No one likes the doctrine of hell. No Christian likes the doctrine of hell. If they do, they have issues. It is that simple.

I have often said that the doctrine of hell is simply the most disturbing doctrine thing known to man. If I could get rid of one of my beliefs, this would be it. Hands down. Better, I would just have God elect all people rather than some and kill two birds with one firecracker!

I have been talking to this guy whom I am pretty sure is not a believer. Let’s just say for the sake of argument he is not. He is a really great guy. While, like everyone, he has his rough edges, he is a very giving person. He has the temptation to horde, but I can see his heart break for people who are in need. He gives and gives consistently. It is hard for me to  believe that, according to my theology, he is going to spend eternity suffering in a place of unimaginable horror.

Eternal fire, outer darkness, lake of fire, bottomless pit, weeping and gnashing of teeth: These are all ways that the Bible describes this place we call hell. No matter how we might spin it, it is not good. R.C. Sproul put it this way:

“We have often heard statements such as ‘War is hell’ or ‘I went through hell.’ These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, 285).

Most people don’t realize this, but almost everything we know about Hell comes from the lips of Jesus.

Listen to the words of Christ here:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:42-48)

I don’t think it is necessary to take any of the descriptions of hell literally. It could be, but it is hard to see how darkness and fire exist together in a bottomless pit! I am not sure that the mere statement that hell is outside the presence of God does the biblical teaching any justice either. There is simply no place in all of creation that is outside of God’s presence. All of the teachings about hell are simply meant to describe a place that is worse than anything we can imagine, but probably unlike anything we have ever experienced.

While C.S. Lewis’ statement “The doors of hell are locked from the inside” does provide some valuable believers therapy in one respect (and I think it is true), it is what goes on behind those doors that is so troublesome.

It is not so much the pain that I have a problem with. As bad as the pain may be, the duration is the most terrifying. Hell is eternal. I don’t like this. I would be much more comfortable with the annihilation of all the ungodly, as some have opted for (conditional immortality). However, it takes too much doctrinal gymnastics for me to concede with the idea that hell is nothing more than the cessation of existence after a period of suffering. Again, I am well familiar with the alternative theories and I certainly understand why people bite the first chance they get when presented with an alternative, but, in the end, these amount to nothing more than “consulation heresies.”

If eternal life is everlasting, so is eternal death (Matt 25:46).

Therefore, as much as I would like to shed this doctrine and mark it up as some archaic vestige of a former and naive form of Christianity, I cannot. I live with the reality that many (perhaps most) people who have ever been created are going to an eternal place of pain and suffering.

How do I deal with it?

There are so many things that God has let us in on. There are quit a few that he has not. Sometimes he does not tell us things because we simply could not understand them. Sometimes they are yet to be revealed. Many times God withholds information that could help us to understand and be comforted. Take suffering for instance. We all go through times of trials and suffering. Most of the time we don’t know why and God is not going to tell us. Look to Job. God never told him why those terrible things happened to him. He could have. Had he, I am sure that Job would have been comforted. God simply let Job know that he knows what he is doing and he is in charge. That is it.

Concerning the doctrine of Hell, I simply must trust that God knows what he is doing. I am sure there is information and understanding that is withheld from us that might make such things more palatable, but he has obviously chosen not to reveal this to us. Belief is not always easy. Sometimes it is. Love, grace, forgiveness, hope, and the new earth are all easy to believe. Election, righteousness, judgment, and hell are not. That is why the latter is so difficult to accept and why, I believe, we have so many alternative answers continually being proposed. We simply want our faith to be more palatable rather than trust that God knows what he is doing. It is very hard to believe God sometimes.

However, I don’t have a vote in truth. My emotional disposition toward a doctrine has absolutely no effect on the truthfulness of the doctrine itself. As I have often said, the palatability of a doctrine does not determine its veracity. God is on the throne and he knows what he is doing. Whenever I begin to feel more righteous than him, I must remember who I am and who he is. “Will not the judge of the earth do what is right?”

  • God loves all people.
  • God is not willing that any should perish.
  • God is in control.
  • Those who don’t trust Christ will spend eternity in hell.

These seem paradoxical. Perhaps they are. But this does not mean that they are not true.

