How Can God Be Merciful And Punish People In Hell Forever?

How Do We Know Hell Is Real?

I recently saw a huge billboard along a major expressway that read,

“Enjoy life now; there is no afterlife.”

It was sponsored by, The Foundation for Freedom from Religion. My first thoughts were, how could they possibly know that? On what authority can they make such a claim? The only way anyone could know for a fact whether or not there is life after death would be to die and then come back from the dead to tell us!

There is only one person in history who not only claimed He had the power to do that, but 2,000 years later, more than 2 billion people actually believe He did! The historical Jesus had such a profound impact on the world by what He said and by what He did, that the world marks time by His birth, death and resurrection. At the time of this writing, it’s 2012 “A.D”. That is Latin for Anno Domini which means “In the year of the Lord”.

The reason we mark time by the birth and death of Jesus Christ is because three days after He was crucified He raised Himself from the dead! Unlike The Foundation for Freedom from Religion, Jesus speaks with authority when He speaks of the after-life. Jesus Christ is the most famous person in history. He said there is a real place called heaven and a real place called hell.

The doctrine of hell has to be the most difficult doctrine that has ever been presented to the mind of man. How can God be merciful and allow people to suffer in hell forever? To many, this appears to be an insurmountable contradiction for Christianity. Nevertheless, the Bible has dozens of references to hell. Having a finite mind and a limited understanding of the mysteries of God, I admit that hell does seem unfair, but by the same token, heaven is equally unfair.

Ten things you may have never considered about hell

1. God Is Perfectly Fair And Just

Allow me to illustrate. In 1997 a 9-year-old girl was brutally raped in a partially abandoned housing project in Chicago. Relatives said, she liked to play, go roller skating and tutor other students. The little girl was lured into an apartment where she was gang raped. Roach killer was sprayed down her throat and she was eventually left for dead in a filthy stairwell. When they found her she was shaking and foaming at the mouth. She remained in a coma for a month. Today, years later, she is confined to a wheelchair and still unable to speak.

Does that story bother you? How would you feel if this happened to someone you loved deeply? How do you think God feels when something like this happens? Do you think the man who did that should be punished?

God feels the same way when people lie, steal, cheat, rob, rape, and murder. He hates all sin and must punish every form of rebellion because He is perfectly just.

The Bible teaches that there will be different levels of punishment in hell, and different levels of reward in heaven. This is what Jesus is referring to in Luke 12:47-48:

“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know {it,} and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

“Hell Wll Be A Place Of Fair Treatment. Before Anyone Goes There, He Will Stand At A Final Judgment To Determine The Exact Degree Of Punishment He Will Receive. God Will Be Perfectly Fair.”

“The final judgment is depicted graphically in Revelation 20:11-15. This is the great white throne judgment. The Judge is none other than Jesus Christ (John 5:24-30). All the unsaved receive new bodies and will stand to be judged. Then the books containing the life record of every person and the one special book of life will be opened. The opening of these books shows that those who rejected God’s gift of salvation will receive perfect justice.

“In Romans 2:1-16, Paul pointed out that God will look at what people have done with their privileges and opportunities, and that He will be completely impartial and fair (vv.5-1 1). Those who possessed His Word, the law of verses 12-14, will be held accountable for their response to it. Those who never received special revelation will be held accountable only for what they knew (vv. 14-16).”

“No judge or jury fully understands the person on trial. No human being can evaluate the exact degree of accountability in himself or anyone else. We are all profoundly influenced by hereditary and environmental factors beyond our control. Yet we make choices after weighing options. Therefore, we are all accountable-at least to some degree. And God understands to what extent. He also knows how much we need His mercy.”

“When the young man who died in a gang war stands before Jesus Christ, he will find that the Lord understands all the circumstances of his short, violent, and troubled life his absent father, his immoral Mother, his disadvantaged peers, his complete ignorance of the gospel message, and his despair. The Lord Jesus will take all these factors into consideration. He knows exactly the degree of responsibility of this young man and will give him a sentence that perfectly suits his offense.”

