Hell exists because God doesn’t want to lose any of us. Hell is a brilliant way of getting people to “humble up” and realize their stupidity, like the Rich Man in Luke 16. All his life he couldn’t care less about God or the poor, so into hell he went, verse 23, where he clearly deserved to be.
But in hell something happened to him. He called out for help. He didn’t demand help aggressively either. He begged for just one tiny drop of water to cool his tongue, verse 24. Gone was his arrogance and snotty attitude. Even when Abraham told him, “Too bad, old chap, you’re in hell because you deserve it and you can’t escape,” the Rich Man didn’t spit and fume and yell obscenities. Instead he begged – yes, “begged,” verse 27 – for Lazarus to be sent to his five brothers so they could be spared.
It’s like sending a child to his room when his attitude stinks and he won’t change it, or he’s got to the point he can’t change it. Pride, stubbornness, self-justification have all cemented his resistance. So he sits in his room fuming. But after a while he gets fed up with fuming. He hears the sounds of home – laughter, the clanking of dishes in the kitchen in preparation for supper, his favourite TV program on – and a little crack in the armour appears. He begins to wish he hadn’t been so stubborn and stupid. So he calls out asking if he can “come out now.” And if his attitude has truly “humbled up,” he’s allowed out. If not, he can stay there until his attitude really has changed.
It’s a very effective method for bringing a child round so he’s not consumed by his rotten attitude forever. And so is hell. It’s a holding tank for all those who proudly and obstinately refuse to listen to God or believe him. Either way, they’re in a rotten attitude that could easily have cemented their resistance to God forever. So, leave them in their miserable attitude in hell until they soften up and beg for help, just like the Rich Man.
God doesn’t force us to believe him, but he has his ways of showing us how stupid we are and what we’re missing out on to break through our resistance. Like hell. So why hell? Because God doesn’t want to lose any of us. He won’t lose us anyway because Christ holds all things together, Colossians 1:17, but hell plays a vital part in that too, in humbling up the proud and arrogant so they don’t lose out on the fun too.
Because God loves us.