What happens after we die? This question has been on the lips of people for millennia. In our day, where Postmodern and Secular philosophies reign, the question is often answered with a denial of an existence after death. After we die our physical bodies decompose and that is the end of it. With this understanding comes a shift to a worldview that holds self-fulfilment as the highest priority in life; if there is no life after this one, no rewards or punishments, then what truly matters is that I make the most of my life while it lasts. We can see this understanding undergirding the life of billions today; in Hollywood actors and actresses pursue selfish pleasure in the form of sex and drugs without giving heed to any cost, in politics world leaders lie and manipulate to gain the most power possible in this life, and in day to day life millions live without a sense of purpose. This answer, that there is no life after death, is not an option for Bible believing Christians.
Throughout Church history there have been different understandings of what the afterlife will look like, but the overwhelming consensus is that the Bible teaches there is an afterlife. Most thinkers throughout the history of the Church have agreed that there are different destinations for believers and unbelievers; the destination of believers is called Heaven, and for unbelievers it is called Hell. The doctrine of Hell—the final destination of Satan, the demons, and all unbelievers —has been a very controversial doctrine during the modern age, it has faced criticism from Christians and the world; often these critics ask how a supposedly loving God could punish people with eternal torment? Intelligent and learned Christian thinkers have raised the challenge that this is not at all what the Bible teaches. This controversial question has received much attention as of late, but many people have been left without solid or satisfactory answers as to the truth of the doctrine of Hell. Christians today need to have answers to this burning question of Hell. These questions that are swirling around the doctrine of Hell go something like this; what does the Bible teach about Hell, is what it teaches defendable in our sceptical world, does it even make a difference? Answering these questions isn’t easy; it takes a lot of work.
When it comes to engaging in theological investigation we need to have a methodology, a road map, according to which we will proceed in the investigation. For the purposes of investigating the doctrine of Hell a methodology that stays true to Scripture while providing a logical framework for building a doctrine is the Integrative Method. This method involves engaging in 5 interlaced disciplines to formulate a doctrine based on the teaching of the Bible, then to defend the Biblical conclusion, and finally to apply the final doctrine to our world today. These five steps by which we will engage in an investigation as to the biblical doctrine of Hell are; Historical Theology, Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, and Practical Theology. The first stage of this investigation is called historical theology; here we will look at the way Christian’s throughout the history of the Church have understood the Scripture’s teaching on Hell.