One passage of Scripture that I often think of when I begin to whine about hell is Rom. 3:4:

Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

We all have our temptations to bring divine tribunals against our Maker. We all have our temptations to call him and his word into account. We all have those times when we want to judge God. However, being a believer does not mean that we believed him once. Neither does it mean that we selectively believe him. Being a believer is a characteristic mindset that trusts God always, even when it is hard or it seems unnatural—even when our belief is going to station people we love in hell. But above this, we must believe that God knows what he is doing and he will aways do what is right and good in accordance with his perfect character.

Having said all of this, I don’t believe that God does loves hell anymore than we do.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    181 replies to "A Word About Hell"

    • Ned

      And did Michael Patton mean “consolation heresies”? Not being snarky– just not sure what a consultation heresy would be

    • rayner markley

      Hell is a permanent blemish in God’s creation. As grand as the new heavens and earth may be, somewhere there will always be a well populated spot of evil and misery. I guess God can live with that; a good judge must detach himself from empathy towards the guilty.

    • Ned

      That’s right rayner. Contrary to the Biblical picture of eternity where sin and pain are no more, the traditional view of eternity will be one full of evil, sin, sinners, rebellion, hatred, pain, anger, and wrath. The only difference, I suppose, is that the sin and evil will be separated from the good.

      But yes, evil will always exist, and God will never have complete victory according to that view.

    • Lynn

      I was taught that we’re all sinners deserving of hell. I believed it. It never made sense to me, but I believed it cause I was taught it was true.

      Do I believe now that I deserve eternal torment? No. Do I think my neighbors, friends, husband, children do? No.

      Do you think you deserve eternal torment? What about your children? Do they deserve it? Really? Why do you believe that? Because you were taught that the Bible is the Word of God.

      Don’t Muslims believe the Koran is holy, and they will even die they believe it so much? And don’t they think WE are the ones going to hell? Why do they believe this? Because they were taught it from birth and lived in that society. Why wouldn’t they believe it?

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Your undeniable ability to warp someone else’s viewpoint never ceases to amaze me.

      Take this part out: “If he created those chaotic agents and made them to be chaotic solely for the purpose of “suppressing” them through eternal conscious torment for the sake of his own glory, then yes that does seem to be the definition of a sadist to me.”

      In other words, your entire statement is bogus. God doesn’t make chaotic agents, nor does He make them solely for the purpose of suppressing them in eternal conscious torment for the sake of His own glory.

      He makes eternal beings that cannon be destroyed to glorify Him, and knowing that group A will rebel, predestines their rebellion to glorify Him through His eternal suppression and imprisonment of those eternal beings. Sounds like a good God to me. If you were God, what would you do? Be a nice God who allowed chaotic agents to destroy your people and your creation for all eternity? I just found another reason to praise the Lord for not being a human with a finite understanding of evil.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      The world is full of selfishness and murder, and you don’t think people deserve hell? This is how self deceived we can be when we view ourselves as good.

    • Lynn

      How would we view a person who says “I’m gonna torture you, and I’m gonna do it non-stop FOREVER.” ? A sadist and a really bad one at that? What is the purpose? Revenge?

      What if they said “I’m gonna tell you a story. And if you don’t believe it, you’re gonna burn forever.” ? Nice, huh?

      I had a teacher at my Christian school in 9th grade who said he wanted to throw gasoline on the Beatles as they were thrown into hell. Now, tell me, do you think that man may have had some issues? I think some people would be truly disappointed to find out there isn’t a hell. What does that tell us?

    • Susan

      Lynn, all other religions teach a path of *doing* the right things, deeds, rituals etc., in hopes that they will do enough good to meet with God’s approval…but never really knowing. Muslims hope that their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds when their life is judged by God. They are taught that the only way that they can be sure of their salvation is to sacrifice themselves in an act of jihad…killing the enemy and committing suicide, in holy war (against Christians or Jews). Muslims do not know what it is to have a personal relationship with a loving heavenly Father. They live in fear of Allah, but have no relationship with him. They….and adherents of other religions, have no assurance of salvation, no assurance of forgiveness. Why? Because they keep on sinning without restitution from God. God’s word teaches us that God has provided only one way to Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

      If God provided three ways, then some would complain that He didn’t provide five, or ten, and so on. What Jesus did when He bore our sin on the cross was a once and for all payment for all of our sin. “It is finished!” He said, when he died. What Jesus did completely satisfied the justice of God. God is just, after all. Would you prefer that God be unjust? That He let rapists and murders and cheaters and thieves and wife/child abusers get off scott-free? The justice systems of this world only punish the slightest fragment of the total injustices of the world. The amazing thing is that God DOES pardon all of the above-named sinners if they simply believe in who Jesus is and repent. That’s incredible. It’s incredibly good news for ME. And yes, I most certainly deserve God’s wrath. It is only by the grace of God that I stand forgiven because of Jesus…not because I am a good person (because I am a sinner…every day).

