Yesterday, I argued that there is a certain kind of beauty to the reality of hell.
Now, if that sentence is taken by itself, it sounds cruel and compassionless, but indeed when we consider what Revelation 19 records, we need to see that just as there is incredible beauty in the wedding feast of the lamb (Rev 19:6-10), there is a corresponding beauty in Christ’s decisive victory and eternal judgment over all those who stand against him.
Therefore, we look again at Revelation 19:1-5, to behold the beauty of the victorious Lord. But before reading on, please read yesterdays post; both are necessary to see how Scripture portrays Christ’s beautiful victory over his foes.
Last year, Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins, a book about “heaven, hell, and the fate over every person”sold more than 185,000 copies. When it was released, it took the # 2 spot on the NYT best-seller list. For all of 2011 it went in and out of the “Top 100”—often in the Top 10. The book tour included audiences of 3000 people. In all, it amassed an incredible response of a subject—hell—that most in our culture would choose to ignore. Sadly, the book’s presentation challenged orthodoxy and worse, misread the passages that defend the literal reality of eternal judgment.
Shortly after the book was released Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle released their response: Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. In their book, Chan and Sprinkle provided a strong, biblical exposition of the doctrine—there is a literal, conscious, eternal hell for those who are outside of Christ.
Their defense was needed, bold, and biblical. But was it beautiful? That is what Trevin Wax asked last year. And it is a valuable question. Can hell be beautiful? And if so, how? Does the Bible command orthodox Christians to love hell, or simply to believe that it exists? (This is a question that Kevin DeYoung wrestled with last year as well in his post: Is it Okay for Christians to Believe in the Doctrine of Hell But Not Like It?)
Such questions led me to preach a sermon last year entitle “The Beauty of Hell.” While not trying to paint a picture of hell as unalloyed beauty—because the vision of men and women made in God’s image suffering eternally is a horrific reality—it is vital for evangelicals to see that when all is said and done, the Scriptures portray God’s eternal victory over evil as a beautiful and glorious thing.
Accordingly, we will look at one passage which displays God’s eternal destruction of those in hell as a beautiful. In Revelation 19:1-5, John hears and records a chorus of hallelujahs. Each shout of praise tells something about God and his cosmic victory. These include the victorious judge, the eternal victory, the beauty of a defeated foe.