God created us that He might share his love with creatures who, unlike the angels, are made in the image of God and can respond willingly to His love. I know this is the finite questioning the infinite, but I wonder why God, who knows the end from the beginning, chose eternal damnation to those who reject his love. The eternality of the consequences is very harsh. I wonder why the consequences of sin (being born in sin nature) could be delt with in this life?
Do you know anyone who under thier own power can live a sin free life?
Even Paul said I do the things I wish not to do.
This is definitely a doozy of a question, so thanks for bringing it here. Just to clarify though, when you wrote…
…did you mean, ‘Why couldn’t the consequences of sin be dealt with in this life?’ As in, it seems you’re questioning the justice of the concept of infinite punishment of a finite life. Is that your question?
Thanks Kathleen. In rewording my question: I am asking could there have been a way (God’s way) that the consequences of sin (unbeliever) be administered in this life?
Well, in one sense they are. Proverbs 13:15 says that the way of the transgressor is hard. Isaiah 57:20, the wicked are like the troubled sea, etc. Every sin has its own built in consequences, its own seeds of self destruction. Be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23) even if people in this life never do. And that is inevitable.
Why? Well, consider this - what exactly is it about hell that makes it so hellish? Is it the fire? The darkness? The thirst? The torment?
I would say that all of these descriptions of hell are not, at its core, what make hell the nightmare that it really is. At its core, hell is the absence of God.
Now some may think, “That’s it? No more God in our lives? It’s not so bad in this world - can it be that much worse in the next?”
But actually, no one in this world has ever experienced the absolute absence of God. We walk on God’s earth, we breath His air, we enjoy His sunshine - in Him we live and move and have our being.
But imagine for a moment - if God is light, then to be without Him would be an endless darkness; if God is the water of life, then without Him you would thirst forever; if He is the God of all comfort, then without Him is all torment; if He is the universal foundation by Whom all things are upheld, then without Him one would fall forever - if God is the ultimate blessing, then to be eternally abandoned of Him is the ultimate curse.
God does not make hell any more miserable than its own fundamental nature makes it. For men with His broken image inside them to exist apart from Him really could not be made any better.
But God did deal with the consequences of sin in this life. He sent His Son to enter this life specifically so that He could suffer the consequences of our sins on our behalf.
Is hell a place of darkness? Then on the cross, the sun went out for the afternoon.
Is hell a place of thirst? Then He cried out, “I thirst!”
Is hell a place of torment? Then he writhed in the agonies of the crucifixion.
But ultimately, what makes hell “hell” is the absence of God. And when He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” - He dipped His soul, bearing the sins of the world, into the essence of hell itself.
For the only time in all eternity, past or future, the fellowship of the Trinity was broken.
For the only time in all the Gospels Jesus called Him “God” and not “Father”.
No wonder the rocks rent, the vail was torn, graves opened and hardened Roman executioners trembled!
And when it was over, He cried, “It is finished - Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!”
We finite mortals could never complete an infinite penalty in any measure of time. But the infinite Son of God could do it all in six hours.
Creating the universe in six days cost Him nothing. His infinite power was no less infinite - His eternal life was no less eternal. But making new creations out of you and me cost Him everything!
So to the degree that one lives his life in this world apart from God, He will experience a foretaste of hell on earth.
But the converse is also true - to the degree that we walk with God, we experience a foretaste of heaven. And if the absence of God is what makes hell so hellish, then what do you suppose makes heaven so heavenly?
Thanks you so much for your vivid insightful response. The word “eternal damnation” does not quiet my mind. I wonder if you have read on this topic of “hell” in a book authored by ton Sprinkle? Also, have you read “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller with a different view of “hell”
I really appreciated your way of weaving the Crucifixion into your response. Thanks again
No, I’m afraid I have not read those things.
And you’re right - the thought of eternal damnation should not quiet our minds. The thought of what lost souls will face should burden us to equip ourselves and engage them with the gospel, which is why I suspect most of us are involved in this platform. May God encourage us all to sow and water and reap to whatever degree He enables us!
Thank you for your encouraging response.
I’ve not read the books you’ve suggested for James Lynos to read, but I have listened to sermons by Tim Keller and his non-belief in a literal Hell. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMRCjvUXVEo)
Frankly, with all due respect to Mr. Keller, I cannot see how his metaphorical-hell-conclusions are biblically motivated. Albeit It is clearly evident how a metaphoric hell picture would be infinitely more socially acceptable amidst the diversity of world religions and beliefs.
In response to your question: I would point out 2 things to consider:
- the consequences of sin is not “being born with a sin-nature” The consquences of sin is death.