    • TDC

      There’s a false dichotomy when we say that either people burn FOREVER in hell, or they get off “scott-free”.

      Hell could’ve been temporary, or could have been annihilation.

      Hodge,

      you also presented a false dichotomy. You seem to be saying(correct me if i’m wrong) that God must either let people be tortured forever in hell, or let them destroy heaven and His people. I’m almost certain an all-powerful God could restrain them without letting them experience eternal conscious torment.

      I also had a question for you. You seem to indicate that people are eternal beings, and CAN NOT be annihilated. Is that your position, and if it is, why can’t God destroy them?

    • Susan

      So, TDC, If you were God you would perhaps give ten years of torment to some, five to others, a few minutes– to the nicest people you know….

      If you were God would you send your own son to be tormented to the extreme and die (even if he never sinned at all)….and say that that satisfied all punishment required for justice and that the only thing one has to do to receive the pardon is to believe?

    • TDC

      Susan,

      I don’t actually know what I would do If I were God.

      I readily admit that the sending His Son part is exceedingly gracious to us and more than I could ever do. It does, of course, lead to questions about the justice of penal substitution (questions that Ken Pulliam has brought up repeatedly).

      The Hell part, however, seems inconsistent with the perfect love and grace that could send the Son. My objection isn’t that I could do better than God. My objection is that the character of the God of the Bible seems inconsistent.

    • Susan

      Our vision and understanding of God’s ways are dim now, wouldn’t you agree? Our understanding will not be complete until Christ returns. At that time I think that it will all make sense, and we will see the perfect beauty and grace and justice of God, and we will rejoice and worship Him fully…in a way that we cannot now…because we are sinners, who lack understanding….who think that our creator should do a few things differently.

    • Hodge

      TDC,

      Actually, I didn’t create a false dichotomy, and here’s why: I said that maybe in order to keep an eternal creature in check, it has to be subject to pain that keeps it imprisoned. I also first made the suggestion that chaotic agents may have to be imprisoned apart from any view of pain. I added to that that the pain involved may also be due to God, who is good, hating evil, and therefore, taking pleasure in its destruction (not taking pleasure in that people have chosen to rebel against Him and gain that punishment for themselves). So I suggested three different things: 1. That God needs to subdue chaotic agents in order to keep them in check; 2. That God, being just, may have joy in overcoming evil eternally; and 3. That imprisonment and pain may be combined as one thing in order to keep chaotic agents in check.

      To answer your second question: God cannot destroy them because they were given a piece of His eternal essence. I believe it is clear from Gen 2:7, paralleled to 1:26-27, that man is God’s cult image and given a part of His eternal essence, so that He cannot be destroyed as the other creatures. Spirit beings, whether embodied or disembodied, therefore, are like God, in that they are everlasting. Hence, to keep a chaotic agent in check, the imprisonment must be eternal. That’s just one possibility among many. My main point is to suggest that we ought not indict God when we there are an infinite amount of possibilities that give explanatory power toward the view that hell is eternal and is made up of pain (e.g., where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and people cry out from the flame). I would rather it not exist, but I’m not God, and therefore, I have no sense of proper justice. I have only what I would do in situation A, but my mind is sick and deceiving beyond all things and leads me to the end of death. I think I’ll trust in the Scripture then and the Church He gave to interpret it.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      I’ve already answered some of your questions with what I’ve said. Please read them. You may not agree, but your descriptions of Christian belief are caricatures that border strongly on reductio ad absurdum. God doesn’t tell us to believe a story. He tells us to trust in the only possible escape we can have from hell by trusting in a substitute for our sin, sin that will absolutely take us there without that substitute. He does this even though He hates evil, and therefore, should damn everyone for their murderous rebellion. What kind of a God is that? One of incomprehensible love and mercy toward those who would trust in Him.

    • Hodge

      “My objection is that the character of the God of the Bible seems inconsistent.”

