The Paradox of Hell

Through our class studies of Genesis, we talked about some of God’s qualities – His transcendence, His goodness, His love, His patience, and His fairness. One inescapable question, though, is this: how could a loving God send a soul to Hell? How could one so merciful and full of grace condemn a soul to eternal punishment? According to the Princeton Institute, only forty percent believe in Hell, but the Bible speaks of this place repeatedly. It is warned of fifty-five times, and Jesus speaks of this place more often than any other Bible figure.

II Peter 2:4 and Jude 13 describe it as a place of darkness. The Bible describes Hell as a fearful place. Matthew 13:42 and 25:41, Mark 9:34, and Revelation 20:10 speak of it in terms of fire and burning. These descriptors are metaphorical to help portray this place to us in physical terms. Four times in the gospels, Jesus describes Hell as a place of weeping, and Matthew 25:46 and Revelation 14:11 describe this punishment as eternal. Despite these clear teachings, millions of Christians dismiss the idea, but it comes back to our problems comprehending a compassionate God even allowing Hell to exist.

How Can Hell Exist?

God’s character demands Hell. God is all-loving and all-forgiving. I John 4:8 says God is love, but He is also all-righteous and all-holy. Evil cannot abide in the presence of God. Habbakuk 1:13 expresses God’s intolerance for wrongdoing. God’s eternal plan is to bring His creation back to His goodness. Sin separates us from Him, and His plan of salvation is a way of erasing evil. II Corinthians 5:17 describes us as new creations when we submit to His will. Verse 20 explains that Christ’s sacrifice provides that avenue of unity with God. His holy nature differentiates between good and evil.

His justice is a component of His holiness. Our God will not ignore the problem of sin, and He has never done that since the beginning of time. Psalm 5:4 explains wickedness and arrogance cannot be tolerated by God. He has offered us a solution to that problem in the form of Jesus, but if we refuse that sacrifice, that payment, then we become responsible for the debt of our sins. That debt is death and separation from God’s presence. God knows the challenges we face in resisting temptations and immorality, and His love provides us a place where we will be freed from that bombardment. His people will be free of sin and temptation, and those who dwell on that immorality will not be in Heaven to tempt His people.

Does the Penalty Fit the Crime?

In our eyes, Hell is an awfully stiff penalty for the minor error of failing to recognize God or our own sins. Our sins alienate us from God. The question is not how many sins or for how long. The question is whether or not I’ve accepted the solution to sin. God does not send us to Hell. We choose our destination. John 3:17-18 tells us that He is trying to remedy to solution to sin, and tells us that our choice to follow His Son is a choice to reject the consequences of sin. There is nothing arbitrary about our final destination. God does not makes the choice for us. he merely affirms the choice we have been making for our entire life.

Luke 16 records the parable of a rich man and Lazarus. Both die and find themselves awaiting different consequences for their lives. Abraham asks the rich man if he realizes that he chose those consequences, and he reaffirms to the rich man that his relatives have to choose their destinations for themselves – that Abraham, Lazarus, nor the rich man may interfere. Romans 1:18-22 warns us against turning away from this plain choice. When we reject God, we reject His goodness, His love, His mercy, all that He has done for us. How can we hope to stay in His presence when we have separated ourselves from Him.

Concluding Thought

Think about this. God created water, and, while we live, we can enjoy the water He provides – believer or otherwise. We can say the same about peace, joy, and love. However, our Giver will stop giving to those who have turned away when time is over. Hell deprives God’s gifts from those who have rejected Him. The good news is that we do have hope. God has given us an avenue of salvation. He has made the payment for sin. Ours is simply to accept that payment.

lesson by Ben Lanius