Critics and skeptics have raised a variety of objections and questions regarding the existence of God and the trustworthiness of the Bible. I’ve responded to those questions elsewhere (see evidence for God, Bible, Jesus). In this article, I want to answer some of their questions and objections regarding the Bible's teaching on Hell.
Let’s read a portion of Matthew's Gospel and briefly remind ourselves of what awaits those who refuse God's gracious offer of reconcilation and forgiveness of sins. Jesus said...
[Skipping down to v. 41]
So, the Bible makes it clear that those who are saved will enter into God’s kingdom to enjoy all that He has in store for those who love Him. But it also makes it clear here, and in numerous other passages of Scripture (e.g., Rev. 20), that those who refuse to repent—those who turn away God’s provision of forgiveness and salvation—will spend eternity separated from God in this dreadful place the Bible calls Hell. And dreadful it will be.
Hell is described elsewhere in the Bible as a place of:
• a real place that people are "cast...into" (Matt. 13:41-42) and "thrown into" (Rev. 20:15)
This is certainly not a place you want to end up. But of course critics of the Bible and nonbelievers in general have a difficult time accepting the Bible’s teaching on Hell. They say...
I find it very interesting that so many people are confident that God is so loving. Where does mankind get the idea that God loves the whole world, including sinners?
–The Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka? No. It's not taught there.
The idea that God is a loving, merciful, forgiving God comes from the Bible. It is the Bible alone, amongst these books, that presents God as gracious, loving, merciful and forgiving of sinners. A lot of people have gotten their idea that God is loving from the very same book that teaches us about Hell!
The problem though is that a lot of people want to treat the Bible like a salad bar. “Oh yeah, I’ll have a little bit of that, a scoop of that. Oh, I don’t like that. Ughh, none of that.”
They take what they like from the Bible and leave out the other stuff. Well, that's unwise. The same divinely inspired book that reveals to us that God is loving also assures us that God is holy, pure, moral, just, that He hates sin, and that unrepentant, unforgiven sinners will be judged, condemned, and cast away from His presence forever in Hell.
Well, the skeptic raises a second objection…
Many people who believe in Hell’s existence and who even believe others may be going there, have been deceived into thinking God will not send them there.
Why? "Well," the person says, "I'm a good person." That is the number one reason why people think they will not end up in Hell (“I’m a good person”). Maybe you’ve thought that to be the case with yourself. But, according to the Bible no one is good enough to go to Heaven on his own. The Bible says...
Davide wrote in...
On man’s scale a person might appear pretty good, but according to the Bible, each one of us, in our natural state is an unrighteous person...who deserves God’s judgment.
Those are the people who deserve to end up in Hell—sinners, people like you and me (before we were forgiven). And those are the people, if they reject God's offer of forgiveness, who will end up there.
A third and somewhat related question is this:
I believe the simplest answer is this: Just as the Lord knew many would reject Him, the opposite is also true; He knew that many would freely receive Him and enjoy eternity with Him. Apparently, even knowing many would reject Him and end up in Hell, He felt it worth it, so that we who would receive Him, could have fellowship with Him and Him with us.
Should God have refused to create humans just because some would refuse to have a relationship with Him? I don’t think so. That would allow evil to triumph over good!
Should Christians refuse to start families even though we realize that some of our kids, grandkids, or great grandkids may turn their backs on God and end up in Hell? No! Why? Because we know that many of our kids and grandkids will not. And if some turn away from God and end up in Hell, it will be of their own free accord (choice). By us giving birth to them, we are not in any way forcing any of them to go to Hell. They, like all people, will have the option to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
So I’m not going to withhold (deny) the blessings of eternity from my children and other descendants because of the foolish and sinful decisions of others. I think this is also true with God. He knew in advance that many would reject Him, but He also knew that many would receive Him.
That’s why He created us! Well, the skeptic raises another question...
Sure. He certainly could have. But it would not have been a world with humans; it would have been a world of androids, a world of robots. Why? Well, it would have to have been a world in which sin never takes place. Why? In a universe created by a holy and just God, sin requires judgment and punishment (Hell). So, to prevent people from going to Hell, God would have to prevent people from sinning. To do that, God would have to have created people without free will (i.e., without the freedom to sin). The creatures would have to have been creatures that God pre-programmed to always do what God wanted them to do.
Could God have created creatures like that? Of course. He certainly could have done that, but the fellowship, the worship, etc. would all have been meaningless to God.
In order for a meaningful, genuine, loving relationship to exist between God and people, people must be free, free to love Him or free to hate Him.
And so God created mankind with freedom. You can freely love Him or hate Him. You can freely obey Him or sin against Him. And this freedom is the very thing people want.Go on Facebook or Twitter sometime and ask your non-Christian friends if they would like God to force them to live their lives in accord with all of His holy commandments 24 hours a day with no freedom to do otherwise.
