“Why would a good and loving God let anyone suffer the eternal torment of hell?”
This is a familiar accusation against God in our 21c culture. At it’s core, it is the allegation that God cannot possibly be in control of everything if He allows anyone that He claims to love to go to such a horrible place as Hell.
Here are my top 5 responses to this accusation – and God’s invitation to perfect love and perfect leadership.
1. We’re under a curse. All 8 billion of us. We all deceive, we all shame, we all want what isn’t ours, we all curse others, we all want to be first… In every generation this curse has infected 100% of humanity. Jesus is not like that – at all. His Kingdom will one day be devoid of the curse and all such hostile dynamics. Hell is where those who refuse to be set free from the curse will go to be forever ruled by the curse. To those who question hell we must ask: “What part of the curse should Jesus be tolerant of? How much of it should He continue to allow to infect His Kingdom and oppose His reign of love? How much of the curse do you want to tolerate in your own life and relationships?”
2. The claim that God will inflict hell upon His creation ultimately holds no water for one, vital and historically significant reason: Jesus made every provision for us to escape the looming threat of hell. He not only forever set aside His eternal state as the uncreated God, He voluntarily subjected Himself to the death-curse that humanity would certainly (and did) inflict upon Him. He willingly suffered unspeakable torture, a gruesome death, and heart-breaking betrayal – all for the purpose of offering us hope and mercy.
3. Jesus was put to death by all of humanity. Romans imperialists, religious elites, and the oppressed poor cursed Him, betrayed Him and executed Him. We put God to death! (And through our incriminations we’re still doing it!) Had He been born in our culture, and our age, Jesus would have fared no better. We’re all guilty of rejecting, betraying and executing Jesus. Those who say otherwise can have no part in His victory.
4. We’re hard-wired for perfect love and perfect leadership. We crave it in every tweet and FB post about justice. We thrill to it wherever we find others caring for us and supporting us deeply. To those who spurn the invitation of Jesus we ask: Where are we going to find a better leader, with more wisdom, more ability, more commitment to our good, more compassion, more insight into our heart, and power to bring us into mature love than Jesus? If we’re opposed to His leadership now while He’s physically absent, we will not want it any more in the future, when He’s present on earth. It’s our “real-time” choice now to pass up perfect love and perfect leadership. In the final analysis, Hell is God’s “prison” for those who (irrationally?) oppose the perfect Leader that our own hearts crave, and that the Father has ordained to graciously rule us forever.
5. As we query God about hell and the curse we must guard ourselves against the assumption that we know more than God, see further than God, love deeper than God. The attitude with which we ask these questions can easily be independent, oppositional pride. We dare not put ourselves in the place of judging the fairness of God. The fact of the matter is we are NOT God. (We should at least know this much… Right?) We did not create ourselves. Each of us struggle with a curse that blinds us and will ultimately consign us to death. What is abundantly clear is, God wholly invested and sacrificed Himself in order to supply us with a sure way to escape the power and penalty of the curse. Furthermore, He also gave us His own Son to eternally rule and perfectly lead us in an atmosphere of pure love. What more could we ask for?
TODAY, Jesus offers us a new life under His reign. If we will dialogue with Him, admit that our hearts have been filled with the curse, admit that our hearts have been filled with accusation against Him, admit that we’ve wanted our own way and ask Him to forgive us for railing against Him and His administration, He will forgive us. Then He will offer us His leadership, and our own cross; an instrument by which He will rule over the power of the curse that stubbornly clings to our lives. If you want His forgiveness and His leadership you can have both, instantaneously, by praying a prayer like this:
Jesus, thank You for dying for me on the cross. Forgive me for the many ways I’ve rebelled against You and Your Kingdom. (It may be helpful for you to recall some of those ways as you deliberately dialogue with Him about your heart.) My heart is filled with the ways of the curse. I want it to be filled with the ways of Your love. I want to live under Your loving leadership. I believe You’re the leader my heart has been designed for. Please lead me. Put to death the things in me that alienate me from You, from others, and are opposed to Your Kingdom. Direct me into the joys of living under Your reign.
JSB • February, 2019
24 Scriptures on Hell
For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. Isaiah 66:22-24
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And 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 12:1-2
If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. Matthew 7:13
…but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. Matthew 11:20-24
Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:40-42
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous. Matthew 13:47-50
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. Matthew 18:6-9
Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers unit he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. Matthew 18:32-35
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Matthew 23:33
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” . . . Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:42-48
Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’. But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the protest in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.’ Luke 13:24-28
In being in torment in Hades he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. Luke 16:23-25
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.
2 Peter 2:4
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 7
[These people are] wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 13
If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.Revelation 14:9-11
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. Revelation 19:20
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. . . . Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10, 14-15