Don’t Distort Hell – It’s God’s Curse for Sin

In the opening of his excellent article, Divine Wrath: Consequence or Curse?, Kevin DeYoung explains C.S. Lewis’ famous description of hell and its strengths and weaknesses. In short, Lewis rightly pictured hell as the place of our own chosen consequences, but he failed to picture it as something infinitely worse:

But if that’s all we say about hell we are giving people a massively distorted view of divine punishment. Lewis’ depiction of God’s justice has an element of truth to it, but by itself it is monumentally misleading. Divine punishment–hell, in its eternal form–is not simply what we get because we make poor decisions or decide to live a selfish life. Hell is what we get because God is offended by our sin and punishes it. We see everywhere in Scripture that divine wrath is a curse on the ungodly, not a mere consequence for self-centered decisions. Hell is much more than God simply allowing us to have our own way and to experience all the bad effects of our choices. Hell is God’s active, just, holy wrath poured out on the disobedient.

DeYoung continues:

It is not wrong to describe hell as eternal separation from God or a Christless eternity. Hell is both these things. But these euphemisms must not swallow up the unpleasant notion that God’s judgment is more than a lack of something or someone, it is a divine curse upon the ungodly.

In the final section, “Covenantal Curses and a Covenantal Christ,” DeYoung explains hell within the framework of biblical theology:

The Bible, from start to finish, is a covenantal book, and covenants always contain blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. That’s why Revelation ends with the blessing “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3) and the curse “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). The storyline of the Bible only works with a God who rewards obedience and punishes disobedience.

And it’s only with this storyline that the gospel shines in all its glory. If we don’t own up to the graphic cursing language of both Testaments, we won’t marvel at the gruesome curse Christ bore for us (Gal. 3:10-14). It really is true: if you don’t have a God who hates sin, punishes sin, and curses sinners, then you will not end up with the biblical gospel. Because the good news is that the one who deserved only blessing, was stricken, smitten, and afflicted for us (Isaiah 53:4).

The whole world is under a curse and everyone must face the unflinching wrath of God. Some will face it on their own in this life and in the life to come. Others–praise God!–have died with Christ, been raised with Christ, and now enjoy all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). That’s not just a consequence of our good choices; that’s a Christ-bought, Spirit-wrought, God-given blessing.

Blessed are the children of Abraham whose covenant curses were satisfied though our covenant keeping Christ.


About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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