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Why would a loving God send people to Hell?

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Published: 16 October 2012 (GMT+10)

123rf.com/Sorapong Chaipanya

There are a lot of charges brought up against the God of the Bible; perhaps one of the most common is, “If God is supposed to be loving, how could He send people to Hell just because they didn’t worship Him?” It’s implied that it’s deeply unjust for God to judge sin at all, and even worse to do so by sending the sinners to a place of eternal punishment. However, these critics often profess they don’t believe in the God they are accusing, and also deny any objective standard of right and wrong anyway. Sometimes believers also struggle with this question, wondering how God could condemn someone who never heard of Jesus and so never had a chance to believe in Him, for example.

The question of Hell is not an appealing one even for people who affirm its existence. No one likes the idea of many people suffering judgment in the life to come. But the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel requires that there be ‘Bad News’—salvation in Jesus Christ would not bring glory to God if there were actually nothing to be saved from. So it’s important to be able to give an answer, even in the case of a subject that no one particularly likes contemplating.

Who goes to Hell?

When unbelieving critics talk about Hell, they sometimes speak like it will be full of innocent people (like themselves!). However, the Bible doesn’t indicate that innocent people will spend a single moment in Hell. Rather, Hell is God’s answer to the fundamental injustice of this life. There are many murderers, rapists, and other people who wreak havoc in the lives of others, who never experience judgment in this life. Everyone knows that it is wrong that these people never be brought to account for what they’ve done; something in the human heart demands justice. And Hell is God’s answer.

Randy Alcorn writes:

Without Hell, justice would never overtake the unrepentant tyrants responsible for murdering millions. Perpetrators of evil throughout the ages would get away with murder—and rape, and torture, and every evil.

Even if we may acknowledge Hell as a necessary and just punishment for evildoers, however, we rarely see ourselves as worthy of Hell. After all, we are not Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Bundy, or Dahmer.

God responds, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12).1

For the majority of people who are not guilty on the scale of these obviously (even to us) depraved people, it’s hard to understand that we deserve punishment, too. But most people have grievances against others—if someone stole from you, or hurt your children, or if you were a victim of something fundamentally unjust, you would want justice; your sense of what is right would demand that the person at fault pay a penalty for wronging you. Every time we break God’s law, that’s an affront to God, and He demands justice, just as we do imperfectly on a smaller scale. If you’ve ever said in your heart, “That person should pay for what he did!” then you fundamentally agree with the idea of Hell, because the doctrine of Hell says somebody is going to pay for every sin, eventually.

Sin: Rebellion against our loving Creator

God didn’t create people to go to Hell, and He didn’t create people to sin. In fact, the place He made for people originally was perfect. The Garden of Eden had everything Adam and Eve could ever want. It was safe and pleasant, God lovingly provided everything they needed, and they enjoyed a perfect relationship with the Creator. God gave them some simple commands (have children, tend the Garden, and don’t eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), and their continuing perfect relationship with God only required them to obey. It was a position that we can only imagine today.

God created human beings to be in a relationship with Him. But a true loving relationship has to be freely given.

Even though Adam and Eve had everything they could ever possibly need, they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree that God had forbidden. Sin immediately broke the perfect fellowship that they had enjoyed with God. They realized that they were sinful, and they were ashamed and aware of their wrongdoing—as is shown by their initial attempts to cover themselves with fig leaves.

God is holy, meaning that He is completely separated from anything sinful. And as their Creator, He had the right to judge them when they disobeyed—in fact, His nature and His justice demanded that He respond when they rebelled against Him. He could have instituted the death penalty instantly, and He would have been perfectly just if He had done so. But God is also loving and merciful, so He did not put a premature end to the human race. Adam and Eve had spiritually died, meaning that their relationship to God was broken, but they would continue to physically live long enough to have children, who would inherit their propensity to sin.

What was the purpose of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Some say that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if God had just left the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil out of the Garden. But this misunderstands the vital function of the Tree. The other commands God gave Adam and Eve were fairly self-explanatory and had pleasant outcomes for them, but what was the purpose of the command not to eat from the Tree? It may seem surprising, but God had a loving purpose in putting the Tree in the Garden.

