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New City Catechism 28.2

Question 28: What happens after death to those not united to Christ by faith?

Answer: At the day of judgment they will receive the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them. They will be cast out from the favorable presence of God, into hell, to be justly and grievously punished, forever.

The doctrines of the final judgment and hell have been among the most controversial in the history of the Christian church. The main reason for this controversy is the overwhelming shock to our natural, moral sensibilities the doctrine of hell presents to us. It is beyond our ability to take in the horror of human beings, made in God’s image, suffering the terror of his wrath forever, with no hope of escape. Some Christians, guided by their own ideas and preferences instead of Scripture, have determined to reject this historic teaching of the church. It simply doesn’t fit into their understanding of what God is like.

But let this be a lesson for us in submitting our own ideas and sensibilities to what God has revealed instead of forcing God to fit his truth into our preconceived notions. When we reorient our perspective from a man-centered to a God-centered view, the doctrine of hell falls right into place. Hell is God’s final, just answer to the rebellion of the demonic realm and of unbelieving humanity. It is the definitive statement from God that he is resolutely opposed to all that is evil and completely true to himself in all that he does. Without the doctrine of hell, the whole fabric of Christian teaching would unravel, because we would be left with a view of God and evil that is inconsistent with his absolute holiness.

Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Matthew 10:28. What does this verse teach about man’s power over us vs. God’s power? What does it teach about the nature of the sufferings of hell? What conclusion should we draw from it about how we should live today?

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