You Didn’t Really Mean That, Did You?- Answering the Hell Question, Part 4

October 12, 2008

(This is the last in a four part series of posts dealing with the age-old question “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” This answer was originally developed as a reply to an email I received. Today’s post deals with the objection of “Hell does exist, but I don’t see how a loving God could send people there, therefore he doesn’t [or at least not forever].”)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” -John 3.18

So, then, let’s return to the question, “Does anyone get sent to hell (for eternity)?” or, rephrasing it in terms of what was just said, “Will God (eventually) justify everyone?” To say “Yes” to this question is to assume one of two things, either everyone will profess faith before they die, or God will not hold a lack of faith against people. But I think it is easy to disprove the first assumption, so we must be assuming that God will just overlook people’s lack of faith, and if he doesn’t then he is responsible for sending them to hell.

Can God overlook a lack of faith? Numbers 14.18, “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” To think God can overlook our sins is to play down the severity of our sins. Romans 6.23 says “For the wages of sin is death.” Psalm 1.5 says “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” Our sin is so awful to God that we cannot even stand in his presence. He is so holy that he must be separate from all sin. It is for this reason that he could not even look upon his own son when Christ took on our sins on the cross (Matthew 27.46, 2 Corinthians 5.21). As JD Greear from The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC said, we find hell so severe because we don’t think that trampling on God’s glory is that a deal.

Thus, if God can’t overlook a lack of faith, then isn’t he still in some way responsible for sending us to hell? Certainly not. John 3.18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Jesus here clearly tells us that the responsibility for a person’s condemnation is on them because they have not believed. Yet, if you are a Calvinist like myself, believing that “No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent [him] draws [them]” (John 6.44), then how does God escape responsibility here? Because, the only reason we are cut off from coming to Jesus in the first place is because of our sin (Psalm 51.5, 58.3, Romans 3.10-12, 23, Ephesians 2.1-3), which is necessarily our responsibility since “God made [us] upright” (Genesis 1.31, Ecclesiastes 7.29). Therefore, no matter how we turn, the responsibility for hell falls solely upon our rejection of God and our hardness towards him. As CS Lewis so famously said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” It is us who sin and make ourselves unworthy of God’s presence, and the punishment of hell is the natural end of this.

To close, though it is mostly clear from all else we’ve said here, hell is an eternal punishment. Just look at 2 Thessalonians 1.9, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” Some people will argue that the Greeks had no word for eternal, which is right, but the word that is used here is ‘aiōnios’, meaning ‘without beginning and end,’ which is what the English word ‘eternal’ means. So, Paul is warning of an eternal punishment, as do Jesus in Matthew 25.41 and Jude in Jude 7.

As a note, there is simply no evidence anywhere, anywhere that God will offer up redemption to man after this life passes. In fact, Revelation 20.11-15 accounts for us that the final judgment will be passed upon the dead for what they had done, ergo, since dead people don’t do anything after dying it would seem fitting that this argues towards our point.

Therefore, in the end, we must conclude that hell is real, God is good, and man is ultimately the one responsible for his own condemnation. Of course this is not exhaustive on the debate, as it has brewed for two millennia with ceasing yet, but hopefully it is extensive enough of a treatment on the subject to be of help. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.