God created human beings to be in a relationship with Him. But a true loving relationship has to be freely given or chosen—one could program a robot to think it loves its programmer, but that would be meaningless because the robot didn’t have a choice. God wanted human beings to love Him freely, for who He is, not just for what He had given and provided for them. But that required the chance to not love Him, to rebel. The function of the Tree was to give Adam a chance to obey or rebel, and Adam chose to eat the fruit and to rebel against God.

There were two pivotal times in history when God freely gave and made a way that mankind could choose to have a relationship with Him, the Creation and the Incarnation. This also highlights why the battle of Creation is so important. The Fall from grace in the original Creation should help us understand our plight in this sin cursed world, and make it that much easier to recognize what God has done through Jesus. But if people reject the Bible’s account of origins, they will not understand humankind’s plight and the choices that God gave/gives us.

Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God still loved them and provided for them. He agreed with them that their new sinful state required them to cover themselves; but the fig leaves were inadequate. He killed animals instead and made clothes out of their skins for Adam and Eve. This is the first place in Scripture where anything is killed—and for thousands of years, animals would continue to be killed in an attempt to cover over man’s sin, and to delay God’s wrath against humanity.

God was not willing to leave all of humanity to perish (cf. 2 Peter 3:9), so He promised that Eve would have a descendant who would defeat Satan (Genesis 3:15). This is called the ‘protevangelion’ because it’s the first hint of the Gospel in Scripture. The rest of the Old Testament can be characterized as God dealing with sin in various ways by judging it or putting off judgment, and getting ready for the descendant of Eve who would deal with the sin problem once and for all.

Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden into a world that was now largely hostile to them. And when Genesis tells us that Adam had a son (Seth) “in his image and likeness”, it leaves no ambiguity about whether the sinful state was in fact passed on from father to son.

What is sin?

Simply put, sin is anything that doesn’t conform to a holy God’s standard of perfection. A sin can be something we do that is wrong, or something that we don’t do that we should do. God gets to set this standard because He is the Creator—and this standard is not arbitrary, but has its source in God’s own nature. We often make judgments about some sins being worse than others, but all sin is an offense against God because He is holy.

In addition, humans have a sin nature. This is a ‘bent’ toward sin. So while we might not sin at every possible opportunity, or to the greatest possible extent, everyone will sin, given the opportunity (Romans 3:23). In fact, the struggle against the human propensity to do things that we don’t want to (warring against the flesh), should be reminder that we are not perfect and are born sinners. That’s exactly why we need a Savior.

Jesus: the loving God incarnate

Scripture affirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Eve. The only way that humanity could be saved is if there was a single person who was both fully God and fully man, who was related to every single person through Adam—because He could only redeem us if He was related to us, and so would be qualified to be our Kinsman-Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20). In addition, this person would have to live a perfect human life—avoiding every sin and perfectly obeying every command of God’s Law. And this is precisely who Jesus was and what He did.

It’s important to understand that this was the only way that humanity could be saved. We can’t save ourselves even by our best efforts; no other god or religion or philosophy can save us. If Jesus had not gone to the cross for us, and if He had not been raised on the third day, we would be completely and totally without hope.

When a person repents of their sin and trusts in Christ, God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for that person’s sins (Isaiah 53:6), and credits Jesus’ righteousness to that person (2 Corinthians 5:21). This brings the person into a right relationship with Him in a legal sense; they have an ‘innocent’ instead of a ‘guilty’ sentence (this is called justification). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit indwells that person and starts the process of actually making them righteous (this is called sanctification, and continues until the process is finished after death, and must not be confused with justification). The believer also has a host of privileges as part of being an adopted child of God.

Those who rebel against their loving Creator

So we see that because of Adam’s rebellion, all people are born with a sinful nature which is offensive to God. We’re not blameless, because we not only have the sinful nature, but we cooperate with it and enjoy sin. So we are culpable for the sinful things we do. We deserve to go to Hell, every single one of us, but God in His love provides a way out, so that anyone who repents will not be judged for their sin, but rather Jesus’ sacrifice pays for it. And He did this without us doing anything to merit it: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But there are many who don’t repent. There are some who never hear the Gospel; there are others who hear it and reject it for any number of reasons. There are those who even descend into conscious hatred of God; they recognize Him and hate Him, much like Satan and the fallen angels. And many of these same ones complain that God is not loving because they chose Hell of their own accord.

