The Bible clearly teaches that God hates sin. God is also going to punish that sin, wherever He finds it. This presents a problem for us because we have sinned, are sinning, and will sin in the future. God's justice is so thorough that every sin that has, or will be committed is punished by God. It is either paid for by Christ on the cross, or we pay for that sin ourselves. Sins that are not paid for on the cross are paid for by the individual responsible, in a place called hell. Hell, in Scripture, is defined as a place of eternal, conscious torment. It's eternal, it goes on forever. After a sinner has been in hell for a million years he is not any closer to his debt being paid off. He is conscious in this place. He's aware of what is happening and knows why he is there. The Bible also says that hell is a place of torment. (It's not torture, as some have imposed upon the text of Scripture. We'll talk more about that later.) Needless to say, hell is a horrible and dreadful place that Jesus spoke of more than anyone else, and He says we must avoid it at all costs.
This is a difficult topic. It's a sobering topic, and it deserves some attention. Just because it's unpleasant and we don't like to dwell on things that make us feel bad, we have to answer the person who says that God is unfair, unloving, or unjust for sentencing a person to such a place for eternity. Before I attempt to present a defense for this touchy subject, please read my page entitled What Is The Truth About Hell? for a basic summation of all that Scripture says about it. The tagline for BringingTRUTH.com is "Truth Fears No Question, Challenge or Objection". Too often Christians are afraid to address difficult topics. If what we believe is true, meaning that it is a reflection of reality, then we must not be afraid to answer some of the most difficult questions concerning our beliefs. Moreover, we are commanded by Scripture to provide an answer for anyone who asks us, and do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) To make this issue even more difficult to deal with - I will go on record saying that hell is not just for a few select people like Hitler, other murderers, rapists, child abusers etc. I believe Scripture teaches that hell will be full of what the world would call "good people".
Individuals that by worldly standards, are moral, law abiding citizens. I would even say that the majority of people walking this earth right now will be in hell someday. Jesus was asked if only a few will be saved. He responded by saying, "Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7, Luke 13) I grieve over the "many" in those verses. It troubles me how nonchalant many Christians are over this fact, and they are unwilling to do anything about it. Where is the love for those on the wide road leading to destruction? That is why this site exists - to be used by God to rescue as many people as possible from hell (a fate that we all deserve).
Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his work Why I Am Not a Christian: "I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. . . . I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture: and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as His chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that."
Charles Darwin has pointed to the doctrine of hell as one of the significant reasons for his abandonment of the faith. He stated in his autobiography: "I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all my friends, will be everlastingly punished."
Most people have an incomplete and inadequate understanding of both how awful sin is and how holy God is. We do not see the seriousness of our sin, and we fail to understand God's holiness, His justice, and His wrath. The Bible tells us that God is holy, holiness is incorruptibility, perfection, purity, and the inability to sin, all of which are possessed by God alone. Holiness is the very nature of God's character. His character is perfect, without flaw, and He is the standard of all that is right and good. He must punish sin. Sins are committed when we break His laws. They are crimes against our creator, the one who is most deserving of our honor and obedience. It's not just the nature of our sin that we need to take into account, but rather the one whom we've sinned against. If I tell a lie to my son, nothing is going to happen to me. If I lie to my wife, I'm on the couch that night. If I lie to my boss, I could lose my job. If I lie to the government, that's perjury, I'm going to jail. Same crime committed each time, but what changed? It's the one who was lied to. It's not that our crimes are so huge, it's against whom those crimes have been committed. Crimes against an eternal Being, are deserving of an eternal punishment.
Why is hell necessary?
If there is no hell, then there is no ultimate justice in the universe. Think about the number of people who get away with murder. If there is no ultimate reckoning, justice will never be satisfied. I suspect that when someone gets away with a heinous crime, there is something inside you that is unsettling. Where does that feeling come from? It's a God given desire to see justice served. Hell is necessary because just like in our society, violent criminals are kept in prison because they are a danger and menace to society. Those who are in prison are unfit to live with others. Hell was created by God for those who are unfit to dwell in His presence.
Why is hell so severe?
