Yes, Hell is real.
Arguably, the greatest problem that Christianity faces today is the prevalent disbelief in Hell and the seriousness of sin. St. Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Church, put it this way:
“Now eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human senses for the reason that in this [our] infirmity of dying senses there is lacking that sense of the highest and purest wisdom, [that] whereby it can be felt what a great outrage was committed in that first prevarication.”
St. Robert Bellarmine, another Doctor of the Church, summarized the problem even more succinctly in his Sermon on Hell (delivered at Louvain University, Belgium, in approximately 1574):
“If we truly understood the gravity of the fault, we would scarcely entertain any doubt as to the bitterness of the penalty.”
Hell is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, but people tend to tone down the message of possible condemnation in favor of a wishy-washy assumption that everyone will get to Heaven somehow. Well, that assumption is nonsense.
Here are some Bible verses:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels..” – Matthew 25:41 (NASB)
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell..” – Mark 9:42-47 (NASB)
“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’” – Luke 16:22-24 (NASB)
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” – John 15:5-6 (NASB)
If there is truly no risk of Hell, then why did Christ suffer and die for us? The Crucifixion would have been a totally pointless exercise. Some relativists argue that Christ simply delivered us all from the punishments that come with sin, without any restrictions, and “paid the price.” But that is clearly untrue. He came to offer us a path to salvation, not to just give us salvation (read Matthew 7:13-14). Even most Protestants cede that point through their claim that sola fide (faith alone) is what is needed to reach Heaven and to avoid Hell, which is, though simple, still a restriction.
Tragically, despite the risk of eternal damnation, Christianity in the West seems to be in the process of being displaced by, as Benedict XVI once called it, a “dictatorship of relativism,” in which political correctness and unquestioning acceptance of sin are the primary “virtues.”