“The rich, respectable landlord who died without Christ may receive a far more severe sentence than most of his tenants, even those who had many brushes with the law. The Lord Jesus will take into account their respective privileges. He will see perfectly the underlying greed, selfishness, and pride of this man. He will understand the sense of despair that was a factor in some of the wrongs done by the tenants. All will receive fair treatment. God, the holy moral Governor of the universe, will dispense perfect justice to all wrongdoers.”

“The awesome picture of final judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 led Thomas Carlyle to exclaim: “What a magnificent conception is that of  a final judgment! A righting of all the wrongs of the ages.” The Lord Jesus Christ will take into account every circumstance, overlooking nothing. He will be the Supreme Court of the universe. No one will be able to appeal His decisions. In fact, no one will feel the need to do so. Every person will acknowledge Him as Lord and admit that His verdict has been absolutely fair and right. It is at this time that everyone will recognize Him to be all He claimed to be, fulfilling the words of Philippians 2:9-11.”

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2. It Is Not God’s Will For Anyone To Go To Hell

The Apostles and the Prophets affirm the greatness of God’s grace conferred on all mankind again and again in the Scriptures. For examples:

John 3:16-17 proclaims that: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”

Ezek. 33:11 says, “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

Matthew 25:41 tells us that hell was not made for man but for the devil and his angels.

2 Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

1 Timothy 2:3-4: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

John 1:29: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

There are dozens more of these verses that make it abundantly clear that God would rather have people repent and believe the Gospel.

3. God Did Not Reject Us; We Rejected Him!

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Sin is man saying to God throughout his life, ‘Go away and leave me alone.’ Hell is simply God saying to man, ‘You may have your wish.’”

Here is what the Bible says:

Isaiah 30:15: “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”

Matthew 10:32-33: “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem,Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

Romans 2:4-6 says: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.”

It was our sins that nailed Christ to the cross, but it wasn’t the nails that held Him there; it was His love for you and me! To reject so great a salvation is to condemn yourself.

4. To Preserve Freedom And Defeat Evil

“The fact that humans used God-given free choice to disobey God did not take God by surprise. C. S. Lewis suggested that God, in His omniscience saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out ‘…a deeper happiness and a fuller splendor than any world of automata would admit.’ Or, as Geisler has put it so well, the theist does not have to claim that our present world is the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best way to the best possible world:

“If God is to both preserve freedom and defeat evil, then this is the best way to do it. Freedom is preserved in that each person makes his own free choice to determine his destiny. Evil is overcome in that, once those who reject God are separated from the others, the decisions of all are made permanent.

“Those who choose God will be confirmed in it, and sin will cease. Those who reject God are in eternal quarantine and cannot upset the perfect world that has come about. The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.

“A critically important factor involved in the suggestion that this may not be the best possible world, but it is the best way to the best possible world, is that God is not finished yet. Too often people fall into the trap of thinking that because God hasn’t dealt with evil yet, He is not dealing with it at all. Walter Martin used to say, ‘I’ve read the last chapter in the book, and we win!’ Evil will one day be done away with. Just because evil is not destroyed right now does not mean it never will be.

“In view of the above facts, the existence of evil in the world is seen to be compatible with the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God. We can summarize the facts this way:

If God is all-good, He will defeat evil.

If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil.

Evil is not yet defeated.

Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil.

“One day in the future, Christ will return, strip away power from the wicked, and hold all men and women accountable for the things they did during their time on earth (see Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15), and justice will ultimately prevail. Those who enter eternity without having trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation will understand just how effectively God has dealt with the problem of evil.” 1

5. God Has The Right And The Responsibility To Punish Evil

As Creator of the universe, God has the responsibility to punish evil. He has provided the way of escape by our believing, trusting, and relying upon Jesus for salvation, but many refuse His gift and reject His Son.

God created the universe from nothing. But God created man in His own image and likeness, therefore, He expects man to seek Him with all of his heart. As His Word says, “From him to whom much is given, much will be required.”

God gave man everything he needed to make an intelligent decision about God and eternity. He wrote the moral law on every man’s heart and gave him a conscience. Man has the ability to discern good from evil. Hebrews 4:13 says we are accountable to God for our moral choices.

God is not like us. He is perfect. As high as the heavens are above the earth, His ways are above our ways. God dwells in unapproachable light. He is light and there is no darkness in Him. Nothing impure or unclean can stand in His presence. He is perfectly holy. If God did not punish the unrepentant sinner, He Himself would be unjust. If God, were to overlook even one transgression, He would deny Himself. That He cannot do.

