Hell questions answered
Published: 17 November 2012 (GMT+10)
The article Why would a loving God send people to Hell? received many comments which illustrate the widespread confusion about the doctrine today. Several emails below are reproduced with responses from Lita Cosner.
Cecily M.A. from Australia writes:
I am one who has been troubled in the past concerning what happens to those who have not yet heard the Gospel and I’ve been comforted by the Scriptures in 1 Peter 3: 18–20 and 4: 5–6. I am also comforted by the fact that Enoch was taken up to be with God even though he was a descendent of Adam and Christ had not yet come. There is another Scripture which says that those who have not yet heard the Gospel will be judged by the light which they have. I believe God recognises integrity in people, the desire to be good and do right even though they do not achieve it perfectly. I like to think that there is a room in God’s House for such people where Jesus will come and preach the Gospel to them.
Lita Cosner responds:
Thank you for your comments. But I don’t think that there is any biblical support for the idea that Jesus is going to preach to people who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel message during their earthly life (Hebrews 9:27: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”). The Bible always speaks of our actions during this earthly life as a basis for judgment (for non-Christians, and although Christians get into Heaven by faith, there is evidence that Christians will also be judged by works as a basis for heavenly rewards).
As is so often the case, I think going to Romans is helpful here. Starting in Romans 1, Paul tells the Roman church that God’s attributes are plainly revealed through creation. But this revelation is only enough to condemn, to make them without excuse, not to save. Instead of honoring God as they should, they worship idols, and as a consequence engage in all sorts of immorality. At this point, your average Jew would be feeling pretty-self righteous, but if they thought Paul was going to ignore them, they were wrong! In Chapter 2, Paul lights into them: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the same things.” And then in verse 12: “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” So the Jews who have have the law but don’t keep it, and the people who never had the law to begin with—they’re both condemned, completely and utterly. Continuing on through Chapter 3, Paul enunciates just how utterly condemned every single person is. Finally, we get to 3:21:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
This is one of my favourite passages of Scripture, and it’s one of the clearest expositions of the Good News in a single passage. But it is also clear that salvation is exclusively through Jesus, and there’s so much emphasis on declaring the name of Jesus, etc, throughout the New Testament that it’s certainly difficult to see any ‘loopholes’ there.
The Bible doesn’t talk specifically about ‘special cases’. What is specifically addressed:
- Every single person who has ever lived, with the exception of Jesus, has sinned and falls under God’s condemnation.
- Those who call on the name of Christ, who believe in his death and resurrection for the atonement of sins, will be saved.
- Those who hear the Gospel and reject it (and die still rejecting it) will not be saved.
What about those who have never heard? Well, once again, I think Romans has the answer (starting in 10:9):
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for:
‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’
Their voice has gone out to all the earth
and their words to the ends of the world.
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.
Then Isaiah is so bold to say,
I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.
So let’s break down what Paul is saying here. Paul is emphasizing belief in Jesus for salvation. And then his answer is: well, we better take this news to everyone so they can believe! But also notice that he ends with an emphasis on God’s sovereignty. He will save whom He will, and He doesn’t need us to do it, although that’s His usual way of working. But God doesn’t satisfy our curiosity finally about the matter—and I think for good reason. If we knew exactly how God is going to deal with the pagan who ‘lived by the light he had’, would that keep us from going and sharing the Gospel, because the pagan who rejects the Gospel might have it worse off than the one who never heard in the first place?
Finally, in situations like this, I find Abraham’s rhetorical question (with the obvious answer) to be immensely comforting: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” At the Judgment no one will be able to accuse God of being unjust in His judgment. I don’t think we’re meant to go around stressing about what God is going to do in the case of certain groups of people (who often times are little more than abstractions to us). Rather, we’re to make sure first that we are saved and in a right relationship with God, and then we are to obey God’s command to spread the Gospel.
Jeff M., U.K., writes:
Of course I understand you are preaching to the (hopefully) converted so nothing you say comes as a surprise.
But Lita. Every muslim believes in God but according to you they are doomed. And every Hindu (and so on). You paint a very poor picture of Him-effectively unless you are a YEC you may as well give up now.
And don’t forget-in this life catholics can be as bad as they like providing they repent at the last minute. So they will be joining you at His right hand even if, like the Pope, they believe in (horror of horrors) evolution.
Don’t you see that it is you who are interpreting the Bible in such a way as to make Him into such a self-obsessed pedantic monster?