Well, of course the answer on the streets will be, “Absolutely not!” Most people want the option to move freely about, often times from one unholy pursuit to another. So in this respect, God has given mankind the very world that mankind actually wants to live in, a world in which true freedom exists. Unfortunately, our misuse of that freedom has led to our own condemnation.
Well, the skeptic raises a fifth question...
God will make the final decision on that matter. For those who do end up there, we must keep in mind that it won’t be because they never heard of Jesus. People will end up in Hell because they have lived their lives ignoring or even retreating from the truth that God has revealed to them.
Skeptic: “But some people have never even heard of God.”
Well, in response to this, we believe they will still be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Why? Because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways. The first way is through....
A. Creation. (Romans 1:20, Acts 14:17, Psalm 19:1-4)
B. Conscience. (Romans 2:14-15)
God has inscribed evidence of His existence and His moral laws on the heart (or conscience) of every person. And their consciences convict them when they do something sinful. And that conviction (that guilt) is good. It is there by design to lead them to seek out God and His mercy.
So all of mankind can know through an examination of creation and their own con-science that God exists and that they have failed to live up to His laws written in their hearts.
If a person will respond to the truth that God has revealed to him through creation or the convicting work of his conscience, God will give him additional light about Himself. If a person who has never heard of Jesus, truly wants to know God, God will let Himself be found. Why do I believe that? Because God said that is the case. Where?
David assured his son Solomon...
1 Chronicles 28:9
One of the reasons many people are not finding God today is because they do not want to find Him! They enjoy living in darkness and they realize that having a relationship with God will require they turn their backs on sins that they find too enticing. But, if they are willing to seek after God, they will find Him.
Hebrews 11:6 says God...
There are lots of ways God can get the truth about Jesus to a seeker. He may send them a missionary, allow a radio program to penetrate their part of the world, send them a Bible, a tract, an angel or give them a vision so that they can know more about Jesus.
Skeptic: "Why doesn't He just do that with all people?"
Christians have been sharing the truth about God with millions of people and many refuse to hear it! They refuse to respond.
For God to give more light (truth) to hard-hearted people who He knows will not respond to the gospel would only result in their greater guilt and condemnation.
Why? Greater light brings about greater responsibility.
Skeptic: “It just seems that some people who live in third world countries are at such a disadvantage geographically when it comes to hearing the gospel.”
Well, in addition to God’s assurance that He will respond to those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6, Jer. 29:13) the Bible says that God has actually placed each person in a specific place geographically that he or she might be prone to call upon the Lord.
Turn over to Acts, Chapter 17. I want you to see something that Paul points out here...
Paul tells us here in Acts 17 that God “determined” ahead of time the “times” in history that each of us would be born and the geographical “boundaries” (v. 26) of our dwelling place. Why?
Verse 27, there in Acts 17, tells us, in order that we might “seek the Lord” and “find Him.”
It is amazing to know that every person (including you) has been born, by the sovereign will of God, in a place (both in time and geographically) that would be advantageous to actually finding the Lord.
There are no geographical disadvantages or mistakes. A person will not go to Hell because of some historical or geographical misfortune, which somehow prevented him from hearing about Christ. If a person seeks to know God, God will be found.
In the end, all will receive what they actually chose in this life, either to be with God or to be without Him.
As J. P. Moreland has pointed out in Lee Strobel's book The Case for Faith, if a person constantly ignores God, constantly mocks Him by the way he chooses to live, saying “I couldn’t care less about what You put me here to do, Your values, or Your Son’s death for me. Leave me alone! I want to live my life without You!” Well, God will honor that decision and in the end, that person will have his preference.
C. S. Lewis said...
Separation from God is not simply a sentence that is handed down out of the blue on judgment day. It is the end of a path that is chosen, to some degree, in this life right here and now, day by day...as you exercise your will. [Wording here inspired by what J. P. Moreland said in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, p. 178]
C. S. Lewis said...
What he’s saying is that ultimately it’s not God who condemns a person to Hell, but individual sinners and the choices they make.
Some might say, "Well, Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). That's why it's going to be so bad!"
I'm not sure that is a very good answer.
Jesus did say that one day He would say to the unrighteous, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). But God, being omniscient, knew ahead of time that Hell was also the place where He would send human persons who would reject Him.
Why would God create Hell to be so bad (so "severe")? Here are three reasons:
A. Hell is a place of separation from God.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 says...
Hell is a place of separation from the very source of...
• all that is good
Remove all that is good, all that would cause joy, or bring comfort, and you're going have an utterly miserable place!
"Hell's punishment [separation from God] fits sin's crime because sin is to separate oneself from God. The punishment [separation from God] fits the crime because the punishment is the crime."
The punishment (Hell) will fit the crime. In fact, in the end, all will receive what they actually chose in this life, either to be with God or to be without Him. If a person chooses all their life, to say "I want nothing to do with You God," God will honor that decision.
