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The latest 9Marks eJournal takes up the difficult doctrine of hell, from a number of angles (pastorally, theologically, exegetically).

I’ll reproduce the contents below, but in the next post I’ll recommend a book that they don’t have listed but that would be my first recommendation for people struggling with this topic.

Pastoral Perspectives on Hell

Mark Dever, Pastoral Fearmongering, Manipulation, and Hell

Our culture sneers at fear, as if there really is nothing to fear but fear itself. Yet Jesus told people to fear hell, and pastors today should do the same.

Kevin DeYoung, There's Something Worse than Death
The doctrine of hell is ballast for our ministries, which will help us sail straight toward our most urgent task: proclaiming the gospel.

Sinclair Ferguson, What Then Shall We Preach on Hell?

Hell is an awful and overwhelming reality. Yet where Scripture speaks, pastors must not be silent. Here's some practical help for this demanding calling.

Hell in Biblical and Theological Perspective

Greg Gilbert, Why Hell Is Integral to the Gospel

Some think that by minimizing or ignoring hell, they are making God more glorious and more loving. Far from it! The horror of what we have been saved from only intensifies the glory and wonder of our salvation.

Andrew David Naselli, Hellfire and Brimstone: Interpreting the New Testament's Descriptions of Hell

The New Testament graphically and horrifically describes hell, which raises a thorny question: how should we interpret those dreadful images?

James M. Hamilton Jr., How Does Hell Glorify God?

Hell glorifies God by vindicating his holiness and faithfulness to his word, demonstrating his infinite worth, and magnifying his mercy and love toward the redeemed.

Gavin Ortlund, An Annotated Bibliography on Hell

This article contains brief reviews of seven key books on hell.

You can access the whole journal as a PDF by clicking the image below:

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28 thoughts on “9Marks Journal on Hell”

  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Thanks for the reminder of this sobering fact.

  2. Buck says:

    My niece graduated from Calvin Seminary a few years back. I am told she no longer believes in hell. Does anyone know what Calvin is teaching over there?

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    The Bible defines the boundary between between the temporaral and the eternal, the fallen and the redeemed, this present evil age and the age to come. Your niece is not reading the map correctly.

  4. Al Bennington says:

    Eternal conscious torment is a foundational piece of the fundamentalist’s house of cards. As soon as it is shifted, the whole house falls down. The sooner the better.
    And by the way, since 9Marks is calvinistic, they actually believe that who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is already decided before creation and nothing can change that (this is not a caricature). As it turns out – and you can see this logic at work in some of the essays – hell functions as a foil for God’s mercy to the elect. In other words, we’re supposed to be happier and worship more passionately because we made the cut and didn’t end up choking in flames for eternity by God’s decree like most of humanity. How sick is that?

    1. …hell functions as a foil for God’s mercy to the elect. In other words, we’re supposed to be happier and worship more passionately…

      That is precisely what Paul says in Romans 9:22-23: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called.”

      God endures for a time the blasphemy of the non-elect, who are vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, for the explicit purpose of making known the riches of His glory for the elect, who are vessels of mercy.

      1. Al Bennington says:

        Enjoy your yrr movement while it’s in its heyday. It won’t last as long as people like you epically fail to present the beauty of the gospel to a hurting world. I know that it got mentioned in TIME magazine but so have many other things that are now forgotten. It will always have its adherents but many will defect like myself and others I know personally. Your “I have a bible verse so I can say whatever I want” approach will guarantee that this movement will be quietly dismissed by everyone but fundamentalists.

        1. All I did was present a passage of Scripture that contradicted your statement, and paraphrased it a bit after quoting it. If that causes you to leap into something about the YRR movement, then the movement must be doing something right.

          1. Al Bennington says:

            What you’re not doing right is that you care so much about being right according to your interperative grid that you can casually speak about most of humanity being created to be tortured to increase your happiness. You have a “might is right” theology which is the theological equivalent of the rich getting richer at the expense of keeping the masses in poverty. It is sick and it is not going to capture the hearts of this generation no matter how many bible verses you quote. All that will accomplish is to turn people off to the bible. But you wont care – you’ll be “right”.

