Evangelical theologian John Piper has told parents that they need to teach their children about the horrors of hell, as a way to show God's glory and the coming final judgment.
Piper, who is the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, took a question Wednesday on his Desiring God website from a parent concerned about what he should tell his child, who has "extreme anxiety" about death, about the topic of hell.
The theologian told the parent, Michael, that it is better that his son is afraid of hell, than not be afraid at all.
"God does not intend for His children to experience hell as an end, but to experience the warning of hell as a means of clarifying and establishing these five great realities. This is true for a 6-year-old and it's true for a 60-year-old. Look at this moment, Michael, in the child's life as a golden opportunity for teaching him many wonderful things," Piper said.
He then listed five "great realities" about hell, firstly pointing out that the fear of hell "is a golden opportunity for treating God as big and glorious and utterly real."
"The reason hell is so terrible is because God is so great that despising Him is so evil that it deserves this terrible punishment," he argued.
"In other words, the horror of hell is a signpost concerning the infinite worth and preciousness and beauty and goodness and justness of God. If He were small, if God were small, hell would be lukewarm. Because He's great, scorning God is a horrible thing."
Next, Piper said that the topic is also a great opportunity to teach children about the seriousness of sin.
"Hell is all about the outcome of a life of sin, and therefore a child needs to understand what sin is. Sin is all about falling short of God's glory; that is, failing to see God as glorious and to honor Him and thank Him as glorious, and to follow Him and praise Him and glorify Him," he explained.
Thirdly, he said that fear of hell can also be used to bring awareness to a child of the "reality and justness of God's final judgment."
"What a gift for a child to grow up deeply convinced that the whole world will face judgment someday. This will give seriousness to the child's life. Parents worry far too much that their children will be unhappy in the fear of judgment when they ought to worry that their children will be happy with no fear of judgment," he explained.
As the fourth "truth," Piper said that the key to everything is to use the opportunity "to magnify the cross of Christ."
"What a golden moment for children to meet and know the living Christ and the glories of what He achieved on the cross. The remedy of our children's fear is not to hide hell, but to reveal Christ and the cross," he said.
"We should be prepared to paint the achievements of the cross in such lavish colors that they outshine the fears of hell."
Finally, the theologian insisted that the fear of hell can teach a child how to live a "fearless life of faith."
"If you can teach your child fearlessness in the face of hell, on the basis of Jesus's death and resurrection, you will have given him the ground of total fearlessness in life," he advised.
"Make him a warrior, or make her a warrior, because there isn't anything greater that they could ever face. Nothing will threaten them more than sin and death and hell."
Piper concluded: "If they know how to conquer sin and death and hell through Christ, then they can face anything."
Piper has tackled a number of big questions on Desiring God these past few months, and in February analyzed that Jesus Christ could possibly return to Earth before 1,000 years time.
"Christ could come very, very quickly," he predicted.
"I pray He does," he added.