We can’t save ourselves; our own spiritual ideas can’t save us, the gods we create can’t save us, our best efforts can’t save us. We’re utterly and completely without hope—unless God does something.
Lita Cosner responds:
I believe every Muslim believes in a false god. I believe every Hindu believes in a false god (or millions of them). And so on. The Creator God who has revealed Himself through Scripture is the only true God. And the only way to have a relationship with Him is by believing what He has revealed about Himself and following His rules for relating to Him. This was true in Abraham’s day when He instituted circumcision; it was true in Moses’ day when He gave the Law; it was true in Jesus’ day when He became the ultimate revelation of God to mankind. Today, we have God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture.
I struggle to see how you could read my article and believe that I am painting a very poor picture of God. We’ve sinned, we’re horrible and disgusting in the sight of God because of that sin, but still He sent Jesus to save us. We can’t save ourselves; our own spiritual ideas can’t save us, the gods we create can’t save us, our best efforts can’t save us (and we rarely even give our best effort). We’re utterly and completely without hope—unless God does something.
God gets to set the rules—and how presumptuous would it be to contest His right to do so? We don’t deserve to be saved at all.
And God did do something—He sent Jesus. Jesus died a horrible death on the Cross, but even worse than the physical pain of the scourging which ripped the skin from His back, the thorns on His brow, and the nails through His wrists and ankles—the worst thing of all was that for the first time in His eternal existence, the Father turned His wrath upon His Son, the wrath that we deserved because of our sin. Jesus took that wrath so that we could be saved. When Jesus rose on the third day, that was proof that God accepted the sacrifice, and that the way to God was opened.
But we can’t come to God on our own terms. I can’t decide for myself that Islam is the path I want to take to God, or Gaia-worship, or Wicca, or Judaism which doesn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, or Mormonism, or anything else. God gets to set the rules—and how presumptuous would it be to contest His right to do so? We don’t deserve to be saved at all. We’re the disgusting sinful slime that deserves to burn, remember? (I am speaking of course of humanity in its unredeemed state.)
So what are God’s terms? Paul seems to lay out the ‘minimum requirements’ for belief in 1 Corinthians 15:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, any by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (vv. 1–6)
Paul goes on to list the other people Jesus appeared to, but the purpose for this appears to be to ‘cement’ the Resurrection as a historical event (especially in light of his argument through the rest of chapter 15). But we see that the minimum for belief is believing:
- Jesus died, was buried (He was really dead), and He was raised by God on the third day.1
- He did this for our sins.
Now, you’ll notice two things about this: it’s extremely simple; a little child can understand it, it can be presented in a single conversation. It also has nothing to do with the finer doctrinal details of soteriology, eschatology, or even creation (as important as those doctrines are, they fall in the area of things that can be ironed out with good mentoring/discipleship).
I’m not quite sure why you’re talking about Catholics to a Protestant ministry (are they the only people who can’t be saved on their own terms, according to you?), but nowhere in the Bible does it say, “You can live however you like your whole life and still get into Heaven.” Salvation is free in that there’s nothing we do to earn it, and we can’t earn it by works, but the Bible is clear: believers are characterized by a life that glorifies Christ. Someone who claims to be saved but lives a life that stinks of the sinful nature is not being consistent. At best, they’ll get into Heaven ‘by the skin of their teeth’, at worst, their profession of faith will be shown to be completely false.
Jeff, I can’t see how the Gospel makes God a ‘self-obsessed, pedantic monster’ to you. If I have diabetes, and the doctor tells me, “You will eventually die from this unless you change your diet and exercise habits, and you also need to take insulin,” I don’t call the doctor a pedantic monster because he is telling me I can’t have a whole cheesecake for dinner. God tells us the way to be saved in Scripture; He doesn’t allow anything else for salvation because there isn’t anything else for salvation.
Halldór M., Iceland, wrote in. Lita Cosner’s responses are interspersed.
What really stings about the doctrine of eternal hell is how it’s obviously cruel and unjust.
Are fallen human beings in a position to say what’s ‘obviously unjust’? Because we are sinful, our ‘moral compasses’ are skewed, meaning that our intuitions often lead us astray. The Bible, in contrast, is inspired by God who has a perfect sense of justice.
Justice for everyone is when the punishment fits the crime but the doctrine of eternal torment is obviously not just.