      No, your problem is that the character of God as you interpret the Bible seems inconsistent. As a Calvinist, and I’m sure Michael does not want this to go down that road so I will make these comments brief, there is no inconsistency, since God sends His Son to save those who would believe, not those who would not. He has only wrath for the unrepentant. That is perfectly consistent.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      Maybe I misunderstand Calvinism, but my understanding is that according to Calvinistic double predestination God predestines both the regenerate and the reprobate solely according to his sovereign will and not according to any innate characteristic of the agent being predestined (i.e. foreknowledge of whether or not that individual will accept or reject the Gospel). According to some Calvinists (i.e. John Piper) he does this in such a manner as to glorify himself to the greatest extent. Piper has even stated that God predestined the Fall so that the results of the Fall would allow for the glorification of his Son.

      Also just a thought. Saying that God “can’t” destroy a being such that it ceases to exist seems (to me at least) almost more limiting of God’s powers then Open Theism.

    • TDC

      Hodge,

      Thank you for clarifying your point for me. I retract the false dichotomy charge.

      “No, your problem is that the character of God as you interpret the Bible seems inconsistent.”

      True, it is my interpretation of the Bible. I don’t see the problem resolved for Calvinists or Armenians, however.

      Either way, we have God creating everyone with full knowledge that the vast majority of them will suffer eternally. God knew that for many of them, just like Judas, they would’ve been better off if they were never born in the first place. But He created them anyway. So many questions appear.

      For Calvinists, I suppose the major question would be why so few people are elect. Not saying anyone deserves to be elect, but it is hard to believe that perfect love would NOT save everyone when it is perfectly capable of doing so.

      Although…I realize that this may bring things a bit off topic (into predestination, calvinism, etc.). If so, I’ll shutup, but the question of Hell is probably the primary obstacle to my desire to allow my dying faith to be revived.

    • Patrick Navas

      Ned,

      Excellent way of clarifying the issue. There are hundreds of texts in the Bible that clearly speak of the end of the wicked with plain expressions such as “die” “perish” “come to an end,” “be no more,” “destroyed,” “consumed,” “burnt up,” etc.

      And you were so spot on when you pointed out that “the wages of sin” according to scripture is “death” not “everlasting life in conscious torment.”

      The same principle was originally set forth in the garden of Eden when God told Adam and Eve that they would surely “die” if they transgressed God’s command. God did not warn them that they would suffer “eternal life in the torments of hell.”

      Likewise, God clearly describes the sense of “death” when, after the couple broke God’s commandment, he said “from the dust you were taken, to the dust you shall return.”

      It is true that the book of Revelation speaks of the “Lake of Fire” but John explicitly tells us that the “Lake of Fire” is “the Second Death.”

      Best wishes,

      Patrick Navas
      [email protected]

    • teleologist

      I have a question for the Christians who have a problem with the traditional view of hell. Do you have a problem with hell because you think that makes God immoral or do you think that hell is immoral therefore you choose not to accept that God created hell?

    • Philsaved

      A question really…..
      Where does the Scripture say that once unbelievers die, they stop sinning against the Lord?
      Is it possible that unbelievers in hell continue to sin against the Creator forever (blaspheming, cursing Him), thus the sentence continues to be extended – forever?
      Phil

    • TDC

      teleologist,

      Speaking for myself, I would say the latter, except that I’m open to the possibility that God created Hell.

      This is an important distinction. If it could be proven that God DID create hell, it would seem rather pointless to argue with the Creator. For me, the apparent unjust nature of hell is evidence against the idea that a loving God allows it. And if an eternal hell, along with a loving God, is undeniably biblical, than the apparent unjust nature of hell would be evidence against the existence of the biblical God.

      I don’t think it is an unbeatable argument against Christianity, but it certainly seems like a point against it.

    • Hodge

      “Either way, we have God creating everyone with full knowledge that the vast majority of them will suffer eternally. God knew that for many of them, just like Judas, they would’ve been better off if they were never born in the first place. But He created them anyway. So many questions appear.”

      Yes, but this is different than God loving everyone and wanting them to be saved from evil in which they joyfully partake. The problem is that you are trying to reconcile what the Bible does not say (i.e., that God loves everyone completely and in the same exact way–salvifically) with what the Bible does say (i.e., God judges evil people and sends them into eternal prison). The problem is viewing God as perfectly loving everyone in the same way by sending the Son to try and save them and then sending them to hell. This is not a problem for many Calvinists.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      There are forms of Calvinism as you describe, but most Calvinists would say that God decrees what He does about people in view of the Fall. In fact, it would seem odd for God to decree to save people from the Fall when He did not first consider the Fall. So knowing that all would sin, He predestines with that in mind. Second to this, God does not predestine based on any innate characteristic in terms of salvation. He predestines based on the characteristics of people toward damnation. The decree of mercy is not the same as the decree of damnation. One is not merited. The other is. This is an important distinction that most non-Calvinists don’t make about Calvinism.

