When A Loved One Goes to Hell

Derek Ouellette —  January 30, 2010

Evangelicals can be supremely insensitive.

We know the “facts”. We adhere to “the Word”. Feelings don’t matter when it comes to truth. We don’t care if someone gets hurt. It is not our job to be sensitive. It is our job to shove the cold hard facts down peoples throats and leave them in Gods hands. To tie’em down and feed them the organic food of Gods Word and let the Spirit do the rest.

And one such “cold hard fact” still for most Evangelicals is the reality of a place called Hell. A place of eternal torment. The very opposite of the blissful realm of Glory.

Though it seems Hells grip on the Evangelical mind is weaning, I think most still hold to its eternal existance as a real, literal place.

As do I.

But I don’t make that confession lightly.

Many Evangelicals who go around boldly (almost arrogantly) pronouncing Hell fire and Judgement on all “non-born-again” people without fear and trembling. They are akin to the trigger happy alcoholic bouncing around like a loose cannon! You’re bound to shoot someone, and maybe it’ll be your own head. And in the end, God’s judgement just may surprise you!

I hate Hell. I mean the idea of it. I wish it didn’t exist. I would prefer annihilation over the idea of Hell. That’s what I would prefer. But we need to be careful here. Careful not to shape God into my idea of Him. Not to imagine that God is like me. Sure I believe that God hates hell too. God also hates that people choose to go their. But there are somethings that God simply cannot do. God cannot go against His character.

Hell was never prepared for people anyways. It wasn’t a part of his plan. When he created people as everlasting beings, his purpose was for them to be forever lasting in His presence. But if they choose otherwise, and God (that is, GOD!) created them as eternal. Well, what’s to come of them? They don’t want to be with God. But they cannot cease to exist. So what?

Well, there’s this place out of the way where God is not. It’s a place that wouldn’t exist in the first place had not a rebellion in the spiritual realm taken place. It’s a place prepared by God for the one they call Satan. It’s the only other place to be. There is nowhere else.

So what’s a sensitive Evangelical like myself to do? I have had loved ones die outside of Christ, and some even “inside” of Christ, though by their rollercoaster lives you almost wouldn’t know it.

How should we Evangelics talk when someone we love dies. When by all known accounts they died apart from Christ? Or when someone we love spent their lives sitting on the fense, and we know what the bibles says about those who sit on the fence (no, I don’t mean they get wedgies).

Do we confess the facts. This is what we know that the bible says about this kind of person. This person outside of Christ. This person who tried to live one foot in and one foot out.

We Evangelics are too quick to profess what we know, because we think we know it all. We think we’ve got all the answers. We think the world is black and white. We think we see everything and God takes notes from us. We think we know everything and God asks us what to do with these people.

We’ve got it backwards.

God is Omniscient! God is Omnipresent! God is Infinite!

We are not.

So what should we do while someone is alive? We teach. We direct. We live Christ. We expound the Word. We disciple. We wrestle with people. We lead them to God. We plead for them on our knees.

But how should we talk after such a one has left us?

I suggest we begin with what we don’t know.

That we are finite.

That we know how things appeared, but we don’t know everything.

We must hold out hope in our ignorance.

We must.

I must.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://web.me.com/craigadams1/ Craig L. Adams

    Thanks. This is a difficult topic for me as well. I cannot embrace Universalism, but I cannot pronounce judgment either.

  • http://wearethestories.org Eric Gregory


    We pray.

    The Catholic (Roman, Anglican, etc.) and Orthodox churches have this correct. The reason why we pray for the departed is because we just don’t know. We pray that God would have mercy on them and that they would rest in Christ, regardless of how they lived their lives. It’s the same, for me at least, for suicides – we pray that God would have mercy on them and rest in Him.

    Evangelicals have a tendency to believe that there is no other opportunity for God to move once a person has passed out of this life, without any real evidence in Scripture (to my knowledge). Why do we assume that certain people have attained eschatological life everlasting while others do not? That, like Derek pointed out, is not our job. God is the one who judges, and we are not to pronounce judgment.

    (Embracing the doctrine of universal reconciliation is one way of sidestepping the issue, but I’m not confident in it, though I do certainly hope that all will be saved. Even Hitler.)