            1. 1. Nobody was casually speaking about hell. You assumed that. You seem to be pretty good at that.

              2. I do not have a “might is right” theology. You have no idea who I am or what I believe, beyond that Romans 9:22-23 is true.

              3. You’d do well to stop putting words in people’s mouths and listen for a while (Prov 17:28; 18:2; 18:13).

              1. Al Bennington says:

                Well then this will be my last post and I will end it by linking to a post over at imonk. I know you may not want to read it but I would encourage all readers of this blog to read it, and be familiar with the material on that blog. In this post the author expresses many of my concerns much better than I have expressed them and without the admittedly critical and dismissive tone.


              2. Al Bennington says:

                by the way, I can’t believe you just used the bible to tell me to “shut up”.

              3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                “by the way, I can’t believe you just used the bible to tell me to “shut up”.”

                How does it make you feel?

  5. Daryl says:


    You might be unaware, then, that this is also a calvinistic blog…as are most of its readers. (Yours truly included)

    1. Al Bennington says:

      quite aware.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    The doctrine of Hell is part of the Gospel.

    No Hell? What did Jesus get crucified for then?

    1. Al Bennington says:

      At issue is eternal conscious torment – the traditional view of hell. not the idea of judgment altogether.

      1. Bruce Russell says:

        I must admit that the typical evangelical service with its informality and rhythm/percussion based music seems deficient for the contemplation of these things. I think Al struggles with the idea that God could be this angry with people. I think the typical YRR service does convey a flippancy about God’s wrath.

        1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

          “I think Al struggles with the idea that God could be this angry with people.”

          Al, is this true? Has Bruce Russell expressed your struggle accurately?

  7. Paul C says:

    Notice in the OT, there is nothing that speaks directly of Hell. It was not a Hebrew belief (until Greek mythology got involved).

    Here’s a 3 part series that we’ve done, outlining that the message of the Bible is not heaven and hell but eternal life and death:

    We’ve gotten good feedback on this – so far.

  8. Gavin O. says:


    you write that “in the OT, there is nothing that speaks directly of Hell.”

    What do you do with Daniel 12:2? “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

    On your site you write that sheol “is defined as the place or state of the dead, without distinction of who the person is or how they lived.”

    Why then would the sons of Korah pray that they would, unlike the wicked, be delivered from sheol? Note the contrast of fates in vv. 14-15:

    “Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. [15] But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49:14-15).


  9. Paul C says:

    Yes, Gavin, there is such a thing as eternal separation from God – or the “second death” as Rev 20 & 21 tells us. So I would wholeheartedly agree with what Daniel 12 states.

    You referenced a quote on our site, it is true that ALL humanity goes to sheol at the time of death (see Dan 12:2 as an example). A good example would be Job’s lament:

    Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
    as infants who never see the light?
    There the wicked cease from troubling,
    and there the weary are at rest.
    There the prisoners are at ease together;
    they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
    The small and the great are there,
    and the slave is free from his master.

    Sheol is where we all go – the grave; death.

    This past weekend, we actually preached on Psalm 49. “In the morning” refers to the resurrection morning at the return of Christ. They (the evil) will not see life (read ‘death’), but not so for the godly… the grave will lose its sting on that day.

    Make sense?

    1. Gavin O. says:

      Hi Paul,

      we may be differing over semantics here – do you understand “eternal contempt” in Dan. 12:2 in the sense of annihilation? I think that breaks down the parallelism of the verse.

      I’d also differ on sheol – I think its meaning is much more complex in the OT. While sometimes its a generic word for “grave,” I think in other cases it takes on a more nuanced meaning – a kind of death from which the righteous are saved, as in Ps. 49:15.

