“What About Hell?”
Anyone who has spent much time sharing the gospel has heard the argument that goes something like this; “How can you believe in a God who sends people to hell?” or, “How can a loving God sentence someone to hell for eternity?”
Over the past 100 years there have been a lot of changes in what the majority of professing Christians believe, especially in areas such as:
* THE BELIEF THAT THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED BY GOD
* THE EMPHASIS ON JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT
* THE IDEA OF ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES
Many professing Christians no longer hold to those concepts, but it’s certainly not because the Bible doesn’t teach them, because it does!
In 2nd Thessalonians 1:9, the Apostle Paul is speaking of those who don’t know the Lord and do not obey the Gospel, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction …”
In Revelation 14:11 the Apostle John wrote, “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.”
We should also note that the greatest preacher who ever lived was also the most descriptive teacher on Hell, and that was Jesus Christ!
Jesus said things like: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,” (Mark 9:47)
He also said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
And in Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Our Lord was meek, mild, and gentle, but he taught about Hell. He taught it clearly and he taught it often!
It’s interesting that most people will agree that not everyone is going to go to Heaven, but at the same time they deny the existence of a real and literal Hell! Since the Bible teaches both then I must believe in both!
One objection to the concept of hell goes something like this; “Justice demands that punishment fit the crime, and what crime is so bad, as to demand an eternity of torment in hell?” The question then isn’t, “Is it right for God to condemn to hell?” The question is, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” The “crime” that sends people to hell is the rejection of God and His offer of eternal life. Is that worthy of eternal damnation?
The problem is, we cannot understand the severity of the crime of rejection until we have some understanding of God. We must have some appreciation for God’s awesome goodness, His love for us, His patience with us and all that He has done for us, in order to understand what a tremendous crime it is to reject Him.
The punishment does fit the crime because God is infinitely good and perfect and loving and because of that, He deserves infinite adoration!
In 1st. Timothy 6:16 Paul said, (God), “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!”
God has been infinitely benevolent to us. He has given us a wonderful world in which to live and the senses of smell, taste, touch, and vision that allow us to enjoy it.
God has been infinitely patient with us.
Romans 1:21 says,“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
In spite of our rebellion and willful ignorance God has lavished on us the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience. He has giving us every opportunity imaginable to come to Him.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind, and all your strength. How many of us have really done that?
Yet what has been God’s response to our rejection?
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Paul said, (Acts 4:12) “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
2nd. Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God gives us infinite opportunities to recognize His mercy and He reveals Himself infinitely.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3)
The invisible God has been made known through the visible universe!
The Apostle Paul said it well, in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
And not only that, but we can look at mankind and see the image of God. We can see that humans have a moral instinct, a personality and a free will. In our own sense of anger when we are wronged we see there is such a thing as right and wrong and we sense in our own hearts that evil must be judged!
God has given us infinite opportunities to see who He is – We can see him in creation. We can see Him in His word. We can see Him in His Ultimate revelation – His Son. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
In light of the infinite revelation of God, the infinite opportunity that I have been given to respond to the infinite Grace, the infinite Goodness, and the infinite Glory of God, if I reject God, then my sin is infinitely evil and I am infinitely accountable!
God is so Glorious, so Good, so Gracious, and His revelation is so complete that if we reject Him, that is the ultimate rejection and it can only result in an ultimate penalty some day!
Simple annihilation is not enough to condemn our sins against God. There are only two things that can pay the penalty for that, either the Lake of Fire, or the Cross of Calvary! It has to be one or the other! But because of God’s love, you get to choose which it will be for you.
God will get rid of His enemies! He will either have them in the Lake of Fire or He will adopt them as children, but God will get rid of His enemies!
The question we must all answer is, “Do I want God’s Justice? Or do I want God’s Grace?”
To me that’s a “no-brainer”!
Pat James is Pastor Emeritus of True Hope Christian Fellowship, in Forest Grove, OR