First of all, hell is a drastic consequence because it is an outworking of the hatred God has for sin. It's hard for us to understand, because in our depravity, we don't hate sin all that much. We don't see sin the way God does. Secondly, hell is severe punishment because Hell is a place of separation from God. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says, "And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." The Bible teaches that God is the sole source of all that is good. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. (James 1:17) Hell is a place of separation from the very source of all that is good, all that would cause joy, and all that would bring comfort. God, by His very nature, is good. It's His goodness (kindness) that leads someone to repentance. Listen to the inspired words of God as recorded in Romans chapter 2 -Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. Romans 2:4-8 An ultimate lack of repentance unto death will result in God withdrawing His kindness. If you withdraw all kindness and goodness from someone, what do you end up with? Hell. By definition hell is the complete lack of anything that is good. Some people say that this life is hell. This can't be true. As hard as this life can be for someone, there is at least some good that is bestowed upon them. If there is anything good in this life, then this life can't be hell.
Are people tortured in hell?
Unbelievers often use this image to portray God as a cruel and vindictive being. However, this is a straw man. Let's define what torture is. Torture is a sadistic activity inflicted upon someone against their will and is often done for the fun of it. When speaking of the suffering in hell, the Bible never uses the word torture, rather the word torment is used. What's the difference? Torment is self-inflicted by one's own will and it results from the choices a person makes and the consequences that follow. The torment of hell comes from the individual who chooses not to love God and now must live with the sorrow of being aware of all that was lost. One can be in torment over a decision that he or she made in the past, without being actively tortured by anyone.
Why doesn't God save everyone and take them to heaven?
The simple answer here is that not evryone wants to go to heaven. If God gave every single person the desire to worship Him and spend eternity with Him in heaven, where is the love? True love? True love comes from the ability to choose otherwise. Implanted specific desires are more like coercion rather than an ability to make a choice. The objection would then be that God has created pre-programmed robots to do whatever He wants them to do and then the cry would be that God has negated a certain sense of freedom that we believe everyone should have. In order for a meaningful, genuine, loving relationship to exist between God and people, people must be free, free to love Him or free to hate Him.
Can't God give people a second chance after death?
The truth of the matter is that God is giving people a second chance. Right now. He's giving a second, third, fourth, fifth etc... Every minute that passes is an opportunity for a person to cry out to God, and be a recipient of His mercy and grace. If you are outside of Christ right now, you are given a chance at this very moment, as you read about the fate that awaits you, unless you repent and put your faith in Jesus. God is patient. Once you die, or when the Lord returns, it's too late. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, after this the judgment."
During your life, God's Spirit patiently...
Strives with you (Genesis 6:3)
Convicts you of your sin (John 16:8)
Reminds you of God's righteousness (John 16:8)
Warns you of coming judgment (Acts 24:25)
Testifies to you through creation (Romans 1:20)
Sends you messengers with the good news of salvation (Romans 10:15)
There is no second chance after death. Please don't wait, the time is now. Today is the day of salvation.
Why can't God just snuff out a person's life so they no longer exist? They don't get heaven, but they're not punished eternally in hell.
Some people hold this belief, its called annihilationism. It says unbelievers will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will instead be "extinguished" sometime after death. For many, annihilationism is an attractive belief because of the awfulness of the idea of people spending eternity in hell. The question is, is that what the Bible teaches?" Starting in the Old Testament, the Book of Daniel says Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2 However, the most convincing evidence for the eternality of hell is found in the book of Matthew - "Then they (the unsaved) will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:46 In this verse, the same Greek word for eternal - "aionion" is used. Which is usually translated "eternal". It can refer to an "age" or "eon", which can be a limited period of time or it can refer to an eternal length of time. Taking a look at our verse in Matthew, if the unsaved suffer only for a limited period of time, then saved individuals enjoy eternal life for only a limited period of time. In this verse there is a perfect parallel in the construction of the Greek. If believers will be in heaven forever, unbelievers will be in hell forever.
Also, let's ask this question...Who says that the sinner who dies in his sins, ever stops sinning? What evidence do we have that would suggest that a person reaches some sort of post-mortem repentance? What gives us such an idea? We are making assumptions that once an individual leaves this life, all of the sudden they will fall in line with what God says and recognize themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior. I like what Dr. James White says about this. He said, (I'm paraphrasing), "If you could travel a million years into the future and reach into hell and take a smoking soul out and sit him in a chair and say, 'You have two choices, you could worship the Lord your God with all you heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, or you could turn around and return back to hell and resume your suffering for the remainder of eternity.'" Dr. White said that they would march right back into hell with a curse for God and would spit in His face if they could. We simply don't recognize the depth of our depravity. If the sinning continues for an eternity, shouldn't the punishment as well?