      Bless you,


      1. Paul C says:

        Hey Gavin. Yes, annihilation would be a good description of what Daniel refers to in the verse mentioned. It chords with the “second death” of Rev 20 & 21 (notice that the “lake of fire” is not a burning hell but symbolically represents eternal separation, defined specifically as the “second death”).

        Your comment on Psalm 49 is precisely what I believe. All the righteous are saved from death. At death, we die. It is the resurrection at the return of Christ that brings us back to life (again, see the verse you mention in Daniel).

        Or, as Paul puts it (1 Cor 15):

        “For as in Adam all DIE, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, THEN AT HIS COMING those who belong to Christ.” (emphasis mine)

        You will not find even a single reference to Hell in the book of Acts or any of Paul’s epistles. Not one. Why? Because they preached the 2 final destinations of man as being life or death, not heaven or hell. The Lord Jesus was consistent in this as well… the most popular verse in scripture bearing this out: John 3:16.

        1. Gavin O. says:

          Thanks for the comment Paul. I now see that our differences appear to boil down to the annihilationism vs. traditional view, which is far too complex to discuss here. Suffice to say that in my opinion, the traditional view can account for the “death” language in the Bible while the annihilationist view cannot account for the myriad of other images and terms used to describe hell in the Bible.

          Feel free to comment on my blog if you want to interact further.

          Blessings to you,

  10. Stan Ermshar says:

    There is an honest difference of opinion as to whether hell is literal conscious torment or is it a just judgment that ends after a period of time in which justice is served?

    Phillip Hughes was Reformed in his theology yet believed in eventual annihilation as explained here:

    John Stott and John Wenham were 2 other fine scholars who were conservative yet differed with the traditional interpretation.

    It is only in apocalyptic symbolism that the doctrine seems to be taught. The gospel of John never speaks explcitly of eternal conscious torment.

    The synoptic gospels mention hell with the literal greek being Gehenna, which was a garbage dump which burned eternally as long as there was something to burn, and at the destruction of Jerusalem, in AD 70 there was a huge conflagration of fire erupting from these pits but these fires eventually went out.

    The ESV has a very strong wording in 2 Peter 2:5,6

    5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.
    This passage seems quite clear. Extinction of the wicked occurred at Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is an example of what will happen when God’s justice is satisfied.


  11. Gary Horn says:

    Interesting dialog between Gavin and Paul. It represents what’s best about the blog-o-sphere. Sadly, the worst is also represented here as well.

  12. casey says:

    I must admit that I don’t really understand Al’s tone and complaint. If you want to make the assertion that the church (far from just fundies) misunderstands the doctrine of Hell from the scriptures…that is one thing.

    But the way Al presents his case makes it osunds like he is incredulous that anyone could believe this, and that this is a rather new notion only being propogated by recent movment of fundamentalists or young reformed folks.

    For the record:

    1. fundies and younf Reformed folks are not the same thing.

    2. The doctinre of Hell that you seem to reject is just classical Christianity and has apparently been believed and taught by ALL major traditions of the Christian church for two millenia.

    3. Therefore, any doctrine that portrays Hell as annihalation or somehow only metaphorical bears a tremendous burden of proof.

    I’m all up for entertaining this discussion (not in these comments) but the emotion incredulity of Al’s posts seem extremey misplaced.

  13. To avoid teaching on the eternal punishing of the wicked, some argue that sins committed in a finite realm should not suffer an eternal consequence. Justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime. This argument may sound appealing on the surface but it fails at the Cross of Christ. Why did the infinite, eternal God have to come and die for the sins of finite creatures? Sin against an infinite God is infinite in consequence. If this is not so, we must imply that people can sufficiently pay the consequence of sin against God. If righteousness comes through law, Christ died needlessly.

    Tim Keller observed, “Unless we come to grips with this terrible doctrine, we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him, he was experiencing hell itself.” “It is only because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamation of grace and love are so brilliant and astounding.”

    See my piece on: “Eternal Punishing or Annihilation?”

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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