Facts about Hell

Hell is Real

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A thoughtful person with whom I had dialogues on the Internet and through email said to me: “If you would like to know why I have rejected Christianity, I will be glad to tell you.  His questions were previously online but are no longer available. [31] Here are some [of my] reasons:” His questions to me are in bold and are indicated as Q. 1, Q. 2, etc. I have answered him under these topics:

I have met very few people as honest as somebody raising these kinds of issues that have influenced him to reject Christianity.  I commend him for the thoroughness with which he has pursued answers to the profound questions asked and given in the Bible.  I do not believe his conclusions are based on an accurate understanding of the evidence. There is evidence beyond reasonable doubt that satisfies my seeking mind, to conclude that the Bible is the reliable and authoritative revelation from the almighty, creator, redeemer God.  He is the Lord who also sustains the universe and addresses our common core problem, sin, through Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection.

1. Problems with Hell

Q.1 In all of the OT there is not one word about anyone being tortured for eternity for not being a “good” person.  Apparently the OT God was satisfied with seeing his enemies lie as carrion upon the fields, but the so-called “good news” of the NT is that this same God will now pursue his enemies beyond the grave with NEVER-ENDING torments in hell.  Besides, it seems supremely contradictory to me that the same god who tells us to love and forgive OUR enemies says that he will eternally torment his!!

a. Good people

1.There is a fundamental error in trying to examine the OT material from the perspective that human beings are “good” people.  No matter how “good” one looks on the surface, I have never met one person EVER, when he/she is totally honest and transparent with me, who will admit, “I always and only think and do what is good for my family, society and myself.”

In a contemporary context, my counselling work with youth and families puts me in contact with people who look “good” on the outside and have a “clean” reputation with the community.  Some of these are prominent people in town, but they rape their children, indulge in gross sexual behaviour with anybody, embezzle their bosses, lie to cover their tracks, deal and use drugs, etc.  But on the surface, they LOOK “good.”

Children and youth come to see me for whom butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.  Yet behind their parents’ backs they are stealing money and property from the family home to maintain a drug habit – deceptively, so that their parents won’t know.

Of course, many come with habits of drug abuse, sexual abuse, victims of abuse, rebellion, anger and violence, a breaking and enter track record, etc.

There is not one of us with an utterly pure motive or life.

2. This is what the OT affirms throughout:

  • I Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36, “When they sin against you – for there is no one who does not sin …”
  • Psalm 14:1-3[1]

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”[2]

  • Psalm 36:1, “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.”
  • Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
  • Isaiah 59:7-8, “…, Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.  Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways.  The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths.  They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.”
  • Jeremiah 9:4-6, “’Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers.  For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer.  Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth.  They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.  You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declares the Lord.”

Jesus affirmed that the evil we think and do comes from within us, ALL of us:

What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-23).

3.OT, NT and contemporary experience confirm that NOT ONE OF US is “good” before God.

I well remember a sexual abuse perpetrator who sat in my counselling office and said, “Why do I do this?”  My initial response was, “Do you want a band-aid solution or do you want me to help you get to the heart of the problem?”  He used a string of expletives and concluded, “I want no b– s–; tell me why I do it and give me some answers.”

The band-aid answer could place blame on his upbringing where he might have been unloved and his perpetration may have been associated with his parents “abuse” of him and he is a victim.  Or, his sexual relationship with his wife was not as good as it ought to be, so he had reason to go looking for sex elsewhere.  While sex with children is not condoned, it is understandable under these circumstances (if one takes this line).  He’s a victim of the environment of his life.  Change the circumstances, wherever possible.  Help him with methods of self-control and accountability.

I shared the CORE (heart) of the matter and what Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23.  This man went to jail for 3.5 years for his crime (he knew that he deserved it), but before going there his life was radically changed through a total commitment to Jesus Christ.  He was born again from the inside out.  He is now a changed man.

He had to pay his time.  Today he is a renewed, redeemed man, released from prison.  It happened because we got to the CORE of the problem.  All of us are not “good” people.  All of us are rotten from the core out.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a survivor of the Soviet Gulag, knew this:

It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I first sensed within myself the first stirrings of the good.  Gradually, it was obvious to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states nor through classes between political parties but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts, and that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say – sometimes to the astonishment of those about me – ‘bless you, prison, for having been in my life.’”[3]

This is one of the fundamental reasons why we are grappling with social and personal evil in our society.  We have NOT addressed the CORE PROBLEM.  Only God through Jesus Christ has done that.  That’s a narrow answer.  But look at the trouble we are in as a culture when we turn away from God’s diagnosis of the problem and His cure!