6. We Murdered The Son Of God

I’m not so amazed that Jesus raised Himself from the dead. I’m more amazed that He could have died in the first place! Death is the result of sin. That is why all men die, no matter how they die. But Jesus was sinless. How could Christ have died? The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The horrible truth that many people want to avoid is that no one is innocent of the blood of Jesus. The Bible clearly states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Bible also says, “He (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6, NIV).

In Acts 3, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preached a sermon and 3,000 people were saved! Three times in that sermon, Peter told his listeners that they murdered the Son of God! This is also what Peter preached in Acts chapters 3, 4, and 5, as well as in 1 Peter 2:24.

In our fallen world and in a corrupt legal system, it’s one thing to murder a skid-row bum; it is another thing altogether to murder the President of the United States. If you murder a ‘nobody’ it is possible, if you have enough money and a ‘good’ lawyer, to ‘beat the rap’ on a technicality. But, if you murder the President of  United States, you can be sure that the United States government will bring all of its legal and political power against you in order to insure that you receive the maximum penalty allowed by law. In this case, it was sin, yours, mine, and ours that made it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. Those who refuse to seek God’s forgiveness show no remorse for what they have done.

If you die without Christ as your Savior, when you stand before the Great White Throne of God you will be charged with murdering the Son of God and the penalty is death. Simply stated, because you killed God’s Son and show no repentance or remorse, God is going to kill you! That is the point of Luke 20:9-16.

7. High Treason Is Punishable By Death

Even in man’s world, high treason in a time of war has always been punishable by death. For man to exalt his own will above the will of God is an attempt to usurp the throne of God. That is how the archangel Lucifer became the arch-enemy of God and why his name was changed to Satan. The first sin in the universe occurred when Lucifer decided (of his own free will) to say, “I will exalt myself above the throne of God.” Lucifer’s sin was the pride of covetousness, which is idolatry, an abomination to God. All sin is unbelief. When a person lives his or her life as if God does not exist, God calls it willful rebellion.

8. God Gave Man A Free Will

One of the worst things about being in hell will be the realization that you did not have to go there.

Genesis tells us that, “God made man in His image and in His likeness.” You are not, never have been, and never will be a robot. God created you as a free-thinking moral agent. You were also designed with a built-in conscience. This means you have the capacity to discern good from evil and to say, ‘I should’, or, ‘I should not.’” That makes you accountable for your actions.

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He created man with a free will. How else could our love for God be genuine? This illustration may help connect the dots. Imagine you are playing chess against the world champion chess player. In this case, it would not matter how you move the pieces, he is so much better at the game that you are that he would use your moves to win the game! The same principle applies with the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. In the game of life, it does not matter how you move the pieces, it does not matter how Satan moves the pieces; you can move them any way you want to, and God will use those moves to accomplish His sovereign will without ever violating yours! He’s that good.

9. If Punishment Ended, At That Point It Would Be As If There Were No Punishment At All 

Allow me to illustrate:  The true story of the Lockerbie Bomber

On Wednesday, 21 December 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 was on a transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.  The aircraft, a Boeing 747 was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Also killed were eleven other people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.  Large sections of the plane fell from the sky destroying several houses, bringing the total number of dead to 270. This event is known today as the Lockerbie Bombing.

The entire front section of the aircraft, containing the flight deck with crew and the first class section, broke away completely. Flying upwards it struck the number 3 engine as it snapped off. With the steering cables disabled, the aircraft began to descend sharply. As the fuselage disintegrated, the cabin lost pressure, making it almost impossible for the passengers to breath. The sudden change in air pressure, caused their lungs to swell and then collapse. The explosion knocked out the power, plunging the passenger cabin into darkness. When the cockpit broke off, the fuselage was now an open cylinder. Tornado-force winds tore up the aisles, slamming into people’s  chests, making it extremely difficult to breathe, and stripping the clothes off the passengers. Some were thrown to the rear of the plane. People and objects were blown out of the aircraft into the night at temperatures of -46 °C (-51 °F). Their 31,000-foot fall lasted approximately two minutes before they hit the ground.

