Section 9B .. The Future / Hell Part Seven

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What and Where is Hell?
Part VII ... Making Excuses For God -

How Christians Justify Their Misinterpretation of Scripture

Carol Brooks

Introduction and Index To All Chapters


People "Choose" Hell
We Don't Really Think These Things Through - Do We?

One Person Is Worth More Than Another

Annihilation is Contrary to God's Nature But Apparently An Eternal Hell Isn't

Conclusion - The Fate of All Unbelievers According to The Scriptures

the traditional doctrine of hell as taught by the church isn't some high-minded spiritual principle but boils down to "God loves you, but He is quite prepared to torment you in hell forever". 

Most Christians who believe that this is taught in the Bible deal with it simply because the the full implications of the words never really sink in. If "eternity in hell" were not curiously disconnected from reality they would be down on their knees everyday begging their unsaved loved ones to follow Christ and avoid the unspeakable fate that is in store for them. Think about it this way - if someone you cared about was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in a few weeks, nothing you would find it near impossible to stop thinking about what is to happen. And if there was a possibility that they themselves could somehow avoid that fate, you would move heaven and earth in the effort to persuade them to do what it took,

On the other hand, I am sure there are those who are made very uneasy by the idea that hell is a place of unending torment. However, because they believe that is Scriptural, their only option has been to come up with some 'justification' for this doctrine (Justification being a euphemism for making excuses for the God they claim is "loving and merciful")

That these arguments not only defy all common sense, are patently ridiculous, and flatly contradict what the Bible says, seems to be beside the point. Here are a couple of examples...

People "Choose" Hell
One statement one often hears goes something like this - "Everyone makes a choice as to where they will spend eternity".

Why, oh why, do we let these fatuous phrases roll off our tongues without thinking them through?

Most of the decisions we make in our lives boil down to making our own (or someone else's) life more comfortable. We seek the good things, not the bad... pleasure, not pain. So how many people do you think deliberately choose an eternity of endless torment and suffering?

Some also claim that if a person has made a conscious choice to disregard the Gospel they have by default chosen to spend trillions of years in the torment they believe is the fate of non believers.

Again this is as bizarre as it gets.

As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 13, of those who hear the Gospel some may not understand the implications, some are choked out by the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth etc. For various reasons others may not turn from the religion they were brought up in. Only a small percentage allow the seed to flourish and grow.

The list is endless and doesn't include choosing to spend a trillion years in torment.

One Person Is Worth More Than Another
Part 2 of Hell by Norman Geisler on the John Ankerberg site begins by saying "a denial of hell is an indication of human depravity" -  a proclamation that only serves to show how self-righteous our theologians can get.

And it get worse.

He has apparently thrown his hat into the same ring as Jonathan Edwards, the well known Puritan theologian who said, "sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment". [01] (Emphasis Added)

  • God's justice demands eternal punishment. "The heinousness of any crime must be gauged according to the worth or dignity of the person it is committed against" (Davidson, 50). Thus, a murder of a president or pope is deemed more heinous than that of a terrorist or Mafia boss. Sin against an infinite God is an infinite sin worthy of infinite punishment (Edwards, 2.83)....To punish a person eternally for what he did for a short time on earth seems at first like a gigantic case of overkill. However, on closer examination it turns out to be not only just but necessary. For one thing, only eternal punishment will suffice for sins against the eternal God. The sins may have been committed in time, but they were against the Eternal One. Furthermore, no sin can be tolerated as long as God exists, and he is eternal. Hence, punishment for sin must also be eternal. " [02]

Theologian William G. T. Shedd offered his idea as to why endless punishment makes sense (Emphasis Added)

    "Endless punishment is rational, because sin is an infinite evil; infinite not because committed by an infinite being, but against one....To torture a dumb beast is a crime; to torture a man is a greater crime. To steal from one's own mother is more heinous than to steal from a fellow citizen. The person who transgresses is the same in each instance; but the different worth and dignity of the objects upon whom his action terminates makes the difference in the gravity of the two offenses." [03]

These sentiments are widely quoted in spite of the fact that they not only defy all logic and common sense, but also do not have a shred of Biblical evidence to support them. Saying that the "heinousness of any crime must be gauged according to the worth or dignity of the person it is committed against" is equivalent to saying that some people have more worth than others.

While it is true that most of us will not shed a single tear over the death of a mobster and much of the world mourns a president, is the death of one really more heinous than the other? Is the murder of a homeless man less hateful than the murder of the man who lives in a three bedroom house in suburbia? Or perhaps taking the life of a school teacher is worse than taking the life of a janitor. How can stealing from one's own mother be more heinous than stealing from a fellow citizen. Which of the two thefts would we consider more despicable if one's own mother is very well to do and the thief had just lost their grocery money for the entire month?

 As Jeremy Moritz so rightly says in his article on hell (Emphasis Added)

    When people use these arguments, I'm sure their intentions are good. But by employing all of this jargon about the infiniteness of our creator, what they are doing is clouding up simple God-given logic. Sin is sin. A crime is a crime. It doesn't matter how nice and loving the victim is. Most people have no trouble understanding this because they already know it in their hearts to be true.

    Let's suppose for a moment that a kind, holy, loving man had his wallet stolen. After a day, they found the criminal and allowed the victim to choose his offender's sentence. Imagine if the kind, loving man used the argument "Because I am kind and loving, your sin against me was much worse than stealing from someone else. Therefore, the only punishment fitting for you is to spend 40 years in my torture chamber." Wouldn't that raise some doubts as to the loving nature that this man claims to have? How much more so, if the man could make the sentence 40,000,000,000,000,000 years or more? [04]

What Saith The Scriptures?
The law of Moses clearly taught that the person who killed another was to be put to death, a rule that equally applied to both the Israelite and the foreigner who dwelt in their midst. God's commands say nothing about a worse punishment if the victim was 'important'

    'If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. 'Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. 'There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.'" (Leviticus 24:19-22 NASB)

      Note: the 'eye for an eye' principle prevented excessive punishment at the hands of an avenging private party.

