Children are not too young to die, and therefore they are not too young to think about what will happen to them when they die. They need to hear about the Father's house with its many mansions and the place that Jesus is preparing there for all who love Him and put their trust in Him for salvation. But our children also need to hear about the wages of sin, the state of eternal death and eternal separation from the love of God that is called hell. We need to explain to them that God's perfect justice requires that sin "committed against the most high majesty of God be punished with everlasting punishment of body and soul" (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 4, Q. 11).
I am not saying that we should talk about hell every day. Rather, we should look for opportune moments. When we find them, we should speak about hell in simple but sober terms. When Andrew Bonar once told his friend Robert Murray M'Cheyne that he had preached about hell, M'Cheyne responded, "Oh, and I trust you did it with tears?" If we speak too casually about hell, our children will view eternal punishment casually. They should sense our seriousness and understand that we truly believe "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).
There are two extremes to avoid concerning the subject of hell. On the one hand, we should avoid an overly graphic approach, dwelling on details of the biblical depictions, such as the frightful screaming, the scorching heat of the fires, and the unquenchable thirst. We should discard altogether the popular idea of the Devil with horns, a suit of red, and a pitchfork in his hand. We should rather focus on the essence of hell, which Christ experienced while hanging on the cross, covered with shame, burdened with our sins, cursed and forsaken by God, given up to the power of death, all alone with none to comfort Him.
On the other hand, some parents are afraid to talk about hell lest their children be frightened and have nightmares, so they avoid the subject altogether. Such parents are guilty of withholding important biblical truth from their children. Did God err when He put the truth about hell on display in His Word?
By all means, we should talk more about heaven than about hell, and more about the way of salvation than about damnation. Salvation is the predominant message of the Bible. But we ought not to shield children from the doctrine of hell or any other discomfiting biblical truth.
This excerpt is taken from Parenting By God's Promises by Joel Beeke.