    • Hodge

      Patrick,

      There are so many hermeneutical issues ignored in what you’ve said, I almost don’t want to try and untangle them.

      First, separation in the ancient world has to do with separation, not annihilation. Please show me where any ancient Near Eastern culture in which the Bible speaks that believes death is annihilation. You’re reading your contemporary definitions back into those words.

      Second, what is physical death/separation in the OT is meant to be shadow of spiritual separation in the NT. Hence, someone killed in the OT foreshadows the spiritual separation/punishment of the NT in the same way that temporary salvation in the OT foreshadows eternal salvation in the NT.

      Adam and Eve actually don’t physical die in terms of physical death on the day God tells them they will, but they are removed from the life of the garden and sent into the uncreated/chaotic lands that is given the imagery of the netherworld in the ANE. This will ultimately lead to their physical death, but God’s pronouncement that man will return to dust is a declaration of what this chaotic land and its harsh environment, yielding thorns and thistles, will do to him. The punishment is carried out immediately with their expulsion. So they are not one and the same. But even if they were, as I said before, one cannot gain their doctrine of hell from OT texts that speak in temporal and this worldly terms. That is undoubtedly a mistake that should be avoided.

    • TDC

      “The problem is that you are trying to reconcile what the Bible does not say (i.e., that God loves everyone completely and in the same exact way–salvifically) with what the Bible does say (i.e., God judges evil people and sends them into eternal prison). The problem is viewing God as perfectly loving everyone in the same way by sending the Son to try and save them and then sending them to hell. This is not a problem for many Calvinists.”

      Fair enough. It just does not seem like a good thing for God to not help the undeserving even though He could. Once again, I agree that His help is not merited by the sinner, but God is supposed to be the most perfect being in existence. Because of His omnipotence, it would be no problem for Him to elect all to salvation, and it isn’t like the elect deserve to be elect anyway. But according to Calvinism, He doesn’t elect everyone. In Calvinism, I’m having trouble seeing the goodness of God when He allows most of the world to suffer eternally and elects to save only a few.

      This, at least in my view, would mean He does not love most people in the world at all. He knows they have no chance because they are not elect, so in allowing them to continue to live He is merely allowing them more time to store up wrath for themselves. He hasn’t given them the grace to of faith, so every time God allows them to hear the Gospel, He knows they are just going to sin again by rejecting it and store more wrath.

      Is it just that my view of goodness is skewed?

    • Hodge

      That should be “death in the ancient Near Eastern world has to do with separation, not annihilation.”

    • Hodge

      I think you’ve already identified the problem.

      “It just does not seem like a good thing for God to not help the undeserving even though He could.”

      and

      “Is it just that my view of goodness is skewed?”

      Goodness hates evil. It hates it. When good sees murder, it wants to kill it. When it sees rebellion, it wants to hurt it. God is not good if He does not hate evil, and I mean, hate it. So the irony in your statement is that you would pit goodness against God punishing evil, when in reality, you ought to pit goodness against mercy. The astonishing thing about God is that He actual decides to look past His complete hatred toward what is evil, be patient until the time His Son can take it upon Himself, and then forgive those who are evil and make them His children. It is astonishing that He does this with anyone. To say that He has to do it with everyone or anyone is really odd to me, and I think it only stems from a deeply held belief that people really aren’t that bad (i.e., they’re just good people who do bad things). Hell makes no sense within this theology. It also makes no sense if your theology is good = love toward everyone, rather than good = love toward children and wrath toward those who would destroy them. Can He make everyone His child? Sure, but He has decided in His justice to express His goodness both in mercy and in wrath, and this too seems to be for the benefit of His children in some way (perhaps eternally understanding what they have been saved from, as well as understanding who God is as the Almighty who overcomes a massive amount of evil/chaotic agents, which may also be tied to the salvation of His children). I will say again, I would not indict God in our finite ignorance about something that we are geared by our rebellion and self justification to misunderstand.

    • Ned

      Hodge:

      While it would be my pleasure to discuss the OT (since eternal conscious torment is not once mentioned there), and your assertions about ANE culture, it would probably be wiser to circumvent that entire can of worms and focus on the NT.