Who is to say what is just and what is not just? And do you have an accurate sense of what the correct punishment would be? And what about the continuing sin of the person who continues to reject God for eternity? And who is to say what form the torment will take? Is it primarily physical or psychological? Is it something in and of itself, or the sense of being deprived of every good thing that comes from God? Each of these questions is very important when we consider the nature of Hell.
Christians would hopefully object loudly if a judge here on earth would sentence a criminal to be tortured with fire for a year and they should but how can they then turn around and say God can do that for millions of years and that’s a loving just thing to do?
- A human judge would not be able to infallibly know if someone were guilty, and what standard could a fallen person use to decide what punishment is precisely appropriate?
- What about the victims of a sinner? Let’s say a man kills multiple people and dies unrepentant. There’s not just the man who is going to suffer; there are the people who will finally receive ultimate justice for the wrong done against them. This is the other side of the equation, and it’s important.
- The suffering in Hell is primarily the result of the withdrawal of God’s provision of every good thing. The people in Hell don’t experience God’s presence, but that is also the source of all the good things we experience here.
Sinner should be punished and the Bible makes it clear that all who die without the saviour will be punished.
And it’s important to note that the people in Hell have either consciously rejected the Savior, or they have rejected the revelation in nature that everyone has.
What’s wrong is the ridiculous punishment that the doctrine of hell says God will inflict on His children He created and says He loves.
Can you point to a statement in Scripture that says that the people in Hell are God’s children? I can’t think of one. Believers are God’s children because Christ’s sacrifice opens the door for an adoptive relationship between God and believers. Rejecting the Savior means rejecting this adoptive relationship.
Why not just stick with what the Bible clearly teaches? The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:24), more suffering for those who deserve it (Luke 12:48), a day when no suffering and sin exists (Revelation 21:4) because the wicket have been destroyed (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
If this was all the Bible had to say about the destiny of those who reject Christ, I might well agree. But the Bible speaks of ‘eternal life’ and ‘eternal punishment’ in the same breath (Matthew 25:46). Revelation 20:10 says that the beast and the false prophet “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 14:11 says of those who worshipped the beast and its image “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” So at least for some people, the Bible clearly teaches, in the strongest terms possible, eternal torment.
Very simple, eternal life is a gift from God and those who seek God and eternal life will find it if they repent and trust the saviour.
And on this we are in complete agreement.
Those who die in their sins without the saviour will be punished for their sins and will then suffer the second death which is in the lake of fire where they will be destroyed so that there won’t be nothing left of them (Malachi 4:1).
The utter destruction of those who rebel against God is a recurring theme in Scripture, definitely. But I suggest that destruction doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t anything left, but rather means complete and utter ruin, without any hope of ever being ‘fixed.’
If the doctrine of eternal hell is true, why didn’t God warn Adam and Eve that if they will eat of the fruit of tree of knowledge He was going to torture them in fire for all eternity? What kind of a parent would use that kind of punishment without even a warning?
Well, for one thing, we aren’t told that Adam and Eve are in Hell; they may have repented before they died. If they did, Jesus’ sacrifice covered their sin and they would have the opportunity to enjoy a relationship with Him again in Heaven. And again, I cannot find any indication that God calls Himself the Father of those who do not trust in His Son for salvation—Jesus is the one who enables us to call God our Father.
- Of course, included in this is correct belief about who this Jesus is; i.e. belief in His divinity, etc. Return to text.
What a shame the unrepentant pride is so strong. Arrogance pride etc is such a difficult thing to shed.I feel so sorry for those who think that they can argue their case before God. I once was lost also in that mire of stupidity, thank you Jesus that I am found. Lita your explanation is wonderful I love the way that your fury is like being bashed with the gentleness of a birds feather. You are so skilful Praise God. If this article of yours doesn't help Mr Halldor M of Iceland I pray that he is prepared for what ever is about to confront him. Please sir, repent and reconsider your arrogance, you are dealing with God.
Fantastic as always, Lita.
As the saying goes, "There are far more things in this life, Horatio ..." (or something like that).
This is a very difficult issue on which the Bible says much, but does not tell us everything.
Let's know what the Bible says and hold to that firmly and hold the unclear issues loosely.
I've noticed that annihilationists seem to be hung up on the word "death". But death in the Bible has the connotation of separation, and there are at least three types of death mentioned in the Bible.
