I’ve been asked by friends, ‘If you don’t believe in Hell, then why did Jesus have to die?’ And while that’s a good point, there is of course far more to Jesus’s death than His simply ‘purchasing our salvation’. There is so much more to the Cross (by that, I mean Jesus’s death on the Cross) than sin, than wrath, than most of the other attributes and meanings we ascribe to it. The deepest meaning, though, is of course the Love of God for us. St. Paul captures it well in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
But the question of Hell, now, that’s another thing entirely. I personally do not believe that God torments unrepentant people forever in a fiery furnace. I’ve written lots before on this subject. But even if Hell does indeed exist, as Evangelical doctrine would have us believe, to see the purpose of Christ’s death as only being that of ‘saving’ us from that Hell, now that, to me, narrows down the immense breadth and scope of Christ’s death to just the one item – saving us from Hell – to the exclusion of everything else.
And then there’s the somewhat scary idea that some Christians come up with: if there’s no threat of Hell, can’t we just do as we like? If sin is forgiven, isn’t that just a licence to go and sin as much as we like? Well, to be honest, the Cross would not affect that; if we wanted to sin because sin is forgiven, then the threat of Hell is clearly not working. No, to me, this indicates a serious misunderstanding of Jesus’s finished work on the Cross, the effect of the knowledge of God’s Grace in our lives, and the whole idea that if not for this idea of God holding the threat of Hell over us, we would simply sin, sin, sin. But that doesn’t make any sense to me.
Anyway, I read an excellent article on this subject recently by a friend of mine, Mark Darling of Queensland, Australia. Mark is a very smart man whose background is in psychology and applied neuroscience. He puts these arguments forward so much better than I could; why would I want to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when Mark has already written such an excellent piece? I will pass you over to Mark’s article now. Click the link below to go to the article:
If Hell Doesn’t Exist Then Why the Cross?
This essay is a breath of fresh air – definitely go and read it!
Grace and Peace to you.