The New Testament came out strongly against any kind of favoritism

    For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (James 2:2-4 NASB)

Annihilation is Contrary to God's Nature But Apparently Eternal Torment Isn't
In his book If God, Why Evil? Norman Geisler says

    Annihilation of the wicked is contrary to both the nature of God and the nature of humans made in his image. It is not consistent with an all-loving God to snuff out those who do not do his wishes. What would we think of an earthly father who killed his children if they didn't do what he wanted them to do. [05]

Are we really to believe that it is contrary to the nature of God to annihilate the wicked, but it is not contrary to His nature to let people be eternally tormented?

 Let me reverse the question asked in the quote immediately above - What would we think of an earthly father who forever torments his children if they didn’t do what he wanted them to do?

And, I have to ask whether any of these theologian's Bibles include the account of the great flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the swift annihilation of both Aaron and Eli's sons, etc. Or did they somehow manage not to read those accounts? If the Father put an end to the lives of all these people once why exactly wouldn't He do it again? Or is it just against His nature to permanently annihilate someone.

If hell is, as so many Christians believe, a place of eternal torment, then they have to know that Satan did not invent this hell - God did. And, since He could put an end to it in an instant but chooses not to, we can safely conclude that Hell is perfectly in sync with His character.

So what does this say about Him?

When believers speak of God's goodness, they are usually referring to the fact that, although none of us deserves Heaven, He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place so that we would not have to. That He has granted us this wonderful opportunity to live in a new world in which there will be no death, no tears, "no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain " (Revelation 21:4).

Although this is a gift that is beyond priceless, when it comes to the traditional concept of hell it is not good enough to show His compassion

In other words, how can we ignore the other side of the coin? The traditional concept of hell places our 'loving' God far beyond the league of the most notorious human beings that have ever lived.

    What if Adolf Hitler was responsible for donating millions of dollars to charitable causes? What if he, between periods of overseeing his concentration camps, spent his Saturday afternoons working at a homeless shelter? What if he were a generous father and a loving family man? Would that make up for his treatment of the Jews? How much good would Hitler have to do to be considered a sympathetic, loving, caring man in spite of the millions of the decent people he enslaved, tortured, and put to death? Surely there is no amount of good that can account for that! [06]

 What Hitler did to some six million Jews will seem like a walk in the park compared to the never ending suffering of billions of people - for countless zillions of years. Under what pretext can we still call Him loving or merciful?

The only thing that makes this doctrine of unending punishment worse is that there are those that actually believe that from the foundations of the earth God personally chose those who would be saved. The remaining majority were either chosen to be forever punished in hell or will find themselves there by default.

From such a God spare us.

And no, this is not blaspheming the God of the Bible, but the monstrous caricature invented by humans. See Calvinism

Conclusion - The Fate of Unbelievers According to The Scriptures
Sadly all the unbiblical ideas about hell as a place of eternal torment have done untold damage to the Gospel "good news". Who can blame people for being completely incredulous when they hear conflicting messages... God loves them, but has no problem with them being forever tormented in hell.

Some of them have quite understandably come to the conclusion that Christians are a gullible and rather stupid bunch and the God they serve is a horrendous monster - light years away from being "loving".

Let us at least try and stick to the message taught by the Scriptures. Those who disbelieve, continue to ignore God's offer of salvation, or counter it with what they consider 'clever' arguments usually live their short lives on earth as though there was nothing beyond it. Sadly they will find that is exactly what they will get. God is not going to let anyone into His kingdom who has not chosen to be there.

At the end of their lives they will be consigned to Sheol/Hades until the first thousand years of Christ's rule are over. By the way, it is during this period that the weeping and gnashing of teeth takes place. After the millennium, they will be raised to face a formal judgment for their sins which were not atoned for by Christ's death on the cross. This means that since the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), they will have to pay this price themselves. This the Bible calls the "second death" which is exactly what it is. See what the Greek word rendered ‘gnashing’ means in Section 5

Having outlived its purpose Hades will be done away with.

. See The Message of the Bible   and The Warning of The Bible

Those who call themselves Christians, but refuse to follow the path of holiness falsely trusting that their one time profession of faith will save them  cannot complain that God did not warn us that our sin would cost us our lives because He has... over and over again

See Salvation


and The Myth of Faith Alone

 Literal Doctrines of Demons in the Church  

One Question: All of which leaves us with one unanswered question - While one can imagine how it is possible that saints will be rewarded "according to their individual deeds." it is not equally clear how anyone will receive greater condemnation than another at the judgment. For example, Christ speaking to the cities Chorazin and Bethsaida, said ..

    "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:21-22 NASB)

In the parable of the wicked servant, Jesus said

    "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:47-48 NASB)

There are some things we simply do not know. However, the fact that only individuals will be judged (not entire cities) inclines me to think that these statements were not literally true but also made to illustrate a point.

End Notes
[01] Norman Geisler Hell/Part 2. Norman Geisler. The John Ankerberg Show.  https://www.jashow.org/articles/general/hellpart-2/

[02] Jonathan Edwards. The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/je-justice.htm

[03] William G. T. Shedd. W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1980).

[04] Jeremy K. Moritz  HELL: Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation? http://jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php

[05] Norman Geisler. If God, Why Evil? Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (February 1, 2011) Pg. 106..

[06] Jeremy K. Moritz. HELL: Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation? http://www.jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php


Chapter 6 - Lazarus and The Rich Man

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