Thirdly, if someone is annihiliated, and no longer exists, how is that justice? If a person lives their life raping and murdering children, then he dies and no longer exists, there is no retribution, no payment for the harm and heartache that he has caused. Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of millions in the Soviet Union, but he died peacefully in his sleep without being punished for his deeds. Since evil often goes unpunished in this lifetime, it must be dealt with at a future time to fulfill God's justice and holiness. God is not going to let evil go unpunished. He is a just God and justice will be served. There will be a day of reckoning. Ultimate justice is often not carried out in this life, it will be in the next.
Lastly, consider why we were created. Why are we here? This gets right to the heart, and meaning of life. Everyone always asks, "What's the meaning of life?" I don't believe that's a hard question at all. We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The way God created us has a lot to do with addressing the eternality of hell. We were created for eternity. We were created to live forever. That's why hell is the ultimate demise. That's what I think the Bible is talking about when it refers to things like eternal destruction. Not that we will someday not exist, but rather it's the ultimate fail. The loss of everything that we were created for.
Objection: It's not fair for God to punish someone for eternity for sins committed in a finite time period. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.
First of all, who says there needs to be a correlation between the amount of time it takes to commit a crime and the punishment for that crime? If I killed a mall full of people with an Uzi, that would only take a few seconds. Yet, I would go to jail for the rest of my life. Conversely, imagine my job is to work a cash register in that mall every day, and I steal a dime out of the drawer each day for a year. At the end of the year I would have stolen a total of $36.50. That is also a crime, but it took a long time to commit and the punishment would not be nearly as severe as wiping out dozens of people with an Uzi.
When a person raises this objection, he is not considering the heinous nature of his sin and the worthiness of God. We have too low a view of both sin and the one who we have sinned against. Again, it's not necessarily the nature, amount, or frequency of our crimes, but the One whom we have offended.
Objection: What about those who have never heard of Jesus, do they go to hell?
I have a whole article on this website devoted to answering this question. Please follow the link "What About Those Who Never Hear About Jesus?"
Objection: It's wrong for God to allow someone to be born in the first place if that person will end up in hell someday.
People have tried to answer this question in various ways with respect to human free will and our ability to choose. I believe there is some merit in that line of reasoning, but allow me to present to you a more challenging argument. God could have reasons for sending people to hell that we might not like. When we, the created, begin to question our Creator, and the way he does His job as the sovereign God of all the earth, we can look to Scripture for how He might respond to our feeble objection of Him being unfair. Consider what it says in the Book of Romans -
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:14-23
There is much debate over these words in Scripture. I would encourage you to do the legwork yourself, seek the truth about God and whether or not He is completely sovereign over who receives salvation and who does not. It's true, God is love, but at the same time, God has a desire to show the full range of His attributes. Yes, He desires to show love, mercy and grace to some, but also to show His righteousness, justice, wrath and His overall hatred of sin towards others.
The bottom line is this - hell is real, many people are really going there, and God created you, and if you end up in hell, God is completely justified in the sentencing of that punishment, based upon your sin and rebellion. Included in that, is a rejection of the only means of salvation God has offered, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.
As J. P. Moreland has pointed out in Lee Strobel's book The Case for Faith, "If a person constantly ignores God, constantly mocks Him by the way he chooses to live, saying 'I couldn't care less about what You put me here to do, Your values, or Your Son's death for me. Leave me alone! I want to live my life without You!' Well, God will honor that decision, and in the end, that person will have his preference."
Here's a question: Do you love God? Does the question itself sound weird to you? Consider this: If you are cold towards God, ungrateful, unappreciative, and basically don't want anything to do with Him as evidenced by your not praying to Him, reading about Him, talking about Him, serving Him and fellowshipping with His children, if that characterizes your life, why would you expect eternity to be any different?
C. S. Lewis said, "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.'" Lewis also said, "I believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside." I beg you, don't be a rebel to the end. Lay down your arms and submit to the One who created you and made a way of escape from you receiving the just consequences for your actions. Pray that God would not give you what you deserve (which is what we all deserve), but rather that He would give you that which none us deserve, grace. Scripture says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself and please give some serious thought to what has been written here. Thank you.