…for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.(Genesis 2:17)
…Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15)
2 God did not “choose” eternal damnation to be the consequences for those who sin. He warned man that it Is the consequence of sin.(Loving fathers give similar warnings)… God did however, choose to make a way for sinful, hell bound men to be saved from this second death: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.(Romans 6:23)
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (End of Revelation 20)
The following link will quickly bring you up to speed with the views Dave is referring to in reference to: “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller with a different view of “hell"
I’d be interested to know your thoughts…
I’ve cued this link so you can get the gist of it in less than 60 seconds:
Thanks Tim candid response. I firmly believe the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word but I have difficulty in understanding some of the adjectives used In describing hell - fiery furnace, weeping and gnashing of teeth, everlasting fire, burning sulphur, unquenchable fire. I am wondering if unbelievers appearing at the Great White Throne Judgement will have their natural bodies transformed in some manner. Also, in Luke 16 account of the “Rich man and Lazarus” the rich man could think quite clearly concerning the state of his brothers?
Does that verse you quoted in Revelation revolve around the two judgements - GWT judgement and the Judgement Seat of Christ where believers will be judged for their works?
Okay – it appears that Keller’s view of hell is adapted (perhaps even entirely adopted) from C. S. Lewis – that hell is an eternal continuation in whichever direction one was moving in life – that the inherent consequences of moving forever toward God are eternally intensifying blisses and blessings – but of moving forever away from God (toward self, sin, Satan, etc.) are eternally intensifying curses.
The idea that hell is an eternal progression away from God is consistent with the Biblical view that the essence of hell is being eternally separated, abandoned, forsaken of Him – “Depart from me”, Matthew 25:41. Also, the direction must be established in life, because once you leave this world, the direction cannot be altered – any more than a spaceman drifting through the void could change his direction – Revelation 22:11.
I believe those two points are valid.
The first of two quotes from Lewis that I really liked was, “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.’ All that are in hell choose it.”
Yes – people do choose whether they will accept Christ’s invitation to come to Him, or whether they will say, “We will not have this Man to reign over us!” Connected to Him, or separated. Excellent quote!
The second Lewis quote was, “The gates of hell are locked on the inside.” I believe that one more reason hell is eternal is because those who go there will never repent. The issue was never God’s unwillingness to forgive, but the sinner’s unwillingness to ask Him to. If God Himself could not bring them to repentance when His Spirit was drawing them to Him in life and when the evidences of His creation were clearly seen all around them – then it is inconceivable that they would do so once He has abandoned them in death.
Notice in Revelation 16:9, 11 and 21 how the hardened sinners at the end of the Tribulation, when the world is enduring the closest thing to hell on earth, respond to the most climactic judgments of all!
I am a Christian. I often ponder things I believe to be important, and consider what relevant insights the bible reveals hoping to gain better understanding and insight. I do this partly by studying the bible text itself, the context, the book, the phrases, and the words themselves, but also by considering how I may or may not be in agreement or in alignment with the truth that surfaces as I study it. It may seem to some, that Christians probably think our real need (as a Christ follower) is to truly understand what God is saying in the bible, and what it actually means so we can in turn, just believe it and follow it as a “good Christian” should. As it turns out however that simple discovery process can become more convoluted than one might ever have imagined. The dirty secret is that our hearts are deceitful, our motives are impure our existing view points are sticky and we hold wrong assumptions and conclusions tighter to our chest than we ought… We’re fearful, uneasy, and we’ve got all manner of ugly hang-ups down deep. Some of us find that we can’t always just seek out the truth, discover its true meaning and follow God the way a “good Christian” would. Sometimes the truth-finding we’re trying to do outside of ourselves requires a bunch more truth telling inside ourselves. The times when I seek God’s truth with any amount of success I think I am more keenly aware that my heart can be deceitful. It is my job to deeply consider my hunches and ponder why I feel the way I do about a subject, but it is equally my job to be sober about it and to honestly consider where I could be totally wrong about something. After listening to Tim Keller’s sermon presenting a Metaphorical hell I get less of the impression that his teaching came from biblical text and more the impression that it is believed to be a better instrument for the Christian’s belief structure.
I don’t see it very arguable to try to discuss whether the bible does or does not describe a literal place of fire and brimstone prepared for the damned. I will study this more as I have time, but so far, from what I can tell the metaphorical-hell-argument becomes necessary to have due to the contentions people have with the notion that a loving God would do such a thing. So, the actual argument at the heart of the matter has nothing to do with what the bible does or doesn’t say, but the seeming inconsistency of a God who could claim to be loving and yet condemn sinners to everlasting torment.