The depravity of all human beings is not an incidental matter.  It is fundamental to a correct view of what is happening in people and society.  This issue is not my opinion versus yours of the “goodness” or “badness” of humanity.  This world was created by the Almighty, Sovereign God.  He wrote the laws.  In His view, ALL are sinners needing a Saviour; NOT ONE is good.

Read the newspapers, talk to friends and others, and it becomes evident ALL are sinners.  But I have met few secularists who are prepared to nail that as the diagnosis.  That is not surprising!

Try talking to those who counsel children, youth and families to see whether they have to deal with the “goodness” or “badness” of human beings.  Many counsellors would blame heredity, stimulus-response dynamics, and environmental influences.  But they seem to be grappling in the dark in finding the cure for the human dilemma.

Without a correct understanding of this bad news, the news of Jesus’ death is nothing more than a pointless, useless slaughter.

John Stott rightly states, “Superficial remedies are always due to a faulty diagnosis.  Those who prescribe them have fallen victim to the deceiving spirit of modernity which denies the gravity of sin.”[4]

However, when one takes God’s view of the human condition, Christ’s death not only makes sense but also is a compulsory solution for the human predicament.

b. No endless torture in hell in Old Testament?

The Hebrew word, “Sheol,” appears 65 times in the OT and

“refers to the place of the dead.  Bible translations reflect different understandings of the word.  The King James Version renders sheol ‘grave’ thirty-one times, ‘hell’ thirty-one times, and ‘pit’ three times. The Revised Standard Version and The New American Standard Bible simply put the Hebrew word into English letters as ‘Sheol.’ The New International Version usually translates it as ‘grave’ (occasionally as ‘death’) with a footnote ‘Sheol.'”[5]

While the OT refers to the grave as the destination of the body, the soul or spirit of human beings is always said to be going to Sheol.[6] In the OT, human beings do not cease to exist at death, but their souls or spirits descend to Sheol.[7]

Robert Morey rightly stated that “when God wanted Israel to believe something which was unique and contrary to what the surrounding cultures believed, He always clearly condemned and forbade the pagan beliefs and then stressed the uniqueness of the new concept.”[8]

See passages such as Genesis 37:35 (the first OT use of Sheol).

In the Septuagint [Greek translation of the OT], Sheol is never translated as mneema, which is the Greek word for grave.  It is always translated as Hades which meant the underworld…  Sheol is ‘under the earth,’ or ‘underworld’…  Sheol is called the underworld in Isa. 14:9.  It is also called ‘the lower parts of the earth’ (KJV) in Ps. 63:9; Isa. 44:23; Ezek. 26:20; 31:14, 16, 18; 32:18, 24.  Sheol is the opposite of heaven (Ps. 139:8).  One must go ‘down’ to get to Sheol (Gen. 37:35)…  While bodies are unconscious in the grave, those in Sheol are viewed as being conscious (Isa. 14:4-7; 44:23; Ezek. 31:16; 32:21).”[9]

The various translations of sheol point to several approaches to the meaning of the word:[10]

  • Some want to conclude that the Hebrews shared the mythological ideas of the afterlife similar to Mesopotamia and Egypt.  This must be rejected as it leaves God and his special revelation to Israel out of the picture;
  • Some follow the “compartmental theory,” which was the view of the early church, that both the wicked and righteous go to sheol, but are segregated into different “holding chambers” to await their final fate.  This cannot be accepted as neither the OT nor NT supports such a view.
  • A more consistent approach is that sheol has two meanings: “grave” and “hell.”  The righteous share the “grave” with the unrighteous, but only the wicked populate hell.
  • R. Laird Harris offers the possibility that sheol is just a poetic synonym for the common Hebrew word for “grave.”  It seems that he influenced The New International Version in its translation.