There is physical death, which James 2:26 describes as separation of the spirit from the body. Then there is spiritual death as described in Eph 2:1-5, which suggests separation of fellowship with God (Adam & Eve hid, i.e. separated, themselves from God upon sinning). Obviously if the Bible essentially describes death as separation, then eternal death would imply eternal separation from God, which is what is suggested in 1 Thess 1:9.
So, yes, I could agree with Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death, which means separation if we let the Bible define death. But the major problem is that it seems that people want to crack open a modern dictionary and read that definition into the Bible instead of allowing the Bible to define its own terms.
>"If the doctrine of eternal hell is true, why didn’t God warn Adam and Eve that if they will eat of the fruit of tree of knowledge He was going to torture them in fire for all eternity?"
God programmed Adam with a language, and I think it would be a fair assumption that God would program Adam with the biblical meaning of the words. So with that in mind, in a sense, God did tell Adam what would happen. Besides, I could ask, "Why didn't God tell Adam he would cease to exist?" After all, Adam had never seen death before sin, so how would he know?
As for eternal life, Jesus said it best in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Obviously the person in Hell doesn't "know" God.
re your point 3.The suffering in Hell is primarily the result of the withdrawal of God’s provision of every good thing. The people in Hell don’t experience God’s presence, but that is also the source of all the good things we experience here.
According to my Pastor, some years ago, the unrepentent sinner in Hell does meet God - he meets an angry wrathful God not an absence of God.
A good article, We have no, or at the most, very little concept of the meaning of ‘The Holiness of the God of the Bible’ In Matthew 26:38-44 we read the account of the mental torment that our Lord Jesus Christ went though as he surveyed the ‘Cup of Bitterness’, that cup which represented our vile deeds both individually and corporately (read it). As the only truly sinless man to ever walk this planet he was obviously revolted at the thought of what he was to take upon himself – our sins!
Lost sinners are vile in his sight. We receive so many undeserved blessings in this life and yet we want to be ‘a god’ and not worship the True God.
Lucifer, the anointed Cherub likewise sought to be god, his fate – the Lake of Fire. This is God’s Judgement. Either agree and worship Jesus as the 'Word of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords', or disagree and make a god of your own understanding. (Commandment No 2)
To accuse God of injustice for sending people to hell is to stand the argument on its head. Unbelievers are sent to hell for their sin; and our sin is so great and so heinous, breaking God;s infinite Law, that no other punishment would serve justice.
Secondly, it is important to note that it is not rejection of the gospel that deserves eternal punishment; because then (as you have pointed out)we would be putting sinners in great danger by preaching the gospel, which they might reject and only then deserve hell's punishment. It is sin that leaves everyone without excuse; it is for sin that men and women will be cast justly into hell, whether or not they have heard the gospel.
And just a comment on 1 Peter 3:18ff: Peter says it was to those who disobeyed in Noah's day that Christ went and preached. However one understands that, it certainly does not refer to people in general. I understand it to mean that that Christ was speaking by his Spirit in Noah's day, through Noah's preaching.
I toally agree and I asked Holy Spirit that and one scripture that stands out to me is jer.31v34 and they will no more teach each man his neighbour and each man his brother saying know the Lord for they will "all" know Me from the least to the greates. The context of this points to becaus of Jesus and all He went thru inorder for all mankind to be deposited with the all knowing, all powerful, all present Holy Spirit of God, and the hell thing is more of the utter darkness and agony of being out of the presence of Sovereign God, I know I cudnt bare it, to me that wud be hell enough, look at Jesus on the cross and had sucessfuly taken all sins on Him when Father cudnt look on Him becaus of that sin, it was sheer agony when He cried out to God forsaking Him at that time, so yes I wud say the minor is being deprived of good things and major wud be God removing His glory frm us, I think also of Judas, yes, Jesus knew and we all get back to the garden of our free choices, Deut.28 choose life or death blessings or curse
It never ceases to amaze how people can go so far away from what scripture clearly teaches, if ever you needed proof of spiritual wickedness in high places, you only need to look at what many so called Christians actually believe.
I wish instead of Relegious Education at school we had CMI 5 times a week, it definitley would have helped me.
Keep up the excellent work.
(Romans 1:20) "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." From the beginning of time of creation, men are able to see evidence of God's existence and His work through His creation. Therefore, those who do not believe in God, are "without excuse". The evidence is all around us.
I was asked by a Harvard student how there could be flames in Hell and yet total darkness. After a bit of research I learned that hydrogen, the most numerous and most flamable atom in the universe burns with no light emission at all. How did someone 3000 years ago know that?
