Today, I had a good, practical question about my sermon on Hell this past Sunday (September 26, 2021). The question boiled down to this: if Hell only means destruction, if the consequence of Hell is not eternal torment, but rather simply that one ceases to exist, what reason is there to turn to God? What follows are short versions of my two best answers.
First, most people want to continue to exist. Sometimes, on hectic days, I think ceasing to exist wouldn’t be so bad—it would really free up my schedule—but most of the time, I fall into the human default position of wanting to continue being. When the early Methodists talked about “fleeing the wrath to come,” they were probably referring to eternal torment. However, for me, annihilation would still fall under the category of “the wrath to come.”
Second, while both fleeing Hell and moving toward God point you in the same general direction, your motivation can make a big difference. For example, would you want to marry someone who only wanted to get out of a bad situation, or would you prefer to marry someone who loved you and wanted to be with you? I think God will take us either way, but I can’t help but think that God would rather we come because God’s love pulls us in than that we come because the fear of Hell is pushing us away. Either way, we will be welcomed home, but our motivation makes a difference in the nature of our journey.