I just finished a paper on hell. I actually found it to be a totally fascinating topic to study. I have heard lots about hell but had never really bothered to spend any time studying it. My opinions on hell were formed by popular opinion not on fact or careful study of the topic.
One of the major problems that I have with hell is the way that church uses hell. Often hell has been used induce fear in people. Using fear as a motivating factor we try and get people to do a couple of things. We try and get people to become Christians. I remember going to play at a church that was about what happens right after death. Some were welcomed into heaven and others were sent to hell. Hardly no imagination went into what heaven is like but hell was vividly portrayed. The goal was to scared non-believers to become Christians. The problem with this is that God wants us to come to him out of love not out of fear. Christianity is more than just praying a little prayer is about being a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We also use hell to try and motivate Christians to share the gospel - but once again I do not think fear is good motivating factor. In fact I believe Christians should never have fear as the primary motivating factor in their life.
Now hell is a reality - though it is not what I think most people think it is. So how should the church use it? Well I believe there are two ways. One is to highlight to people that life matters. The choices that we make here on earth are significant. We get to shape who we will become. Tom Wright states ÂThose who persistently refuse to follow Jesus, the true Image of God, will by their own choice become less and less like him, that is, less and less truly human.Â (Following Jesus). The second thing is to realize that hell can become a reality here on earth. I was talking to a friend who was iRwandada during thmassacreer. He talked about walking through streets filled with dead people. He stated from that point on he could never water down hell. Tom Wright also states that so often we use passages in the bible that we think refer to hell after death when they really refer to hell here on earth. Any use of hell should motivate to be concerned with this world. After all we are to extend the Kingdom of God on earth which means the opposite is possible - hell on earth.