The doctrine of hell/eternal punishment is not a popular message in our pluralistic age today. Hell/eternal punishment is quite frankly culturally unacceptable. Regrettably, eternal punishment is not often preached, taught or discussed in the church today.
Universalism and subtle shades of it have become increasingly popular in certain segments of the church. Annihilationism (fire then nothing) has also been gaining ground in more conservative, evangelical segments of the church in our time. Some evangelical theologians have even held the possibility of postmortem conversions (i.e., future chances for salvation after death).
Nonetheless, those who claim to be evangelical (i.e., those who are wholly concerned with the evangel [i.e., the Good News] and its free offer), must also be concerned to understand, teach and confess the doctrine of hell. There really is both very bad news and very good news.
Jesus certainly didn’t evade the reality of hell. Any cursory reading of the four Gospels reveals that Jesus devoted a great deal of His teaching to the reality of eternal punishment and the cruciality of avoiding it (cf., Mk. 9:43-47).
To be sure, the reality of hell is not a pleasant, “Our Daily Bread,” kind of devotional thought for the day. The Lord, the Scriptures tell us, takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live…,” (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11).
Yet, the Scriptures set forth unequivocally that hell is a real place and will be occupied with real people who are eternally separated from God because they refused the Gospel (cf., 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
But, the question remains, in what sense will people be separated from God? How is hell separation from God if God is omnipresent? Is hell really separation from God?
Martin, over at Against Heresies has written a very helpful piece on this very issue: Separation From God’s Presence. Be sure to check it out.