The evidence suggests that it would be better to conclude this about sheol:

“Both the righteous and the unrighteous go there.  Examples of the former are Jacob (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31) and Hezekiah (Isa. 38:10, 17-18.  Examples of the latter are Korah (Num. 16:30) and the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:9, 11, 15)… Sheol speaks of life after death in vague terms.  It moves beyond the judgment passages in affirming that there is life after death for the wicked, but it does not approach the clarity we find in the New Testament concerning their fate.

“Generally, and especially in regard to the unrighteous, the Old Testament concentrates on this life.  It is possible that sheol provides us with a shadowy glimpse of life after death.”[11]

To say that “in all of the OT there is not one word about anyone being tortured for eternity for not being a ‘good’ person.  Apparently the OT God was satisfied with seeing his enemies lie as carrion upon the fields,” distorts the meaning of sheol.

The Bible provides progressive revelation.  By this I mean

that later revelation builds upon earlier revelation.  It is complementary and supplementary to it, not contradictory.  Note the way in which Jesus elevated the teachings of the [OT] law by extending, expanding, and internalizing them.  He frequently prefaced his instruction with the expression, ‘You have heard… but I say to you.’  In a similar fashion, the author of Hebrews points out that God, who in the past spoke by the prophets, has in these last days spoken by a Son, who reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature (Heb. 1:1-3).”[12]

It is therefore not surprising that in view of God’s progressive revelation, that the OT

is vague in its description of Sheol and the condition of those in it.  While the Old Testament prophets stated many things about Sheol, they did not expound in any measure of depth on this subject.  Another reason for this vagueness is that a conscious afterlife was so universally accepted that it was assumed by the biblical authors to be the belief of anyone who read the Scriptures.  Since it was not a point of conflict, no great attention was given to it.”[13]

The OT reveals this about Sheol:[14]

  • It has “gates” by which one enters.  See Job 17:16; Isa. 38:10.  This figurative language indicates that no escape is possible from the realm of Sheol.
  • Sheol is  a shadowy place or a place of darkness (Job 10:21-22; Ps. 143:3);
  • Indications are that it is “down”, “beneath the earth”, or in “the lower parts of the earth” (Job 11:8; Isa. 44:23; 57:9; Ezek. 26:20; Amos 9:2).  These figures indicate that Sheol is NOT part of this world, but its existence is in another dimension;
  • It is a place of reunion with ancestors, tribe or people (Gen. 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Num. 20:24, 28; 31:2; Deut. 32:50; 34:5; 2 Sam. 12:23).  Sheol is a place where all people go at death.

What is the condition of people in Sheol?

  • At death, human beings become a rephaim (a ghost, shade or disembodied spirit), based on Job 25:5; Ps. 88:10; Prov. 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isa. 14:9; 26:14, 19.  A person at death does not pass into non-existence, but becomes a disembodied spirit.
  • Those in Sheol converse with each other and are even able to make moral judgments on the lifestyle of those who arrive (see Isa. 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek. 32:21).
  • In Sheol, one is unable to have any knowledge or wisdom about what is happening on earth –Ps. 6:5; Eccles. 9:10, etc.
  • God’s judgment on the wicked for their sins extends into Sheol.  They experience:
  1. God’s anger (Deut. 32:22).  According to Moses, in this passage, the fire of Yahweh’s anger will be experienced in Sheol.  This passage would make no sense if the wicked were nonexistent or if Sheol was the grave.
  2. Distress (Ps. 116:3).  The Hebrew, matzar (“anguish” NIV) indicates distress that is felt when one is pressed by difficulty.  It has this same sense in Ps. 118:5;
  3. Deep anguish or writhing in pain (Job 26:5 NIV).  The Hebrew, chool, means “to twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth.”[15]

From this information, we can conclude that for unbelievers in Sheol in the OT, they experienced anger, distress or pain.

  • But there are passages that suggest eternal punishment for the unbeliever in the OT:

Isa. 66:22-24: “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Daniel 12:1-2: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”[16]

Robert Peterson, therefore, correctly summarises the evidence when he writes that sheol “takes us beyond the primary judgment passages and speaks of life after death, although in vague terms.”[17]

Q. 1 These are more than hints that for the OT unbelievers, they would not be experiencing blessedness or the unbeliever’s idea of, “in all of the OT there is not one word about anyone being tortured for eternity for not being a ‘good’ person.”