If Jesus’ sacrifice is the only way to salvation, yet someone rejects Jesus, what is God supposed to do with that person? God cannot apply the salvation they’ve rejected (because remember God gave people the choice to reject Him in the Garden of Eden, and so He won’t override that when they actually do). When someone sins and rejects salvation, the only option left is to punish the rebellious creature.

Hell: a place for those who reject the loving God

It can be hard for the person who loves God to comprehend that there are people who hate God as much as we love Him. That there are people who hate Him so much that if they saw Him finally, they would not embrace Him and turn from their rebellion, but they would shake their fist all the more and damn themselves for eternity.

Just as through the Spirit, the believer is finally sanctified after death, something happens to the unbeliever at death that makes him unable to ever repent. He has chosen to hate God and he will hate God for all eternity. Jesus reminded us that some will not believe even if He rose from the dead. The unbeliever cannot inhabit Heaven, because he embodies everything that can never enter Heaven; and to be in the presence of God is not Heaven for him in any case, but the most exquisite torment. He has lost the ability to experience God as anything but terrifying.

For such a person, Hell is God giving him what he asked for all along—a place where His presence is not manifested as it is in this life. But this also means that there are none of the blessings and providence that even the unbeliever experiences in this life.

What about those who have never heard?

Many people ask how God can condemn people to Hell who have never heard of Him or who never had the chance to repent. This often involves the perception, however, that people are in a ‘neutral’ state and either choose for or against Him when they hear the Gospel. In reality, everyone is in a ‘default’ setting of rebellion against God and His law, and only the work of the Holy Spirit is able to change that. So the people who have never heard are already rebelling against what they know about God; and they will be judged proportionately to the revelation of God and His law they’ve had from nature. Romans 1:18–28 points out that some truth about God is obvious (in the heart) from creation, so that people are ‘without excuse’. Romans 2:14–16 says that people also have a conscience, and don’t even live up to their own standards, let alone God’s.

Of course, the importance of preaching the Gospel and doing missions work is highlighted by the ‘problem’ of those who have never heard. The answer is instead of questioning God’s justice (despite “Shall not the God of all the earth do rightGenesis 18:25), we should be spreading the message until everyone has heard.

The loving God became our Savior

The person who goes to Hell must reject Christ, who died so that anyone who repents can be saved.

So why would a loving God send someone to Hell? Because that person has chosen in such a way that God has no other choice. The existence and reality of eternal judgment for the person who does not repent is sobering, and no one really wants to contemplate it too deeply. But the person who goes to Hell must reject Christ, who died so that anyone who repents can be saved. So God is not to be blamed when an unrepentant, rebellious creature chooses a destructive path that leads to Hell. In fact, we all deserve hell due to our sin nature that separates us from God, but thank God for Jesus.

The good news is that anyone reading this article is still alive, and so if you haven’t repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus yet for salvation, there is still time to avoid the terrible fate that awaits those who rebel against the Creator, or to tell your unbelieving friends or family members about the Gospel. If you consider yourself a good person that doesn’t need salvation then just consider the following questions: Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, committed adultery, blasphemed etc? If you are truly honest with yourself you will find that you have failed to reach God’s standard for holiness and entrance into eternity with Him. And if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior then you will have to represent yourself in God’s ‘courtroom’ when you die and answer for your sins. But for those who believe, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Read our Good News article for more information!

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References

  1. Alcorn, R. If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2009), p. 308. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Chandrasekaran M., Australia, 16 October 2012

The loving God has been giving abundant equal opportunities to every single soul right from the first Adam to repent and accept His righteous salvation freely and willing regardless of whether one is smart or not, poor or rich, male or female or defective.

Jesus did not shy away from being the perfect sacrifice for our salvation though He knew that Judas Iscariot, Pilate and other would betray, torture and crucify Him. We can see this in the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-39

Our salvation that Jesus offers is not founded on the betrayal and injustice of Judas Iscariot, Pilate and others.

