Sorry if I posted in the wrong topical area. This is my first post. God bless RZIM. I recently lost my spouse to cancer. It’s been so hard for me. RZIM has been a blessing to me in this time of grief/contemplation.
God is all knowing, all powerful, loving, merciful along with may other amazing attributes. That being said, why were we created if billions and billions suffer/sin, Christ had to die, and billions and billions will go to hell suffering for eternity (maybe more than will be with God)?
Thanks for your patience and understanding with me.
Brother I will be praying for you and your family during this time. Praying that God can and will comfort your heart and give you grace to endure this painful part of your life. @SeanO has a number of resources on the subject of hell. I will let him share with you what he has spent a great deal of study and pray on this subject. Again may God give you grace during this time of need.
Thanks Jimmy. BTW, I didn’t mean to imply my wife is in hell. Just the overwhelming reality of death, suffering, and hell for potentially billions and billions of souls. So hard to rationalize. I pray I can help others see God’s plan for others that experience something similar.
@mduckett Praying that the God of all comfort with be with you during this time my friend - much love brother. May His Spirit surround you with the grace and peace of our Good Shepherd Jesus
In my opinion, the Bible never clear says exactly how God will handle those who choose to reject Him. Also, if someone has never heard of Christ, the Bible leaves room for God to handle their judgment differently - based upon the knowledge they possessed in life through general revelation. For example, the Bible is clear that those who lived before the law will be judged differently than those who knew the law.
Ultimately, we must recognize that sin is serious and does lead to death. Any view that denies the seriousness of sin is not Biblical. At the same time, there is plenty of room for views that diverge on how God ultimately handles sin. Much more below.
Please do ask any questions you have after reading through some of the material. Christ grant you wisdom.
A few summary thoughts:
God will judge each person according to the knowledge they possess - the judge of all the earth will do what is right
It is not clear that Scripture teaches eternal torment for those who reject Jesus - it is possible that after they are judged by God they will cease to exist - this view is called annihilationism
The English word ‘Hell’ is not even a direct translation of any word in the Bible. It is not a Biblical word. There are 4 words used in the Bible that are sometimes translated ‘hell’ and none of them are equivalent to what unbelievers I have met often mean by the English word ‘hell’. They are:
1 - Gehenna or Valley of Hinnom (New Testament)
2 - Tartarus (New Testament)
3 - Sheol (Old Testament)
4 - Hades (New Testament)
The three views of how God handles sin ultimately are:
Eternal torment - some form of eternal suffering or separation from God
Conditionalism - those who reject God are judged and then cease to exist
Universalism - sin is real, but all people will eventually be brought to repentance - for this view to be orthodox requires that sin still requires Christ’s sacrifice, but that repentance after death is possible. I do not personally think the Bible provides room for this view, but folks like George MacDonald have held to something akin to it without denying the seriousness of sin.
For more details, please see the below threads.
Some books to check out.
Check out this movie “Hell and Mr. Fudge” - definitely worth watching.
So sorry to hear about your wife. Jesus says blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5). Praying God would comfort you through this.
But to your question, I recently just listened to a lecture by Michael Ramsden where he addressed this question. So I will do my best to convey the message. But it starts with God’s motivation for creation. In the bible, God is described, not just as loving, but as love. And before creation, the question could be asked, who was God loving? Love is an inherently relational concept. You cannot be totally alone and love because there is no one else to love. But God, in the Christian conception, exists in the Trinity. One Godhead, three distinct persons, loving each other perfectly. So before creation, love was perfectly contained within the community of the Trinity. So God did not create man so he would have someone to love. If that were so, his loving nature would be dependent on our existence, which doesn’t sound very godly. But rather, God created man out of love, in order that we might share in it. Only in the Christian view does love precede life. All other worldviews, life precedes love (paraphrase of Ravi).
Second, with God creating a loving world comes the possibility of rebellion because love is a choice. So to create a loving world, God had to create a world in which us rejecting him was a real possibility. And God knew we would rebel and how much it would cost him to rescue us. But if God foresaw our rebellion, why create in the first place? Revelation says before the foundation of the world, the lamb was slain (Revelation 13:8). This means that from the very beginning, God knew what it would cost him in order to create. So why be willing to pay that price in the first place instead of just scrapping the plan? Because he loved us that much. We know how valuable something is because of how much someone is willing to pay for it. And God was willing to pay the ultimate price to have us.
Why were we created? To quote C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce: “For infinite happiness…You can step out into it at any moment…”
We were created to have a perfect relationship with YHWH, with each other, and with all creation. We were created to do the good works that He has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) Because of Christ we can begin returning to that relationship and perfection at any point in time, but it hurts. Following Christ is not an easy thing, but a difficult thing. That is why so many do not choose it: this road is painful and excruciatingly difficult, full of suffering. It is so hard we can not possibly do it on our own strength. And yet, it is the only thing in the entire universe that will fulfill us.
It is also the only thing that makes the trials of this life worth something. Know that, when you place your sorrows at the feet of the Father, you will find comfort there. YHWH knows what loss is. “Jesus wept” is one the best known passages in the Bible. He is a God who knows and understands sorrow and One who continues to respond to brokenness by redeeming it, because He loves us and He loves his creation. That is why He Himself died in our places: so that we might be redeemed. And we have the audacity to tell Him that there is something else out there more worthy of our worship than He is. To quote The Great Divorce again: “Milton was right,…the choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.”