  • The righteous as well as the wicked went to Sheol (see Gen. 37:35).  Because of progressive revelation, OT believers did not have the more comprehensive information that was needed to approach death with peace and joy.  As a result, OT believers saw death as a “loss” while NT believers (with more light on the subject) knew that death means “gain” (see Phil. 1:21).  Ps. 6 shows how even OT believers were afraid of being cut off from the joys of life (see esp. v. 5).  According to Ps. 13, the OT saint did not look forward to death and Sheol and cried to God to be delivered from it (see esp. v. 3).  So, the OT believers spoke of  death as “torrents of destruction”, “anguish”, “terror”, “trouble and sorrow” (see Ps. 18:4; 55:4; 116:3).  This is in contrast to the NT believers who could express triumph in death (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
  • But the OT believers, at death, would go to the throne of glory at death, where God was (Ps. 73:23-25).  They knew that Sheol was open to God’s sight (Job 26:6) and they would be in God’s presence (Ps. 139:8).

In summary: The OT revelation of what happens for believers AND unbelievers after death is in sketchy, but accurate form.  It awaited the fuller revelation in the NT.  Never let it be said that the OT affirms that unbelievers will NOT be tormented for eternity.  It does NOT affirm or deny it, but there is a suggestion of it in Isa 66 and Daniel 12.  Indications of pain, distress and terror for OT unbelievers after death are evident.  That this will be eternal awaits NT revelation.

For further reading:

John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell?[18]

Eryl Davies, Condemned Forever![19]

Ajith Fernando, Crucial Questions About Hell.[20]

Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife.[21].

Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial, as footnoted above.

c. Never-ending torment

Q. 1     The non-believer speaks of “the so-called ‘good news’ of the NT is that this same God [of the OT with no eternal punishment] will now pursue his enemies beyond the grave with NEVER-ENDING torments in hell.

Jesus Christ spoke more of the sorrows and pain of hell than of the joys of heaven.  To Jesus,  hell was as real as heaven.  Matthew 25:46 makes it clear that eternal hell is as long as eternal heaven: “Then they [the cursed] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  The word, aionios (eternal/everlasting), also describes the eternity of God in I Tim. 1:17 and Rom. 16:26.  The endless duration of hell could not have been stated more clearly.  Using the same word as the eternity of God shows conclusively that the punishment of hell is not of limited duration.

Who could deny that Jesus Christ was not compassionate towards the down and out, prostitutes and sinners, the sick and grieving?  This forgiving and empathic Saviour described hell as a place of:

  • darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13);
  • a fiery furnace (Matt. 13:42, 50; cf. Matt. 5:22; 13:30;18:8-9’ 25:41; Mark 9:43, 48);
  • the undying worm (Mark 9:48).  Since darkness and burning fire are opposites (you cannot have one if you have the other), this suggests that both may be understood figuratively – symbolic description of the hopeless plight of unbelievers.
  • weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28).  These are not tears of bereavement or temporal loss, but  those “of inconsolable, never-ending wretchedness, and utter, everlasting hopelessness.”[22] The grinding or gnashing of teeth indicates “frenzied anger, unmitigated rage.”[23] This suggests the despair of those who have forever missed life’s purpose by their rejection of Jesus Christ.
  • cutting to pieces” (Matt. 24:51), being a figure for extremely severe punishment.
  • eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46) that was as eternal as the eternity of God.

It is not easy for us to imagine the eternity of hell.  One reason is that all the things we do and experience come to an end one day.  However, the punishment of unbelievers in hell will continue for ever and ever.  Just as God and heaven are eternal (everlasting), so hell will be eternal.

In the 19th century, famous English preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, preaching on Matthew 8:11-12 emphasised the eternity of hell and the fact that sinners there have nothing to look forward to except unending punishment:

“They have not even the hope of dying nor the hope of being annihilated.  They are for ever–for ever–for ever–lost!  On every chain in hell, there is written `for ever.’  In the fires, there blaze out the words, `for ever.’  Up above their heads, they read, `for ever.’ Oh, if I could tell you tonight that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it.  But it cannot be–it is `for ever‘ they are `cast into outer darkness'”[24]

d. Love, forgiveness and eternal torment

Q. 1 “Besides, it seems supremely contradictory to me that the same god who tells us to love and forgive OUR enemies says that he will eternally torment his!!”

