How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? - page 1


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From the Summer 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

by Bill Kynes, Ph.D.
C.S. Lewis Institute Senior Fellow, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church

 

This article is a slightly adapted version of a chapter in Bill’s recently published book Seven Pressing Questions: Addressing Critical Challenges to Christian Faith (Minneapolis: NextStep Resources, 2015).
 
I just don’t get it. You Christians talk an awful lot about the love of God, and then you tell me that if I don’t believe in Jesus I will go to hell, a place of eternal torment? What kind of God are you talking about? He seems to be a moral monster. Why can’t you just stick to the message of Jesus, who accepted everybody—tax collectors and prostitutes—and who said, ‘Don’t judge, lest you be judged’? What’s the deal?”

Why Believe in Hell?

  The doctrine of hell—what are we to make of it? Even among Christians the subject of hell is a thorny one—and rightly so. It’s not something we should take lightly, or talk about too easily; this is serious stuff. Frankly, I wish I didn’t have to address this topic, a topic that can so quickly offend our moral sensibilities. So why do Christians insist on talking about hell? Why has the doctrine of the eternal punishment of those who stand before God apart from Christ been a part of the understanding of almost all Bible-believing Christians throughout church history? The simple answer is that Christians are bound by the teaching of Jesus.

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

  It is our Lord Jesus who, above all, forces us to affirm the dreadful truth that those who stand alone before God as sinners on the day of judgment will face condemnation into a state of eternal punishment called hell.1  
  To the religious hypocrites, Jesus declared, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matt. 23:33). Those rejected as subjects of the kingdom, Jesus said, “will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:122).
  Stressing the seriousness of sin, Jesus urged, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43; cf. Matt. 18:8). It’s a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched,” He said (Mark 9:48). On that day of judgment, Jesus says that those who failed to respond to Him through His humble brothers “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).
  Though it is often ridiculed as a primitive remnant of a medieval age, this doctrine of the eternal punishment of sinners is rooted firmly in the teaching of Jesus Himself. He spoke of hell more than He spoke of heaven. In fact, Jesus, who more than anyone reveals the love of God to the world, spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible. As followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot be faithful to our Lord and not speak of this stark reality.

The Apostles’ Teaching on Hell

  The apostolic witness of the New Testament echoes Jesus’ weighty words on this topic. Paul speaks of a time of “wrath and anger” awaiting those who reject the truth (Rom. 2:8). He declares that those who do not obey the gospel “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9). Jude presents the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah “as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

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