      So when Peter writes that,

      “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly”

      and

      “[the Lord] is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”

      is it your contention that by taking expressions like “destruction” and “perish” at face value, one is reading his “contemporary definitions” back into the text?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      “To say that He has to do it with everyone or anyone is really odd to me”

      I think for many people the issue is this. One facet of “Justice” as typically understood is that punishments for crimes are dealt out impartially and equally (i.e. two murderer’s who committed the exact same crime under the exact same circumstances get the same punishment). This does not seem to be what is happening in the case of Calvinism. Two people who have committed the same crime with neither deserving of mercy are treated in drastically different ways purely according to the decree of God. Let me illustrate. Assume I am a Judge and have 6 murderers before me. As each one comes before me for sentencing I flip a coin. If it lands heads I let them go free. If it lands tails they get the death penalty. Now do you think the newspapers would be talking the next day about how merciful I was for letting 3 of the 6 go free?? or would they be decrying the miscarriage of justice???

      At the end of the day I just don’t buy the “God doesn’t have to save anyone” argument in the context of Calvinism. If on the other hand God’s offer of mercy was extended to everyone and people freely accepted or rejected this offer (meaning it is resistible) we have another story entirely.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Jesus, 2nd Person of the Trinity, Son of God, …,

      was excruciatingly tortured on the Cross. He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup be passed, but He willingly obeyed and willingly suffered immense torturous pain to take and bear the penalty of our sins when He was sinless.

      I deserve to be crucified and tortured for my sins. I deserve the penalty. But my loving Savior and Lord died for my sins so that I would enjoy eternal fellowship with Him. And/or on the flip side, I wouldn’t suffer eternal misery and torment apart from Him in Hell.

      Obey and Follow Christ as Lord and Savior: Consequences. Now and later.

      Reject Christ: Consequences. Now and later.

      I pray that all (and everyone of us deserves Hell, but thankfully God’s Grace and Mercy, not everyone gets what they deserve) would obey, follow, and glorify Christ.

    • Lynn

      Why would Christians even get disturbed over sinners going to hell to begin with? God obviously doesn’t love most people. I think the Westboro Baptist people have it about right. The reason they are so disliked is because they don’t try to hide their Calvinism. They put it out there right in your face and smile about it. They’re like Calvinists without manners.

      Which would go along with the person above who mentioned Mohler (? ) They were saying-“shame on you for apologizing for God’s ways-you should be happy-they are good!”

      So if you go by the Bible, this is your God. Plus I think God frowns on questioning also.

      And when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that God would love everybody so very much one minute, then throw them in hell the next. The Westboro people make much more sense. They say “God doesn’t love people, He hates people!”

      To me, it’s like a father has a bunch of children and picking three of them to love. Why? No reason, other than that’s the ones he picked.

    • rayner markley

      In the end, Satan may consider that he has won the battle. His following is so much greater than God’s owing to God’s apparent parsimony with election. Or, God may be working with a different economy not based on numbers but on other values, which according to Calvinists He doesn’t reveal to us. No wonder Michael and most of us have this dilemma.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Lynn: “To me, it’s like a father has a bunch of children and picking three of them to love. Why? No reason, other than that’s the ones he picked.”

      Hodge! Where are you Hodge? This one’s for you!

    • ScottL

      The overflowing grace coming forth from some people in these comments.

      Has anyone read or interacted with N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope. He is quite a strong historical-NT scholar and worthy of reading.

    • Danny Zacharias

      ” I am well familiar with the alternative theories and I certainly understand why people bite the first chance they get when presented with an alternative, but, in the end, these amount to nothing more than “consultation heresies.” ”

      This is far too dismissive of legitimate theological discussion. I really haven’t decided myself on the issue, I’m torn. But what I really want to say is that I haven’t come to a serious wrestling with a “soul death” theology because I liked it better but because of the Bible. Besides a few Bible Dictionary articles, it is the Bible that has convinced me that it is not so easy to just assume the bible teaches about eternal torment.

      Danny

    • Lynn

      I posed the question above, asking why Christians would get disturbed re hell and other people going there. I’ll answer my own question.

      I think they get disturbed because many Christians are civilized, decent, regular people. It’s just that they try to go by the Bible, so are forced into having to defend awful doctrines.

      It’s their humanity and natural empathy that makes them worry re hell. I think they should listen to their own minds and hearts. They aren’t dumb.

