Comedian Sarah Silverman made a remarkable promise to her podcast listeners. She said, “If you’re someone who believes and fears hell, let me release you of that fear right now, there is no hell, I promise you! I mean what do I know? But I believe it with my whole heart.” She continues by sharing a story about when she told and even promised some kids exiting a Catholic school that there is no hell. When a friend suggested she could not tell other people’s children there is no hell, Silverman replied, “What, am I ruining hell for them?” To top it off, to solidify her claim to be a matter of fact, she said, “If there is a hell, may God strike me dead right now, right now.” After a few seconds pass, she said, “See, no God.”
Now, allow me to preface my comments by first saying that Sarah Silverman is undoubtedly entitled to her opinion and what she chooses to believe. That said, let’s address her claims of no hell and no God by first addressing the question of why God did not strike her down to prove He exists and that there is a place called hell. Then we will examine the reality of hell and its purpose, and we will find these answers not based on my promise but the authority of God’s word.
The Bible teaches that we are not to put the Lord to the test (Deut. 6:16); therefore, why did God not strike Silverman down when she put Him to the test? Apostle Peter gives us the answer, writing, “The Lord is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). God did not strike her down because He loves her, as He loves all people, a perfect unyielding infinite and longsuffering love that all would come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Therefore, in her attempt to prove there is no God, all she did was unknowingly provide a means to show God’s love, mercy, and grace towards her when she drew her next breath of air.
Now, is hell a real place? To answer that question, let’s first look at the origin of the term itself. The term hell transliterates to the Old Testament Greek word Gehenna, a name that, in its original use, referred to a place where the people of Jerusalem disposed of their waste and dead animals, a place where fires burned day and night. The overwhelming stench made it an undesirable place to be. The book of Revelation foretells about a time yet to come when those who rejected God’s gift of salvation in this life will be judged and stand guilty before God and subsequently cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone forever. It is what Scripture refers to as the second death, eternal separation from God.
During His 3-year ministry, Jesus taught more on the subject of hell than He did on the subject of heaven, which stresses the importance of it being a place to avoid at all costs. To express the second death in terms the people of that day could understand, He draws upon their understanding of Gehenna, which likely touched on their sense of sight and smell as well. He used Gehenna as a metaphor to describe the eternal state of the unrepentant sinner, which will be the lake of fire. One essential point to make is this: God did not create hell for people; He created hell for Satan and his demons, but a common question often asked by people is: “How can a loving God send people to hell?” The truth is God does not send anyone to hell; instead, people chose to go when they reject His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ willingly.
That brings us full circle to what Peter writes, expressing that it is not God’s desire for anyone to perish, to spend eternity separated from Him in the lake of fire. Jesus made this clear when He said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Some people prefer not to face and deal with their sin by choosing not to believe in the reality of hell and the existence of God. In the absence of following God’s divine word and employing His spiritual safeguards, it makes it easy for people to do what seems right in their own eyes and without the conviction of guilt. A mere look at the state of world affairs today shows us just how well that approach is working out.
In Silverman’s Twitter post, one person expressed not understanding the criteria to get to heaven. Quoting John 3:16, the person said it did not make sense why bad people in this life can go to heaven while good people can end up in hell. The answer is neither good nor bad people go to heaven; only forgiven people do. To receive the forgiveness of sin, a person must admit that he is a sinner and turn from sin, believe in his heart that Jesus is the Son of God, and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord. Yep! It’s that simple. Another person asked, “What crime could you commit that would justify an infinite time of the most cruel torture?” Apostle John answers that question with complete clarity in the book of Revelation. He wrote:
“The cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”Revelation 21:8
Because God desires that no one face the second death, that no one should perish in hell, He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to make atonement for the sins of the world. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and that is just what He did for us all. God so loves you, me, and everyone that He took the sins of the world upon Himself as Jesus to pay our penalty of death so that we could have eternal life in His heavenly presence. Is God real? Absolutely! Is there a hell? Yes, but there is heaven too, where God resides on His throne, and where He is, there He desires for you to be also. He loves you that much! The Bible states:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9
Quintanilla, M. (2021, January 11). Debate Sparks on Twitter after Comedian Sarah Silverman Asserts ‘There Is No Hell’. Retrieved from https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/milton-quintanilla/debate-sparks-on-twitter-after-comedian-sarah-silverman-asserts-there-is-no-hell.html
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, GET YOUR COPY TODAY!
“God never leaves you nor forsakes you.” I’ve heard that before. “Jesus will leave the 99 to come after you.” I’ve heard that one too. Meanwhile, fear creeps up when life hurls a season of loneliness our way, and poof! Churchy sayings hold as much weight as thin air. Believe it or not, God is cheering us on and inviting us to thrive amidst the loneliness. Yes, it’s weird and scary, but this emptiness is a safe space where you get to hear the God of everything speak the loudest. You’re safe because God is so good at owning goodness amidst our dank, confused, lonely seasons, and because of Him, you aren’t so by yourself.”