I don't think they did know that. I think flames and darkness are both metaphors that describe what Hell is like. This isn't to say that Hell is less horrible than the descriptions, if anything I think the reverse is true. But flames and darkness do seem to be mutually incompatible, if we take them as literal descriptions--I find no difficulty in taking them as metaphoric descriptions, however.
CMI / Miss Lita, Enjoyed your daily posting of 17th./ Nov./ 2012 concerning Hell w. follow-up question; "Why would a loving God send people to Hell?" I thought your response right on target and I am now fortified w/ additional Biblical writings to use in my evangelical missions throughout the world. The first question is always an indication to the individual's belief, understanding and their walk with our "creator", Lord Christ the Saviour. God has never sent anyone to Hell, people send themselves by their own decisions.
I am so grateful to my Sister in Christ who put me onto your web-site and am so encouraged by your daily postings. Keep up the good work as your org. spreads "The Good News" via this media vehicle. May HIS, Holy Spirit continue to honor your missionary endeavors.
Excellent responses Lita! CMI is to be commended for these feedback articles which allow us to see how to respond to doubters and unbelievers in a rational, logical and loving manner.
I do so agree that it is vanity to go about in distress over the question of whether God has dealt fairly with all groups of people concerning His gospel. It would be a bit like my sheep fretting over whether I am feeding my horses and goats properly. I could explain to the sheep why goats and horses are fed differently, and I expect that the sheep brain would be able to understand that explaination about as well as the human brain would be able to comprehend God's methodological explainations. Suffice it to say, either God is just, loving, merciful and true to everyone or He is none of those things to anyone.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions. Assuming that there is only one God, that God must be the same for all religions, so why do you say the Islamic God is different from the Judeo-Christian God?
You should read the Qu'ran before making such inflammatory statements.
Christians say that Jesus is God's Son, and Muslims say that Allah has no son. Using simple logic, the Christians' God and the Muslims' Allah cannot be the same deity. And again using simple logic, if there is only one God (as both Christianity and Islam claim), and we worship different Gods, only one religion can be worshiping the true God. To say so isn't inflammatory, but should be practically self-evident.
Lita, God does not regard us as "horrible and disgusting." Choose your words carefully, because you will answer for them. God sees our righteousness as "filthy rags," but not us. He gave Himself for us in Jesus - the Word made Flesh. He did this because He loves us. Jesus showed the compassion of God toward the world, both in His ultimate concern and in his day to day dealing with and healing of people when he walked among us.
I think the Bible is clear; our sin rendered us unclean in his sight (Isaiah 64:6--notice that Isaiah says we're unclean, and even our righteous acts are like filthy rags--so not only are our sins disgusting, even the good things we do are disgusting outside of God's salvation). Yes, God loves us and sent Jesus to die for us, but the unregenerate person is morally disgusting to God, both in their deeds and in their person. This is the consistent witness of Scripture, and this makes salvation in Christ all the more amazing.
Since Abraham knew not Christ but his faith was accounted to him for righteousness, the precedent was set that God may impute righteousness to whom HE wills.
I was taught that Hell is a place for those who have rejected God and in HIS mercy there was created a place for those who reject HIM.
We have all met people who aggressively and nastily proclaim themselves ATHIESTS and reject Jesus Christ. They have, perhaps, until their last breaths to make another choice. After that, ...
Thank you for an excellent article on Hell. Nobody talks about hell anymore, much more preferring to talk about the other side of the equation. But, if there is no fear of hell, what is a sinner to flee from? Indeed, that is the problem in the church in America today - there is no fear of God and no fear of hell.
Hell is a natural corollary of sin - totally alone and tormented due to fractured relationships. All God needed to do was create a place were He wasn't. The rest is the result of sin.
Ms Cosner has provided a terrific explanation for the "problem" of hell. I love that she included Abraham's plea to God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Some people can not accept that they can not understand the ways of God. Others are looking for reasons not to believe. They want to make their own rules. I was reminded of several pertinent verses.
"For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death." - Proverbs 14:12
"You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? Isaiah 29:16
Thank you for articles like this. It helps believers respond to those who question us.
Regarding the issue of those who have never heard the Gospel:
I noted that in the original article one particularly perceptive reader "John S., United States, 16 October 2012".
Your response to his letter was rather oblique. Then John S. came back to you again on the 19th of October. This time he got straight to the point saying:
"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.”