Even if Judas Iscariot, Pilate and others refused to betray, torture and crucify Him, God would offered the perfect sacrifice Jesus as it had been determined by God and Jesus.

Jesus does not want any single soul to perish in the hell but sadly many choose to go there willingly. Not a single soul can accuse Jesus on the judgment day that Jesus did not reach out to the soul for salvation.

John E., Australia, 16 October 2012

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

When we reject God i.e. sin, we also reject every good and perfect thing He gives us, including the gift of eternal life. It is no surprise then, that eternal death in Hell is the result for those who persist in rejecting God.

In fact, there is a real sense that sending people to Hell is actually an act of love; God giving unrepentant sinners what they want - namely, eternal separation from all the good things God offers, and which they have rejected.

As C.S. Lewis has written:

"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." (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Ch 9)

The Bible is clear that God's justice will be done, and will be seen to have been done; no one who goes to Hell will have cause to feel unjustly treated.

The question is not 'Why God would send us to Hell?' but 'Why are we not all in Hell right now?' since this is what we deserve. The answer the Bible gives is that God is incredibly loving and patient with us, not wanting any of us to go to Hell, but rather - through Jesus - giving us a chance to repent and turn back to Him for forgiveness and everlasting life.

Al M., United States, 16 October 2012

I've always thought that hell was self-imposed, that is, if you know of God, know of Christ, but still reject them, it is entirely your responsibility. I don't know that the problem of the unevangelized can be solved so easily though, for example, let us postulate that the person in question would accept Christ with all their heart and soul, but being a victim of circumstance, never once hears the Gospel, or is even taught about religion or any theism in general, and is thus unaware of even the concept of God.

In this case, it seems the unevangelized one is in no way at fault for his/her unbelief. And if they would accept Christ into their life, should they be presented to Good News, I'm not sure that hell is a warranted response to this person.

I don't want to sound skeptical, I'm not, but there are two main issues I have trouble with at the moment, one alleved slightly from this article. The problem of evil and the problem of the unevangelized are the only two great obstacles to belief I recognize in the Christian faith, and the latter seems to put the person 'on-trial' as a victim of circumstance rather than personally accountable for their actions (or non-action, as it were.)

Lita Cosner responds

In considering this question, I find Abraham's rhetorical question (with its obvious answer) in Genesis 18:25 to be immensely comforting: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" At the final Judgment, no one will be able to accuse God of being unjust. I think it's almost presumptuous in a way to ask: "Well, what about those who haven't heard?" when we've been commanded in no uncertain terms to tell them so that they will have heard. If we knew that God was going to go easy on those who hadn't heard, hypothetically, wouldn't that make us less likely to evangelize?

I don't think we're meant to go around stressing about what God is going to do in the case of people who haven't heard (and this group is often little more than an abstraction). Rather, we're to make sure first that we are saved an in a right relationship with God, and then we are to obey God's command to spread the Gospel.

Victor B., Australia, 16 October 2012

Thank you Lita, for a timely reminder (personally) of the basis of salvation in Jesus Christ (God incarnate - Good news), the reality and necessity of Hell (Bad News) and the importance of sharing the "Good News" (and the relevance of not compromising the Genesis account of Creation - which shows our need for a Saviour). - Blessings

Peter S., Australia, 16 October 2012

It's helpful to remember that in one sense, God didn't "invent" Hell. People do it to themselves. It is just what happens if people spend their whole lives rejecting His offer of the free gift of forgiveness. In the end, they will be cut off from God and from the blessings we take for granted in this life - with all the torture, pain and anguish that goes with being cut off (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

As believers, we are often reluctant to talk about Hell at all, and so was Paul, who was in tears about it (Philippians 3:18-19).

Mike W., Canada, 16 October 2012

Another excellent article by Lita. I just shared it on FB.

Philip M., Australia, 16 October 2012

I would like to ask regarding your answer to the question – ‘What was the purpose of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?’ Just because Genesis itself gives no answer to this question doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Quite the opposite. We know that whatever God does, He does for a reason. But regarding your answer, how do you know that this was God’s purpose?