This is the motivation of evangelism: to save even one person from eternal misery and torment because YHWH loves them and (often with His help) we love them.
With respect to @SeanO, I’d like to present the traditional view on hell, and answer this topic with a plain “yes,” billions will likely go to hell. I very much appreciate that Connect members are frequently sensitive, in faithful RZIM fashion. I share in this same caution and understand there are degrees of nuance surrounding the subject of hell, but my understanding of Scripture leads me to believe in the eternal punishment of those who reject Christ.
My primary external source on this is a book appropriately titled “The Doctrine of Endless Punishment” (DEP hereafter) by William Shedd, a professor of systematic theology in the late 19th century. Citation and Google Play Books link (free) are below. I recommend reading this eBook because it exhaustively makes the case from Scripture and historical context that heaven and hell are the literal, final and permanent destinations for souls (and bodies). For anyone who remains unsure that hell is both retributive and eternal, I suggest giving this a read.
In John 14:6, Jesus tells us that no one can come to the Father except through him. There are three views on the scope of salvation:
Pluralism - basically says “all roads lead to God.” Whatever religion you are, that’s okay. Pluralists are often “universalists,” believing that everyone will go to heaven.
Inclusivism - Jesus is the only way to heaven, but you don’t have to expressly put your faith in him for salvation. A devout Muslim is saved (unbeknownst to himself), but through Christ. This can obviously foster a works-based theory of salvation.
Exclusivism - John 14:6. Romans 10:9. John 3:16. etc.
I think the general protest from Christians comes when someone asks about unreached people groups. What happens to those who never hear the gospel? This is partly why the idea of inclusivism is appealing to some. The truth is that we don’t know the mechanism in such a situation. We have a similar lack of information regarding salvation in the Old Testament, save for the likes of 1 Cor. 10:1-4, which tells us (exegetically) that as we look back on Christ and believe, the patriarchs looked forward to him.
From the biblical record, I think we can only honestly, clearly address soteriology from a New Covenant perspective. And, if we take the great commission seriously, this should be all we need to know. Let’s get out there and preach the Gospel! With regard to those who never hear, I am strongly inclined to agree with @SeanO on the basis of God’s character:
This is, however, the exception and not the rule.
Eternal punishment was the prevailing view of the early church. Initial detractors from orthodoxy were Clement and Origen of Alexandria, proposing the concept that hell could be remedial. In other words, one could be “corrected” and “educated” for a time, after which he may enter heaven. This would later be held by the Roman Catholic church in the doctrine of purgatory. (DEP)
Remediation, or “restorationism” is still one of the positions taken on hell, along with universalism, annihilationism, and eternal punishment, which have already been discussed in this thread. Answering both universalism and restorationism, Shedd says this:
Suffering that is merely educational does not require a vicarious atonement in order to release from it. But suffering that is judicial and punitive can be released from the transgressor, only by being inflicted upon a substitute. He, therefore, who denies personal penalty must, logically, deny vicarious penalty. If the sinner himself is not obliged by justice to suffer in order to satisfy the law he has violated, then, certainly, no one needs suffer for him for this purpose.
He elsewhere points out the obvious, that universal salvation certainly does not require a vicarious atonement. (DEP)
On Annihilationism, that unrepentant souls cease to exist, Shedd suggests the Bible consistently speaks only of two ages, and that they are to be understood as eternal. (DEP)
Mat 12:32 NKJV - (32) "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
We also have the language of the worm not dying, and the fire not being quenched (Mark 9:44).
Further, I am of the opinion that it would be a great injustice for an unrepentant sinner to be extinguished at death, or even after a certain period of torment. It takes both a perfect and eternal being to substitutionally receive the just punishment due to finite man. The Lord Jesus Christ stepped into this world to pay a ransom that could only be afforded by himself. Since man cannot atone for himself, would not the exoneration of one through annihilation leave justice wanting and the wrath of God unsatisfied? The transgression is such that an infinite price is required of the transgressor, a price that without the blood of Christ must be worked out by the finite transgressor to the approaching of infinity… that is, forever.
I’m going to pass on the “Why God?” portion of this topic as @rla9316 and @RebeccaN have already answered well. Let’s remember that God doesn’t “send” people to hell so much as they “choose” to go there by rejecting his son.
As a brief side note, Shedd also addresses at length the Hebrew and Greek terms that translate as “hell” in English. “Sheol” in the OT and “Hades” in the NT are functional equivalents and can be rendered either as “the grave” or “hell.” In the OT, Sheol is more frequently translated grave than hell, while in the NT Hades is more frequently translated hell than grave. If you decide to read the book, be aware that the author devotes much attention to refuting a false belief of his time that Hades and Paradise were two chambers of hell - a heresy adapted from Greek mythology. (DEP)
“Gehenna,” I believe, is always translated hell. When we see the English “hell” in the Bible, and even sometimes the transliterated “Hades,” it refers to the abode of the wicked reserved for the judgment of endless punishment where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The biblical record is strong on the doctrine of hell. The picture can be seen vividly in the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Torment. Fire. Permanent separation. This is our call to action. As Paul exhorted Timothy, may we preach the word! And may we say as John the Baptist and Jesus alike proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”