    • TDC

      “Hodge! Where are you Hodge? This one’s for you!”

      lol

      “Has anyone read or interacted with N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope. He is quite a strong historical-NT scholar and worthy of reading.”

      This work is somewhere on my “to read” list. Is it worth bumping up? Does it offer some important considerations about hell and God’s goodness?

      Anyway, I second Michael T’s point. The issue, at this point, is whether our the Calvinist description of predestination is just and good. It seems neither just nor good for God to take a world full of undeserving, hell bound sinners, and save something like 10% (I think that’s being extremely generous with the numbers) when He is perfectly able to save the 100%.

      When God saves someone, according to Calvinism, God is able to show both mercy AND justice, correct? Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies justice, does it not? So why would God ever choose only to show justice to so many when by saving them He would show both His mercy AND His justice? This problem is compounded if human suffering means anything at all. Once again, I am well aware that God isn’t obligated to save anyone in Calvinism, but that doesn’t explain why, if He is indeed the perfect being, He doesn’t save everyone.

      Possible explanations have been offered, but I don’t think they succeed. Hodge, you mentioned that God may use the damned to show the saved what they were saved from. But it seems that an omnipotent, omniscient God would be perfectly capable of showing us what we were saved from without allowing such a huge number (or anyone, for that matter) to send themselves to hell.

      If the ultimate answer is “God’s justice is to transcendent for us to understand”, or “God has His reasons, and we just don’t know them” or “who are you, O man, to talk back to God”, that’s fine (though unconvincing for the non-Christian), but I can’t say that I know of any possible explanations that actually work.

    • Michael

      Lynn I think your approach may be a bit off. We all deserve to go to hell and God’s justice demands that we go to hell. This does not mean he has no love for those going to hell (see John 3:16 for example). It is through mercy that he has saved some. He is not just our father but also our judge and our savior. He takes no pleasure in the suffering of the wicked.

      In Christian Love
      Mike

    • ScottL

      TDC –

      I am only a quarter of the way through the book, but I know he addresses the doctrines of the soul, heaven, hell, purgatory, paradise, kingdom of God, new heavens and new earth, the second coming, and how this all plays out in our mission today. And he does this from all 3 foci of biblical, theological and historical methods. I think he is a valid voice in this area, as I love his understanding of the kingdom of God.

    • teleologist

      Philsaved,

      Is it possible that unbelievers in hell continue to sin against the Creator forever (blaspheming, cursing Him), thus the sentence continues to be extended – forever?

      There is no evidence that unbelievers stop sinning after death. In any case that is irrelevant because after death then judgment, and hell is the result of that judgment with eternal consequences for the unbeliever.

    • teleologist

      TDC,
      If I understand you correctly, you are saying that there is no hell and if there is a hell then the Christian God does not exist.

      Then let me ask you this, what makes hell unjust? On what basis do you make such a determination? What would be a just reward for those who commit what you consider as evil acts?

    • Lynn

      Michael,

      Well, maybe God could be even more merciful and save everybody.

    • Hodge

      “is it your contention that by taking expressions like “destruction” and “perish” at face value, one is reading his “contemporary definitions” back into the text?”

      Yep, because Peter is using Second Temple interpretations of the OT terms when He talks about those things. Does the earth and universe perish in fire? No, it is renewed and reordered. It is not annihilated. You are reading what was referring to something temporary and physical in the OT and making no distinction of Second Temple and NT applications.

    • Patrick Navas

      Hodge,

      You wrote:

      separation in the ancient world has to do with separation, not annihilation…show me where any ancient Near Eastern culture in which the Bible speaks that believes death is annihilation. You’re reading your contemporary definitions back into those words.

      I myself never brought up the terms “separation” or “annihilation” so I’m not quite sure why you bring the points up. You said “I’m reading your contemporary definitions back into these words.”

      The words that I did use were the words of the Bible: “The wages of sin is death.” “If you eat from the tree you will surely die.” And, for the specific purpose of showing that I was not “reading my own definitions back into these words” I cited the text that clearly gives a fitting description of death: “From the dust you were taken; from the dust you shall return.”

      Adam and Eve actually don’t physical die in terms of physical death on the day God tells them they will, but they are removed from the life of the garden and sent into the uncreated/chaotic lands that is given the imagery of the netherworld in the ANE. This will ultimately lead to their physical death, but God’s pronouncement that man will return to dust is a declaration of what this chaotic land and its harsh environment, yielding thorns and thistles, will do to him.