Lita Cosner responds

This is a very good question! The answer is that having looked at the various possibilities, this one seems the most logical and consistent with God's purposes as revealed in Scripture. But if anyone has an idea which may be better, I would certainly consider alternative scenarios that also fit with Scripture.

John S., United States, 16 October 2012

Lita, you wrote:

"There were two pivotal times in history when God freely gave and made a way that mankind could choose to have a relationship with Him, the Creation and the Incarnation."

That statement begs the questions, “What about those who have never heard the Gospel?”

You deal with that question later in your article, and you rightly point out that all of us are guilty, and none deserve Heaven. You conclude with these words, “The answer is instead of questioning God’s justice (despite ‘Shall not the God of all the earth do right’ Genesis 18:25), we should be spreading the message until everyone has heard.”

I certainly agree that we should be spreading the Gospel. But even if we succeeded in preaching the Gospel to everyone on Earth tomorrow, we would still be left with the question of “what about those who never heard before today, and died without hearing the Gospel?”

For His own reasons, God has chosen to allow millions of people throughout history to live and die without ever hearing the Gospel or the name of Jesus. Yet you wrote, "mankind could choose to have a relationship with Him." What about those millions from past generations who never heard? How could they have chosen to have a relationship with Him?

Lita Cosner responds

I think the answer is that God will judge justly, even if He doesn't tell us how He's going to judge certain cases beforehand. The Bible tells us everything we need to know about salvation, not everything we'd like to know about salvation. What we need to know is that the normal way that God saves people is through belief in Jesus Christ for the salvation of sins, and that we've been commanded to go and declare the Gospel so people can do so.

Josef L., United States, 16 October 2012

I would have to agree with Lita's answer (as it is the answer I already held even before reading her answer) that the reason for the forbidden Tree in the Garden was to allow Adam & Eve the ability to have free will.

Otherwise, if there was no free will then there was no way to sin against God, and if there was no free will, then there was no ability to sin against God. If there was no ability to sin against God, there was no ability for God to ever demonstrate his justice.

Greg A., United States, 16 October 2012

Wonderful article Lita! Regarding those that have never had the chance to hear of Jesus, I have heard it taught that God seeks out some (example) in their dreams/or other ways (besides a missionary) and this seems fine. I also recognize Acts 17:26 ("...and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings...") may be teaching us that God (who the Bible teaches knows the heart) may have placed those who never would choose Him on that desert island etc. I certainly don't believe God would be unjust; I just know the Bible teaches He knows the Heart.

Harley S., Australia, 16 October 2012

Gday Guys

Please note that I say the following in the kindest possible tone. I just take it very seriously. I understand this is only relevant to a small part of the full article above but I still believe it is highly relevant. Thank you.

The concept that people who have never heard of Jesus cannot be saved is a horrific commentary on the character of God and one of the most evil and unbiblical doctrines in existence.

Consider the implications for just the country of Australia. For 4000 odd years of its history every person born there has been automatically condemned to eternal hellfire, not because of any decision they have even had the opportunity to make, but rather simply because of where they were born! Moreover as God knows us before we were born, and we are each His personal creation, we can only conclude that he personally created all those people for the sole purpose of burning them for eternity. Go figure, no wonder so many thinking people who hear these doctrines hate God . . .

The most evil human alive today would immediately recognise this situation as being grievously unjust. This doctrine is a direct attempt by the devil to paint the character of God as more evil than any human who has ever lived. No wonder so many have said "If that is what God is like, I hate Him" It is unbiblical doctrines such as these that create atheists and give Dawkins unlimited and very credible ammunition to fire at Christians.

So here is what the Bible says.

1. When God judges (writes the book of life) he does take into account the circumstances under which a person is born

Psalms 87:6 The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah

2. God does not hold us accountable for what we do not have the opportunity to know. but rather turns a blind eye to our unavoidable ignorance

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Note: This does not give you the opportunity to close your ears and avoid the truth. If God makes the truth available, you are accountable.

II Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

3. The Bible describes people in Heaven who have never heard of Christ

Zachariah 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he (Jesus) shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

4. Paul describes how Gentiles who have never heard the truth are saved

Romans 2:11 - 15 For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Lets break this passage down to make it easy to understand

Romans 2:11 - 15 For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law (those who have never heard of the law) shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law (those who have the law) shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, (eg. Aboriginal people living in Australia 2000 years ago) do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: (the phrase "law unto themselves means that they keep the law) Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Conclusion: There are two ways of following Christ

1. By following His teachings written in the Bible

2. By following His teachings coming to us through our conscience while ignorant of the existence of Christ.

Obviously option number one is the best means of salvation by a very wide margin, but not the only means.

So what about this verse?

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Easy, identify who the "we" are in the verse. Peter is addressing those who know about Christ not those who are ignorant of Him.

Thank you for responding.

God Bless

Lita Cosner responds

Harley, I get why this way of thinking is attractive. Unfortunately, it isn't biblical. Think about it: if someone who was ignorant about Christ would be judged righteous by works, why would Christ come at all, and risk that these sorts of people would be condemned when they rejected Him? In fact, what good does Christ's death do these people at all? You cite Romans, but Paul goes on to say that "by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (3:20). In the context, we know that Paul is talking about both the Mosaic Law, and the 'law' that is written on the hearts of the Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic Law. This is because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (3:23).

Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6). That doesn't leave any loopholes. And if we try to make loopholes, we end up lessening the importance of salvation in Christ.

Lucas P., Canada, 16 October 2012

The part about having the Tree of Good and Evil simply to give men free will reminds me of a section in C.S. Lewis’s “Voyage to Venus”. The main character, Ransom, explains to Venus’ Eve that the only reason she is not to sleep on the “fixed lands” is so that she can obey. She is to obey simply for the sake of obeying. He showed her that because she understood the reason for all God’s other laws, it was the law she did not understand the reason for that was the real test.

George F., Australia, 17 October 2012

Thank you Lita for bringing this topic up. I think it is very important that we become "fully persuaded..." and develop a response that is almost as a reflex to this question.

My own response has come from a life experience that had me seeking God for peace about the eternal destination of someone very close and dear to me. This person had a major impact on my own salvation and a life of enjoying that salvation and a commitment to full-time ministry. In their last few years they then let this question consume them and they began to question God and even His 'right' to condemn 'innocent' people. He was even resentful of God having the 'right' to be 'unfair'. When they passed away it ripped me up emotionally. I cried out to the Lord and asked Him, "Am I to spend the rest of my life not knowing where my own dad is spending eternity?" Almost immediately it was like God was saying to me, "Leave it to Me. You can trust me on this." And a lasting peace about my dad came over me,and is still with me. I can't say where he is but I have complete peace.

I used to say to my dad that God is the One who invented and gave us life so that we could enjoy Him forever. He invented salvation. Scripture tells us that no one is without excuse and that God is not willing that any should perish etc. But the punchline for me is that the Almighty God invented grace; how could we ever even start to think we could upstage Him on grace. He is more passionate than we are for the salvation of even His worst enemies, (Romans 5). Yes, so true Abraham, the God of all the earth will certainly do it right.

Steven G., Canada, 17 October 2012

Why is a man worth crucifixion but not the work of the Holy Spirit to change his heart?

Lita Cosner responds

God opens the way for salvation through Jesus' sacrifice, but man is exhorted to repent, to turn to Christ, etc, throughout Scripture. And when people are judged for their sins, God will be just in doing so, because those people have rejected Christ. So it's not a matter of people "not being worth the work of the Holy Spirit", it's a matter of people not turning in repentance. Scripture emphasizes God's gracious provision of salvation, and when people do not turn to God in Scripture, they are the ones who are blamed for being hard-hearted.

Justin S., United States, 17 October 2012

John chapter three has much to say about this question, unfortunately most stop reading at verse 16. I have always found verses 17-21 to be a satisfactory and succinct answer.

Christian G., Canada, 18 October 2012

Excellent article Lita. I am really blessed by them.

I would like to add a few comments that have really help me understand this.

God's very fair way is basically explained at Ezekiel 18. God has no pleasure that any should die, but that we all turn and live (Ez 18:23). Please see Ezek 18 and see also Act 3:19.