Because we are human, we cannot seem to fathom that the God who loves and forgives also has wrath as one of his absolute attributes.  Psalm 145:8 declares: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”  If he did not have wrath he would not be God.  Couple that with God’s absolute justice and we have the God who loves absolutely, but has wrath without partiality against those who refuse to accept his love.

Jesus, who was the embodiment of love, spoke over and over of the punishment of hell – eternally.

Why doesn’t God love us so much that he let’s us all off?  Because we are responsible for our sins and God is committed to absolute justice, he cannot allow such.  If we ask God not to punish sin, we are asking him to say that sin does not matter.  We are calling upon God to say that holiness does not matter.

Logically it is.. to ask him to become an evil God and that he will not do…  The punishment of sinners is terrible, but far more terrible is the prospect of an omnipotent evil God…  Therefore, if people carry on in their sins and will not repent, he must judge them.  He does so with the greatest reluctance.  He is slow to anger.  He does not delight in the death of a sinner.  He is a God of love who calls people to turn to him.  But if they will not, he must judge them, to show his total abhorrence of, and opposition to, sin and evil.

A God of love would do anything to save us!’ But you know, he has done everything apart from throwing aside his justice, in order to save you.  The utter reckless love of God is displayed at the cross…  The New Testament tells us that God delays the promised Day of Judgement: ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).”[25]

Q. 4     The justice system of Christianity is monstrously and fiendishly absurd.  Most people would rightfully assume that a FINITE sin does NOT deserve INFINITE punishment.  The reward system consists of only two eventual destinations.  One, the most blissful and happy, the other, the most horrible and tormenting.  Is there nothing in between!!??

There’s a fundamental error in thinking that “a FINITE sin does not deserve INFINITE punishment.”  Our problems are that we are human-centred and biased against God.  Even from a human perspective, the duration of the crime does not determine the length of time of punishment.  A crime, such as murder, committed in a moment can earn a life sentence.

Why is this?  It is the nature of the crime.  We need to see the situation from God’s perspective.  The wind, ocean, sun, moon and stars are under God’s control. God governs all living creatures, human beings, angels and demons.  The unbeliever and the believer come under the sovereign rule of God.  “The Lord reigns” (Ps. 97:1).  No-one is greater than God himself: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11)

Nobody can force God to do anything.  “Our God is in the heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3).  He is the supreme Ruler and King of the universe.  He is not a superman but “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15).[26]

The might, beauty and majesty of the person of God cannot be compared with anything known to human beings.  To consider his nature, attributes, power and actions is to think about that which is beyond human beings and angels.  When Isaiah understood who God was he cried out, “Woe is me!  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips… and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:5).

In some countries, an act of treason against that country may earn capital punishment. In Australian society, some crimes are more repugnant than others.

“Consider three different situations in which a person kills another person.  There is the case in which the armed burglar breaks into a house and in self-defence, as his life is threatened, the occupier of the house kills the burglar.  We look upon that in one way.

“We look upon the situation in which the mugger kills the defenceless old lady in a totally different way.  He was not threatened by her.  It is a purely wanton crime.  But we view the crime as being even more odious and of even greater enormity if the old lady whom the mugger knowingly murders happens to be the criminal’s mother, who has brought him into the world, cared for him and given the best years of her life for his good.  Murder is always abhorrent, but for the person to be so selfish and callous as to murder his own loving mother, we would view as an even more heinous crime…

“The murder of a mother is a greater evil because it is breaking a greater obligation placed on us by love.  But sin is an infinite evil because it is the breaking of an infinite obligation.  It is an attack upon the glorious holy God, whom we ought to love.  God is our Creator, our Sustainer.  He is infinitely good…  He is infinitely lovely and therefore there is an infinite obligation to serve him.  Then if you and I do not do this–and we do not–we are breaking that infinite obligation and committing an infinite evil.  We commit an infinite evil, which in all justice deserves some form of infinite punishment.  Thus the Bible teaches the infinite duration of hell.”[27]

The seriousness of sin cannot be overstated.  Unbelievers will have a hard time accepting this.  The true awfulness and seriousness of sin is something only truly understood and felt when, as with Isaiah, God himself begins to deal with a person.  Then we see the horror of our sin before a holy God and can honestly say, “I deserve hell.  God, please save me from it.”