Lita, we have no “rights” of appeal to God, because the whole race is fallen and therefore has no ”standing” with God. We have no ”right”, implied or otherwise to hear Gospel. Its all Grace.
It would have been good of you to clearly state this, as John S. finally had to do, or at he very least affirm his position, as he so very articulately expressed it.
Where did Jeff M. get the idea that you have to be a 6-day creationist in order to be saved? Certainly not from you Lita, as you all at CMI have said dozens of times that salvation is not contingent on what you believe about Genesis.
Also, where did Jeff M. get the idea that you were telling non-Christians to "give up now"? I know you guys never said that. Non-Christians shouldn't "give up"; they can simply come to Christ and be saved. Yeah, they would be giving up their old way, but they are not "giving up" on eternal life.
As much as Jeff M. comes on here and criticizes you all, and as many articles as he has surely seen, he is without excuse for making the rash comments that he made.
Halldór M. says "What kind of a parent would use that kind of punishment without even a warning?" yet God did explicitly warn Adam and Eve, Gen 2:16-17 (NKJV)
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” They chose to disobey.
Lita has written a sound and excellent response to each set of questions. For something that can seem so simple, it shows how our own interpretations, feelings and judgements can cloud our understanding of scripture. We must be on guard at all times on how we handle scripture and be discerning when listening to others who preach and teach the Word. Well done Lita and CMI.
With reference to the 3rd feedback letter:
It is especially inappropriate for someone to say that God is “cruel and unjust” when we consider the price paid by Jesus on the cross. His cost had at least 4 levels to it:
1. The pre-crucifixion cost. The Gethsemane-garden stress being so high that blood pressure went high enough for Jesus to sweat out drops of blood. The floggings and other torture.
2. The immense pain of the physical crucifixion.
3. Jesus taking on himself—on the cross—all our griefs and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus experienced there all the consequences of sin. Since Jesus “became sin” on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21), it seems inescapable that Jesus experienced all human-history victimization through the eyes of the victims AND the victimizers. All agonies that humans experienced, Jesus experienced them on the cross.
4. The even more immense pain of experiencing God the Father’s just and holy wrath against all that sin. As Custance (and others before him) point out, because the divine being of Jesus is timeless, Jesus may have experienced this divine wrath in an eternity for him, while existing those final 3 hours on the cross. In other words, Jesus could have fully experienced hell for every person who ever lived, while Jesus was on the cross.
Our just and holy God takes no ethical shortcuts. He doesn’t spare himself in making a way of salvation—that not everyone takes. Let all the earth be silent before him.
You might be right that the flames of Hell are metaphors. But with that said, I'd be cautious about using the reason that flames and darkness are incompatible. Hell is, I'd assume, a spiritual realm and who knows what laws of science, if any, will apply.
I believe, if anyone has any questions about the justness of God, or the Goodness of God in sending people to Hell, to suffer eternally for their very own sin, they ought to read Jonathan Edward's sermon entitled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
Jonathan showed the world hundreds of years ago, that men are sinful in all they do. God's righteous nature demands judgement, and God will give that judgement justly to whom he wills.
I have to disagree with Lita's explanation that suffering in Hell is primarily the withdrawing of God's presence. I know of no scripture reference to support this. However, God visiting his judgement personally, by his own divine will, fits well with 2 Kings 22:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18, 34:25, and 36:16, as well as Romans 2:5 and many other verses. Throughout the Bible God's wrath is described figuratively as being "poured out", or "revealed". This is a much more personal, and active showing of wrath than simply removing all pleasant things. Romans 12:19 admonishes Christians not to avenge themselves, knowing that God will enact his perfect vengeance in due time. God will be doing the pouring out of judgment. Just as those chosen by God to be His in Christ look forward to a day when God will personally wipe every tear from our eyes, so the damned looks forward to a day when God will personally execute his holy wrath.
Silly sheep that I am. I have pondered over the flames and darkness question for years until today. It has long puzzled me how you can have both flames and darkness in one place. It really is easy once you think about it and it fits in with another basic teaching of the Word.
You can be both in the midst of flames and darkness if you are blind! How often does the bible tell us that the sinful person is spiritually blind. How fitting that the spiritual blindness will carry on into an eternity in the midst of flames. Both darkness and flames
Thanks for this article which has finally allowed me to reason that troubling conundrum out of my thick head. Now I have more room to praise the Lord!