Basically, to sin is to break God's 10 commandment law (Rom 3:20, 4:15, 5:13, 7:7, 13:8-10, 1Cor 15:56... i.e. know law, know sin; no law, no sin), hence to hurt God's creation/man (#5-10) and to hurt God/Creator and ourselves (#1-4).

The penalty for breaking God's law (heart) is death. But God will forgive anything we did, and give us life, if we turn either thru our conscience (Holy Spirit nudges, i.e without the law/Bible) or by being nudged when inspired by the Bible. No matter which way, our death sentence is removed only by Christ atoning sacrifice.

Consider also this parable on death: dark is absence of light, cold is absence of heat, death is therefore absence of life. The eternal death sentence is therefore to loose our life, in a lake of fire (hell/judgement), as we did not want to change our way. Somehow, we must have felt better than those we hurt (Creation or Creator).

This is therefore why Creation ministries are so vital to bring about changes thru understanding of Creation/Creator. Please continue your excellent work. God bless.

Lita Cosner responds

The Bible is clear about the eternal existence of the unsaved in Hell. But the Bible never calls this existence 'life', because spiritual life is characterized by being in the correct relationship with God. Apart from God, we can have no life.

Thys K., United States, 18 October 2012

At some point a lot of believers question the purpose of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I think the name itself says quite a lot.

An all powerful, all knowing, ever present God would have the foreknowledge of what free will could bring. Hence the name Tree of KNOWLEDGE of Good AND Evil.

Genesis states that when God created man He said he was good. God with His infinite wisdom and knowledge knew that man, with a free will, would have the possibility to make a choice contrary to his good nature.

It makes me think of Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Like someone else commented, it was accepting and believing God's will by being obedient and not eating from the tree even though they might not have fully understood why.

The tree was a physical representation of man's ability to act against the good nature God made him with.

God didn't create us to save us, yet ultimately Christ is He's plan for us all along. That we can be his children and have an intimate relationship with Him.

John S., United States, 19 October 2012

Lita, thanks for your reply to my comment. I agree that God will judge justly, but that was not my point. My point was the dissonance between your statement "mankind could choose to have a relationship with Him," and the fact that millions have already lived and died without hearing the Gospel.

I think the hard truth is that some people are not given the opportunity to believe the Gospel, because God has not seen fit for the Gospel to reach them. Some may not like to think of God in this way, but if we remember that in the case of the fallen angels, God did not provide any way of salvation at all for them. So we see that simply being created by God as a responsible moral agent (as people and angels are) is no guarantee that God will provide a way of salvation for those who sin. God is not obliged to save any sinful angels or sinful people. If he were so obliged, then salvation would no longer be a gift.

This in no way excuses us from fulfilling the Great Commission as best we can. But we must also appreciate that our God who is called "Holy, Holy, Holy" has condescended to save a portion of sinful humanity. The fact that he has not seen fit to allow the Gospel to be heard by every person ever born should not trouble Christians who understand that salvation is an undeserved gift, and God gives this gift to whom He wills.

Les G., South Africa, 26 October 2012

Many responses to this article show that a major problem in many Christians' minds is that of those who have never heard the gospel - in past generations as well as currently. The thinking is that God is unjust in sending them to hell, since the have never positively rejected Christ. Referring to Romans 3:20 "... they are without excuse", because they have natural revelation all around them testifying to the reality of God; testimony which they all reject; raises a further question. Why did God not, in all fairness, arrange for them to hear the gospel, and either accept it or reject it?

Surely the answer lies in the fact that no one; not the Buddhist in the Himalayas nor the person brought up surrounded by evangelical churches, deserves any mercy at ball. Were God to send us all to hell, that would be absolutely just. But He does not. He saves those who hear the gospel and repent. And who are they? "Those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).They are called, justified and glorified, as the following verse says, because in eternity God freely set his love upon them; and predestined them to be conformed to the image of Christ. The biblical doctrine of God's gracious and free election of enemy sinners accounts for the fact, not only that only some who hear the gospel obey it; but also that many millions never hear at all. Paul's argument about all being without excuse, whether of not they have heard the gospel, makes sense only in his insistence upon God's loving election of a remnant of enemy mankind. "He chose us in (Christ)before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."

All glory to the merciful God of our salvation.

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