      I disagree. The pronouncment “from dust you were taken, to dust you shall return” bears a plain an obvious meaning. There is no warrant for thinking that the “dust” Adam and Eve would return to has to do with life outside of the Garden of eden among thorns and thistles.

      “On the “day” that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit the death process began. As the ESV footnote notes, “in the day” can sometimes simply mean “when” in Hebrew (compare Gen.2:4, Josh.14:11, Jer.7:22). But in this case “in the day” is probably stressing immediacy, because the eating — which caused the effect —was in the day. The day that…

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      If God really tries to save everyone and fails, then He’s not omnipotent. You have the same problem. In fact, your problem is worse because it has to distort the nature of God.

      Second to this, your analogy is false. The judge is the victim of the crime. That’s very different than an impartial judge not caring and arbitrarily handing out sentences. God is the victim of our crimes, and He has chosen for some reason within Himself for His own glory and the love and compassion He decided to have on some of those criminals to forgive some and condemn others for the same crimes. He doesn’t, therefore, choose arbitrarily just because we know He does not choose based on the nature of the individual. There is a rhyme and reason within Himself. We know that it glorifies Him and shows His love to His people, but we know nothing else of His decision beyond this. To describe it, therefore, as flipping a coin is also a false analogy. I think people would view a person who forgave any number of a group who murdered her family as merciful. I doubt people would be yelling at her and telling her that she had to forgive everyone if she was to be considered such.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      I’m surprised you didn’t sink to the level of calling Calvinists Nazis. Thanks for your kindness and grace to understand other people’s positions. Like all Calvinists are really saying that God hates everyone. I said He doesn’t love everyone the same way, i.e. in a salvific manner. That’s a far cry from hating people. He hates evil. He hates sin. Perhaps, after people have been completely consumed in their hatred for His rule over their lives, and there is nothing left but their evil, He hates what they have become and punishes them forever for it. But to say that this is the equivalent of a bunch of fundamentalist ARMINIANS who don’t preach the gospel and think God loves anyone, is a bit absurd. God shows nothing for love toward the righteous and the wicked here, but the wicked prove to be evil by rejecting it and becoming consumed by evil. Hence, God’s wrath toward them is brought on by their own choices.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      No, it’s like three children from another family trying to murder three children of the father’s family. Only a good and just father would keep the murderers under check. He is under no obligation to adopt them back after they have rejected His goodness and become murderers.

    • Hodge

      “It seems neither just nor good for God to take a world full of undeserving, hell bound sinners, and save something like 10% (I think that’s being extremely generous with the numbers) when He is perfectly able to save the 100%.”

      The key word here is “seems.”

      How do you reconcile gaining your theology from what “seems” right to you with these verses:

      Prov 14:12 There is a way [which seems ] right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (this is repeated twice in Proverbs BTW)

      Jer 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

      The problem, once again, is that you don’t want to adopt Biblical theology and reconcile that with Biblical theology, so you adopt a foreign theology and then say you can’t reconcile the Bible with itself when you try to force that foreign concept onto the Biblical text. It is your explanatory power that fails here because of this.

      “Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies justice, does it not?”

      It satisfies justice. It displays mercy. But we don’t behold it. We don’t understand it without those who are damned to display it. And it seems that we will forget it without that eternal display. So actually, in order for us to see the justice and mercy of the cross, we need the display of our possible fate. We also need the display of who God is and what He has done over chaos, something that would not exist without the eternally damned.

      Finally, I grow tired of this omnipotence argument, as though God can show us without showing us. No, God can’t make square circles. That’s not what omnipotence means. God is not illogical. So God can’t show us eternally without showing us eternally.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      You miss my point. It’s not about whether or not God is flipping a coin. It’s about the arbitrary nature of the process. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that God couldn’t do things the way you assert. I’m simply asserting that such a method is not just and since the God of the Bible is just such a God could not be the God of the Bible.

      Furthermore while God is the victim there is an issue as to in what sense He is the victim. Ultimately I think the statement that “God is the victim” only makes sense if the actions which occurred were outside His will. Since Calvinists (at least the ones I know – perhaps you’re different) assert that all that occurs is the will of God one has to wonder if God can really be the victim. If I will someone to kill me am I really a victim, or a willing participant?

      Suffice to say God is the Judge, the Jury, and the Executioner. Thus the implications of His actions for justice still apply regardless of whether He was the one wronged.

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