John Piper: There are 'degrees of suffering in hell'

(Photo: Unsplash/David Tovar)

The experience of hell is not the same for everyone who ends up there, says theologian John Piper. 

In a recent episode of his popular "Ask Pastor John" podcast, he said that it would be "unspeakably terrible" for everyone in hell, but even more so for some than others.

Describing hell, he said it was a place where people could not find any hope, beauty or satisfaction. 

"It will be unspeakably terrible for everyone who goes there — just unspeakably terrible, without any experience of good, no sight of beauty, no pleasant sounds, no bodily pleasures, no gratified appetites, no satisfied desires, no hopes fulfilled. That's everybody," Piper said.

"But although hell will be without all good for all unbelievers, it will be worse for some."

He claimed that there were "degrees of suffering in hell" because some sins were "more heinous, more destructive, more blasphemous than others".

"Not only the amount of sinning over time makes things worse, but also the degree of ugliness and horror, heinousness, and blasphemy also increases the suffering," he said. 

Quoting Luke 12:48, which says that "to whom much is given, much will be required", he argued that the punishment would be more severe for those who reject the truth. 

"The more light you have, the more knowledge you have, the more truth you have, the worse your sin and punishment at rejecting it," he said. "That's right there in the texts."

Similarly, he said it was "more grievous" a sin to reject the "kindness God shows you" by "giving you many undeserved pleasures in this life". 

"The worse will be your punishment in hell," he said.

He suggested that the longer a person does this, the more they are storing up wrath for themselves. 

"In other words, time comes into the picture," he said.

"Day after day after day, you keep on rejecting light after light after light, kindness after kindness after kindness. The longer this goes on, the worse things are going to be."

While this message could send people running for the hills, Piper said that knowing the truth about hell should instead send them "trembling with joy to the cross of Jesus and to the grace of God, which holds onto us in the forgiveness that the cross gives". 

"They make us seriously vigilant not to misuse greater light and truth," he said.

"We should strive that the truth that comes to us would not come without humbling us, building our faith, increasing our love. In other words, don't squander precious light that God gives you in his word and in his world."