The truth of the matter is that God is giving people a second chance. Right now. And a third chance and a fourth chance. Every hour that passes is an opportunity for a person to cry out to God and be a recipient of His mercy and grace. And God obviously thinks the chances He extends to us in this life are sufficient. When a person dies it will be too late.
This is similar to the last question about a second chance after death.
Skeptic: “But why doesn’t God try something like this in order to reform people?”
Well, God is seeking to reform people. The time of reformation is called...LIFE.
For the lifetime of the individual, God’s Spirit patiently (2 Peter 3:9)...
• Strives with them (Genesis 6:3)
When they finally die, the reformation process is over. Those in Hell will be those who are unreformable.
A ninth objection that has been raised against the Bible's teaching regarding Hell is this:
Some critics of Christianity believe that eternity in Hell is unfair because they imagine that your ordinary unbeliever is going to get the same punishment as someone like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin (evil men who were responsible for the murder of millions of people).
Well, the person who raises this objection has overlooked or misunderstood what the Bible actually teaches regarding Hell. God is not going to indiscriminately (i.e., randomly without careful judgment) send the unrepentant to Hell to suffer the exact same judgment.
Revelation 20:11-15 says that every unsaved person is going to be resurrected to stand before God at a “great white throne” to be judged for every one of their deeds before they are sentenced.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 assures us that...
Jesus said in Matthew 12:36...
Now, this judgment of each individual’s deeds seems to suggest that a person will receive a greater condemnation or judgment based on what he or she has done. And this lines up precisely with what Jesus said in Mark 12:40, when He stated that the scribes of His day would “receive greater condemnation” than others.
There will be greater condemnation for greater sins.
Christian: “Hold on a second here Charlie. I read the Bible. Are you saying that some sins are more serious than others? I thought that sin was sin.”
Well, yes, all sins are sinful, but some sins are greater than others. You don’t have to take my word for it. Jesus affirmed this to be the case. For example, in John 19, Jesus was standing before Pilate on trial. Notice what Jesus said to Pilate...
Jesus told Pilate that he who delivered Him over to Pilate (probably a reference to Caiaphas or Judas, we’re not sure) was guilty of a “greater sin” than Pilate.
On another occasion, in Matthew 11, Jesus tells the people of Capernaum that the judgment coming to the people of Sodom would be “more tolerable” than their judgment (Matthew 11:24), because the people of Capernaum were guilty of greater sin.
According to Jesus, those with the lesser sins will have a “more tolerable” (Matt. 11:24) judgment than those with the greater sin.
Now, don’t misunderstand; this is not to suggest that their suffering will not be horrible. Separation from God in Hell will be horrible for everyone who goes there, but it will be worse for others. What will a “greater condemnation” (Mark 12:40) result in?” We don’t know for sure. Perhaps some will suffer a greater degree of separation, isolation, emptiness, and regret. The bottom line is this: You do not want to go there!
Well, the skeptic raises a tenth and final objection...
The thought of being apart from your friends and family who do not know the Lord is a heart wrenching thought. But God assures us in His Word that in Heaven our joy will be absolutely full.
Psalm 16:11 says...
In eternity, God’s people are going to experience and perpetually know “fullness of joy.”
Revelation 21:4 tells us...
Notice that! There will “no longer be any mourning” for God’s people in eternity.
"If you are concerned about your loved one's that won't be in Heaven, the most irrational thing you could do if you are truly concerned about those on the outside is to remain outside yourself."
The best thing you could ever do is to make sure you’re going to Heaven and then do all that you can to help wake up your loved ones! That would be the wisest course of action.
I think we all do. May I encourage you to stand in their way with your love and your prayers?
Charles Spurgeon said...
That is a great exhortation! God help us to get in the way of those on their way to this dreadful place! Pray for your loved ones! Pray for your friends and co-workers! And pray for yourself that God would give you the courage and love to reach out to them and to share the gospel and reason with them about the path they are on.
Would you like to make sure you won’t end up in Hell? Would you like to know your sins are forgiven? Would you like to be confident you are going to Heaven?
You can because two thousand years ago, Jesus, (God in the flesh —your Maker) out of His great love for you, suffered and died on that cruel wooden Roman cross. Why? To take the punishment for your sins. So that you could be forgiven, saved from eternity in Hell, and be brought back into a relationship with Him.
Jesus rose from the grave three days later and today He is offering mankind (you!) the forgive-ness of sins and the “free gift” (Rom. 6:23) of everlasting life to all those who will turn from their sins and place their faith in Him.
That’s it! Believing in Jesus to save you! I exhort you friend to trust in Jesus right now...while you still have time. He is your only hope of everlasting life. He’s the only One who can save you from Hell. So, don’t put it off. Turn to Him now! Amen?
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL (Twitter: @charlieabready)
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
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