Theologian John Piper has said that while hell will be “unspeakably terrible” for all unbelievers, there are five reasons some will suffer more than others.
In an episode of “Ask Pastor John” posted to Desiring God on Tuesday, the chancellor and professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary stated that Scripture reveals there will be “degrees of suffering in hell.”
“It will be unspeakably terrible for everyone who goes there — just unspeakably terrible, without any experience of good, no sight of beauty, no pleasant sounds, no bodily pleasures, no gratified appetites, no satisfied desires, no hopes fulfilled. That’s everybody,” Piper said.
“But although hell will be without all good for all unbelievers, it will be worse for some.”
Romans 2:5, for example, tells us that “we’re supposed to store up treasures in heaven by doing good deeds day after day,” Piper said. However, unbelievers do the opposite and store up wrath for themselves on the day “when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Piper then identified five reasons some will suffer in hell more than others.
First, Luke 12:48 states that “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Thus, “the more light you have, the more knowledge you have, the more truth you have, the worse your sin and punishment at rejecting it,” Piper said adding: “That’s right there in the texts.”
Second, the more “kindness God shows you” in “giving you many undeserved pleasures in this life,” the “more grievous will be your unbelief and sin, and the worse will be your punishment in hell,” he said.
Third, those who continually reject light and kindness will experience worse suffering in hell: “In other words, time comes into the picture,” the pastor explained. “Day after day after day, you keep on rejecting light after light after light, kindness after kindness after kindness. The longer this goes on, the worse things are going to be.”
Fourth, Piper argued that certain sins are “more heinous, more destructive, more blasphemous than others.” Thus, “not only the amount of sinning over time makes things worse, but also the degree of ugliness and horror, heinousness, and blasphemy also increases the suffering.”
Fifth, certain individuals demonstrate greater arrogance, greater conscious defiance, and more insolence than others, and therefore will experience a greater degree of punishment, the Don't Waste Your Life author posited.
All five of these reasons should “send us trembling with joy to the cross of Jesus and to the grace of God, which holds onto us in the forgiveness that the cross gives,” Piper said.
"They make us seriously vigilant not to misuse greater light and truth,” he said. “We should strive that the truth that comes to us would not come without humbling us, building our faith, increasing our love. In other words, don’t squander precious light that God gives you in his word and in his world.”
Piper also advised readers to be “seriously vigilant not to misuse all the pleasures of this life by treating them as God or a distraction from God;” to seek to “accumulate the fruit of righteousness;” and be “seriously vigilant over our pride.”
According to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, while 74 percent of Americans believe in Heaven, just 1 in 4 believe that those who do not know Christ will spend eternity in a place called Hell.
In a recent sermon, Life.Church Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel said that if he were the devil, he would try to convince humans that there is no Hell. But if it is real, “let’s not take it seriously and let’s believe that most people would not be going there.”
“If I could convince you of that, then you would probably live however you want,” he explained. “You would justify your sin, you would reject Christ, you would live with no real fear of God.”
“If you are a follower of Christ and I can convince you that Hell is not real or not that important, you would live ridiculously self-centered lives,” he continued. “You would very likely idolize comfort and fall in love with this world, you would reject sacrifice, you would avoid persecution, you would love now, and you would not likely share your faith with very many people and have no real sense of spiritual urgency.”
Groeschel described Hell as a “nonstop eternal fire with torture or suffering and unending pain.” While so many people have a problem with the idea of a good God sending “good people” to Hell, it’s important to understand that no one is “good.”
“If you, for a moment, stood in front of the holiness of God, you would recognize the depth of your wickedness,” he said. “By nature, we're sinful. We've all sinned. We have to recognize this about God. He is holy and He is just. He cannot be holy without being just, and because He is just, He must punish wrongdoing.”
But God is also love, the pastor emphasized, and demonstrated His love by sending Christ to die for humanity.
“Satan is a thief, and he is a liar who comes only to steal, kill and destroy,” Groeschel concluded. “Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and life to the full.’ That's why we want people to know Him, not just to avoid the horrors of Hell but to experience the grace, goodness, the power, the love, the mercy, holiness, the righteousness, and the love of a good God.”