Sat April 18 Q. 110: No Mention of Hell?
110. Why then is eternal life only spoken of here, and hell not at all?
Because nothing is set down in this summary that does not tend to the consolation of faithful consciences. It relates to us only the benefits which God performs for His servants. Accordingly no mention is made of the wicked, who are excluded from His Kingdom.
It would seem that the logic of the Catechism’s commentary on the Creed is this: Since the wicked shall not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:5; I Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5), and since the Creed was written for those included in the kingdom of God—those who profess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…”—the wicked are excluded from discussion in the Creed. Most obviously the Catechism and the writers of the Creed were not concerned about being politically correct, or religious inclusivists, or universalists, or promoters of tolerance for religious pluralists in matters of Truth. The Creed was concerned with “the consolation of faithful consciences.” The Creed allowed no place for soothing the consciences of the reprobate or apostate, for to sooth them would be to risk their souls’ eternal hope.
Similarly, the place where the Creed is most joyfully acknowledged – in the company of the saints in gathered worship – is also for the consolation of faithful consciences to the exclusion of reprobate and apostate consciences (cf. I Cor. 5:9-13; Jude 1:3, 19-23). The knowledgeable and intentional singing of praises to God, the understanding of and adherence to preaching, the honoring of the public reading of Scripture, the saying of “amen” to prayers, and participation in the Lord’s Supper all belong to the communion of the saints. There are unbelievers present among most public services of the righteous, and it is the duty of the church and its leaders to proclaim the Gospel to the lost, urging them to believe upon Christ immediately and cast themselves on the mercy of God. However, gathered worship is for those who worship in Spirit and in truth.
Acknowledgement of the proper company of the assembling of the saints will save us from offering the wrong sort of solace for the damned. When they are in the place where the Creed is read, they should sense that the place is for “members only,” that is, members of Christ, humbling living in holiness in and by His grace. If we hope for them to feel anything, it should be conviction of sin and fear of eternal judgment. Those outside of Christ should not be given consolation for unfaithful consciences if we, the faithful, hope to see any of them in the kingdom.
Recommended resources: Ryken, The Communion of the Saints: Living in Fellowship with the People of God, and Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.