If heaven causes anxiety in your children, hell will drive them around the bend. Honestly, when I was a kid, I was far less worried about going to hell myself, as I was worried about those I loved going there. Just as having an accurate understanding of heaven is important for our kids, having an accurate understanding of hell is as well.
So how to approach the subject? Here are some ideas.
Show them what the Bible teaches about hell
If your child comes to you and asks you questions about hell, or expressed fear about hell, take them to the Bible first. The Bible describes a God who is absolutely holy and just, but also merciful and compassionate (Ps 147:3; Ex 34:5-6; 2 Ki 13:23; Ne 9:19; Mk 1:41; Mt 9:36; Lk 15:20). Also, no one will be surprised if they go to hell (Ro 1:20). But make it clear that the Bible does teach that people who choose to reject Jesus will spend eternity separated from him (see list below.)
We can’t be afraid of those things that make us uncomfortable. Hell is a reality, this is what the Bible teaches.
Help them to think logically about hell and judgement
Often people will say that it is unfair of God to send people to hell for eternity. But we need to help think properly about this belief. First of all, the Bible assures us that God is very just (Lk 18:7; Ac 17:31; 1 Jn 1:9) and very loving (Dt 10:12-19; 1 Jn 4:8; among many, many others.)
There is what I call the push-pull of God’s love-hate. God’s love pulls Him towards us, but our sin pushes Him away. We can tell our kids that God loves all people, but He cannot be with people who choose to disobey Him, He’s just too holy – too good!
If someone does very, very awful things on earth we wouldn’t expect that they would be in heaven, no there is a consequence for what we do. But what about people who don’t do really bad things? Well our kids need to understand that God is the High King, and He has the right to punish us for anything bad we do!
We don’t really understand what is fair and what isn’t, but God does. And because He is absolutely good, we can believe that He will make the right decision when people die.
Emphasize that we can be certain of where we are going
Clearly many kids who are thinking about hell are worried they will go there. Here I have a few suggestions.
First explain that being a Christian is simple. Even if it is hard to be a good person, once we choose to follow Jesus, He helps us! Take them to Romans 10:9 and have them memorize it.
Second, don’t worry about recommitments. If a child needs to pray every night that God will save them, that probably isn’t even a bad thing. Help them to place a new stake in the ground whenever they are fearful!
Third, help them understand that no can “accidentally” lose their salvation and go to hell.
John 10:27-28 (HCSB) My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.
Fear of the Lord is a good thing
The Bible is clear that the “fear of the Lord” is a good thing (Pr 1:7, 8:13; Mt 10:28; He 10:26-31). We know that “perfect loves casts out all fear” (1 Jn 4:8) but to have a deep respect that actually fears a God who holds life and death in His hands is not a bad thing at all. I actually love God more deeply because I fear Him.
If kids are too cavalier about sin – you have a problem on your hands. And while we don’t want our children to be paralyzed with fear of God, which only leads to legalism, we want them to take their sin seriously.
Thank God, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ! Hell is real and I don’t fear it because I am absolutely certain of my salvation! This is the confidence that I pray my children grow as well. Take some time to talk to your kids about hell to help them grow this same confidence!
If you need somewhere to start, here are some Scriptures that talk about hell:
- Revelation 21:8
- Matthew 25:46
- Psalm 9:17
- 2 Thessalonians 1:9
- Matthew 13:50
- Acts 2:27
- Mark 9:43
- Jude 1:7
- Proverbs 15:24
- Proverbs 23:14
- Matthew 13:42
- Matthew 25:41
- Revelation 19:20
- Proverbs 15:11
- Matthew 16:19
- 2 Peter 2:4
- Revelation 20:13-14
- Matthew 10:28
- Ezekiel 18:20
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