Many passengers were still attached to the fuselage by their seat belts, crashing to earth while still strapped to their seats. Although the passengers would have lost consciousness through lack of oxygen, forensic examiners believe some of them might have regained consciousness as they fell toward oxygen-rich lower altitudes.

Dr. William G. Eckert, who examined the autopsy evidence, told Scottish police that the crew and 147 passengers may have survived the bomb blast and due to the depressurization of the aircraft, were still alive on impact. On the ground, 11 Lockerbie residents were killed when the wing section hit the ground at more than 500 mph, exploding on impact. It left a crater 154 feet long. It vaporized several houses completely destroying the foundations. It rendered 21 so badly damaged they had to be demolished. Four members of one family were killed by the explosion as their home was engulfed in a fireball of flames.

For many families, there was nothing left of the bodies to bury. They were vaporized by the explosion. For days, Lockerbie residents had to live with the horrifying sight of dead bodies strewn across their yards and streets. The authorities had to document the location of each body in an attempt to help determine the force of the explosion on-board the air craft. One resident commented, “A boy was lying at the bottom of the steps on to the road. A young laddie with brown socks and blue trousers on. Later that evening my son-in-law asked for a blanket to cover him. I didn’t know he was dead. I gave him a lamb’s wool travelling rug thinking I’d keep him warm. Two more girls were lying dead across the road, one of them bent over garden railings. It was just as though they were sleeping. The boy lay at the bottom of my stairs for days. Every time I came back to my house for clothes he was still there. ‘My boy is still there,’ I used to tell the waiting policeman. Eventually on Saturday I couldn’t take it anymore. ‘You’ve got to get my boy lifted,’ I told the policeman. That night he was moved.”

On August 20, 2009, 11 years later, the British government released Abdel baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. At the time of his release, there was no more punishment, no more suffering, and no more prison time for the man who murdered hundreds of innocent people. At that point it’s as if the man responsible for this monstrous act had done nothing wrong. He was completely free. He returned to Libya where he received a hero’s welcome. Does that bother you? What if one of your loved one’s was on that plane? Would you want that man to be set free to receive a hero’s welcome?

So what does this have to do with hell being eternal? Everything. Keep reading!

“Hell must be eternal, because what matters most to man is his present condition. Let me illustrate: suppose you live in a frigid area of the world and you had heat for the last 10 years. But suppose this year catastrophe struck and left you without any heat in the dead of winter, freezing and shivering. Will the fact that you had heat for the last 10 years make you happy while you freeze this winter? No. What matters most is that you don’t have heat this winter. It’s true to say that what matters most to you is your present condition. Likewise, suppose that you lived without heat for the last 10 years, but you finally got it this year. Will the fact that you lived without heat for the last 10 years make you unhappy while you sit comfortably and warm now? No. The thing that matters most is your present condition. The same truth applies to all of the pleasure or pain we experience now.

“We must note that no temporal pleasures bring true and lasting happiness. Man was created for God and can only be satisfied in Him. This principle also holds true when we consider the following issues as well.

“What matters most to the unspiritual man is his present physical condition. For example, those who enjoy great fame, or great wealth, or great success, or great beauty, are not troubled by the fact that they did not possess this 10 or 20 years ago. What matters most to them is that they are great, or famous, or successful or wealthy, or beautiful—now!

“Therefore, if the pains of hell end at some point, then at that point man is free from punishment. He would suffer no pain at all and since his present condition is all that matters to him, the end result for that man would be that he would not suffer punishment at all.

“Thus it is true to say that a punishment that is not eternal is in the end actually not real punishment at all. For if it ends at any point, then, the final condition of that man is that he is free from suffering. All he knows and cares about then is that he is free from punishment.

“But as Deuteronomy 32:35 says, ‘Vengeance is Mine and I will repay them in due time.’” Such a punishment can be real only if the end result equals punishment not a state of non-punishment. The only way that the punishment can have an end result which equals punishment rather than non-punishment, is by an ongoing present condition of unhappiness. That is why hell must be and is eternal.” 2

 10. The Real Question Isn’t Why But Who?

He is God. We are not. Where were you when He laid the foundations of the Earth?

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