If we are indifferent or have no feeling about the seriousness of sin, it is not an indicator that sin is not serious.  It is a measure of how out of touch with God we are.

We live in an indifferent, unfeeling culture.  Nearly one million people are unemployed in Australia.  Nearly 100,000 unborn babies are torn to pieces every year in Australia by abortion. We are indifferent.  Then there’s the famine in Africa and other parts of the world.

Sin brings a blindness, a numbness in us.  It brings apathy.  It makes us think lightly about the true nature of sin.  Hell is extreme because sin is extreme.  To forget that will have eternal ramifications for us.

We defy God.  The Bible says that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  Sin is deliberate rebellion against God’s authority and his law.  Why do we lie, cheat, steal, think impure and profane thoughts, or sin in a multitude of other ways?  We choose to sin and break God’s holy law.  We intentionally disobey God Almighty and that is serious.  God is the righteous Judge.

Nobody ultimately gets away with anything with Him.  God expresses his wrath on us every day we live in violation of his law (see Rom. 1:18).  It would be sacrilege to ever think that God could go “soft” on sin.  Not even one sin will go unpunished by God.

Consider properly who the Lord is and the treason of sinners against the highest Majesty.  Think on the willful rejection of the God of love, mercy and justice, who deserves our utter allegiance.  That merits the most extreme penalty – eternal punishment.

Sin is serious when it is committed against God himself.  Sin is not a conditioned response, a disease, a weakness or the results of a hostile environment.  Sin is an utter affront to God, an offence against him, and it comes from deep within us (see Mark 7:20-23).  After King David committed adultery, he confessed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).

When Joseph (of the coat of many colours fame) was tempted by a married woman to go to bed with her, he rejected the offer: “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).

Sin is serious because of the nature of sin and the nature of God.  “God, however, is infinitely greater than any earthly ruler, yet we are prepared to offend him and disobey his commands.  Once you begin to see God’s greatness you will never doubt the fact that sinners deserve to be punished by God in hell.”[28]

There clearly are degrees of punishment handed out on the judgment day, based on a person’s moral and spiritual response to the knowledge possessed (see Matt. 10:15; 11-21-24; Luke 12:47-48).  However, we must never forget that the rebel against God gets what he/she deserves.  “God’s judgment is right…  God is just” (2 Thess. 1:5-6).

Those who scoff at Jesus and reject his offer of forgiveness through repentance and faith, and have been repeatedly warned about the consequences of sins that are unforgiven will be forced to drink the cup of God’s fury.  They will be tormented forever with burning sulphur (metaphorical understanding of severity).  There will NEVER be relief from this horrible fate (see Rev. 14:10-11).

C.S. Lewis said that “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’.”[29]

e. Sin is what a person IS and what he/she DOES

Q. 6 I believe that a person should be judged by what he/she does… not by what one believes.

This person is correct.  Everyone on the planet will be judged on what he/she does.  Actions and beliefs are tied together.  Everyone will be judged on what he/she DOES with Jesus Christ.  Rejection of him is an ACTION.  Acceptance of him and bowing before him as Boss are ACTIONS.

God’s “righteous judgment” will be revealed and “God will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom. 2:6).

James said: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:17-18).  Jesus agreed, “By their fruit [actions from their lives] you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:16).

Correct belief will never get anybody into the kingdom of God.  James stresses: “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).  Beliefs by themselves will send one to hell.  That’s where the demons are going.  It is faith FOLLOWED BY action that God requires.

All unbelievers will face the “great white throne” judgment (Rev. 20:11).  How will they be judged?

Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done….  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12-15).

The biblical requirement is faith DEMONSTRATED BY action.

But nations will also be judged.  See Matt. 25:31-46.  Where will Australia be placed?  With the sheep or with the goats?

Q. 10   And finally, I believe that an all-loving God will REHABILITATE instead of eternally damn most of HIS OWN CREATION, the SAME THING, I’ll bet that you’d do with all of your wayward offspring!!

