In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. – Esther 8:17
For years, preachers have used the fear of hell as a motivation for people to repent and trust in Jesus. While it is true that hell is a topic we should not avoid and also true that eternal damnation and suffering awaits the unrepentant sinner, I believe that it is possible to scare a person into a decision or profession that does not result in possession of a personal relationship with Christ. Like those residents of Persia that lived with the Jews in the days of Esther’s retribution, many have feared the consequences of rejecting salvation rather than loving and worshiping the Son of God who has delivered them.
I believe that most no longer fear the eternal torment and separation that hell presents. The all-pervasive nature of media (movies, video games, etc.) has made most verbal depictions ineffective. Yet, we cannot cease to teach the biblical truth of its existence and warn others of its inevitability just because they think it isn’t real.
At the same time, let us be consistent in preaching the truth of our God who desires to be glorified. Yes, hell is real, but escape will not lead to worship. If we intend to deliver the whole counsel of God, we must also speak of His ultimate and overarching purpose in glorifying the Son through the life of the believer. A life in Christ is so much more than just missing hell.
Having held the glory of God in contempt through ingratitude and distrust and disobedience, (those without Christ) are sentenced to be excluded from the enjoyment of that glory forever and ever in the eternal misery of hell. – John Piper