctrine we want to fight back but in doing so we can come off sounding calloused and unloving. I think we young reformed guys generally suck at preaching hell. Here are three reflections on hell and our preaching of it:
When I read the book of Jonah I am blown away by how much this book slaps us young reformed guys in the face. Here is Jonah who cares more about a plant than a whole city of people going to hell (Jonah 4:10-11). But we see in these same verses (and in the rest of the book) God has great compassion on the great city of Nineveh. We young reformed guys suck at preaching hell when we don’t have Gods tears for the lost.
Secondly, hell is neither the motivation nor the highlight of our preaching. Paul says it is the love of Christ that compels him (2 Cor 5:14). The love of Christ displayed in the gospel is not only the motivation for preaching but it is the thing we are trying to win people to. Do we preach hell? Yes we do but it is not our greatest weapon for converting people. Our greatest weapon is the love of God. We young reformed guys suck at preaching hell when we use hell as a stick with which we get people into the kingdom.
Hell is also used as a deterrent to sin. We are told that we should cut off our hand rather than face the fires of hell (Matthew 5:27-30). So hell is used as a deterrent for believers to sin. This means that we use hell in our lives to see the gravity of our sin and therefore our need to take drastic measures to stop sinning. We young reformed guys suck at preaching hell when we don’t see it as confronting us in our sin just as much as it confronts anyone else in theirs.
Do we need to preach hell? Yes but lets have tears for the lost as we do it. John Blanchard in a book called Whatever Happened to Hell tells this story:
Dense fog covered the M25 freeway a few miles south of London on 12th December 1984. The hazard warning lights were on but were ignored by most drivers. About 6.15 am, a truck carrying huge rolls of paper was involved in an accident. Within minutes the freeway looked like a bloody battlefield. Dozens of cars were wrecked. Ten people were dead. A police patrol car was soon on the scene. Two policemen ran up the freeway trying to stop the oncoming traffic. They waved their arms, shouting loudly, but most drivers ignored the warning and raced towards the disaster. The policemen were so exasperated that they picked up the traffic cones on the road and flung them at the windscreens of cars to warn the drivers of the danger. One policeman told of the tears that streamed down his face as cars raced past and he waited to hear the sickening thud of impact as they hit the mass of wreckage down the freeway.
When we preach hell we need to be like those policemen, pleading with tears in our eyes, praying and preaching so that our listeners will not go to hell. When we preach hell like that us reformed guys won’t suck at preaching hell.
 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1993), 297