This is human, not godly, thinking.  An absolutely loving and absolutely just God could not and would not rehabilitate (see above).  That would make him an evil omnipotent monster.  Sin is treason against the sovereign Lord of the universe.  It is deadly serious!

God does not desire to damn anybody.  The Lord is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God shouts at us through creation (see Rom. 1:19-20; Ps. 19).  He pursues us through our conscience (Rom. 2:15).  We are confronted with Christ through the Scriptures and gospel proclamation throughout the nation and around the world.  God has declared himself through the acts of human history (e.g. the Israelites crossing the Red Sea; the judgment on Egypt as the Israelites came out of Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, etc.)

Yet, what do sinful human beings do to silence the voice of God?  God tells us exactly what they do.  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18).  We snuff out the voice of God to our inner beings by our own sinful lifestyle, no matter how “good” we may appear to be on the outside.

God declared through Jeremiah, “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?  I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings” (Jer. 17:9-10).[30]

But there is a solution to the problem of the evil human heart.  God’s answer is the glorious rescue!

Wooden Cross

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Why do Christians make so much of the cross of Jesus?  It is because hell met its match at Golgotha.  Sin is serious, but God is serious about saving us.  The great, holy, loving, just, personal God performed the most momentous event in human history.  Jesus died, taking hell’s extreme punishment on himself as a substitute for everyone who repents, confesses his/her sin, and trusts in Christ.  God loves us that much!  This is staggering good news!

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25) “God made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5: 21).

It was “for our sins” that Christ died.  Sin had blighted our world and our lives and broken our relationship with God.  Sin deserves to be punished in hell.  But instead, for everyone who totally commits his/her life to Christ, Jesus took the punishment for sin–all of it!!

Could this God of love do anything to save us from our sin?  He can do everything apart from throwing aside his justice.

Will you receive his forgiveness of your sin now?  Your next breath cannot be guaranteed.  Today is the day of salvation.  This is the only moment you can be sure of.  Repent, confess your sin and receive Christ now.

The Bible tells us that God delays the promised Day of Judgment: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The decision is up to you.  The results of that decision have eternal consequences–heaven or hell forever!!


[1] All quotations in this section are from the New International Version of the Bible, published by Zondervan Bible Publishers (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 1984.

[2]A similar emphasis is found in Psalm 53:1-3. The N.T. affirms this view in Romans 3:10-18.

[3] Quoted in Bruce Wilson, Can God Survive in Australia? Sydney: An Albatross Book, 1983, p. 185, emphasis added

[4] John Stott, The Cross of Christ.  Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986, 99.

[5] Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1995, 27.

[6] See Dr. Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife.  Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1984, 72.  Chapter 3 of this book is titled, “Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna,” and has critical material in understanding the nature of these three locations.

[7] See George Eldon Ladd in The New Bible Dictionary, 380., in ibid., 73.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 75-76.

[10] The following approaches are summarised from Peterson, 27-29.

[11] Ibid., 28-29.

[12] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (one-volume edition).  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985, 197-98.

[13] Morey, 77.

[14] Based on ibid., 77 ff.

[15] Ibid., 79.

[16] Emphasis added.

[17] Peterson, 36.

[18] Darlington, Co. Durham: Evangelical Press, 1993.

[19] Welwyn, Hertfordshire: Evangelical Press, 1987.

[20] Eastbourne, E. Sussex: Kingsway Publications, 1991.

[21] See publishing details in above footnote.

[22] William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke (New Testament Commentary).  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1978, 707, as commentary on Luke 13:28

[23] Ibid.

[24] In Davies, 99.

[25] John Benton, How can a God of Love send people to Hell? Welwyn, Hertfordshire: Evangelical Press, 1985, 80, emphasis added.

[26] King James Version of the Bible.

[27] Benton, 62-63.

[28] Davies, 70.

[29] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce.  New York: Macmillan, 1975, 72.

[30] New Revised Standard Version.  Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 1989.

[31] On 5 November 2016 the website to which I linked had blocked my access to the URL. This has happened to all of my links to that website, christianforums.com. I suggest that you copy my questions into your web browser to see the original questions and other content I have written. It’s a sad day when a Christian forum does not want me to link back to its website where I was a regular poster (over 10,000 posts in 11 years) and took some of this interaction (particularly my content) for articles on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge‘.


Copyright © 2009 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 November 2016.