It’s been several months ago, but I distinctly remember having dinner one Friday evening over at a friend’s house with his family. Another recently married couple ate with us too. They all attend a different church than we do, but our beliefs had always been very similar – at least until I embraced the doctrines of grace. The differences in our theologies had become apparent, and somewhat troublesome to them. Despite their apprehension, I proclaimed the gospel truth as I understood it in an after dinner conversation. The wife of the recently married couple sat at rapt attention as I gave a brief overview of the doctrines of Grace. At one point I made a remark about God casting the reprobate into hell, whose sins have not been washed away by the blood of Jesus. She perked up, eyes wide, mouth agape and chimed in with this gem, “God doesn’t send people to hell!”
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “How is that so?” I asked, although I anticipated where she was taking this line of argument.
She replied, “people go to hell of their own free choice.”
“No one would choose to go into hell.” I countered. “Not one person would decide to enter an eternity of flaming torment over an eternity in heavenly bliss. So how can you say that?”
“People go to hell when they refuse to accept Jesus.”
“So… they simply accept their fate and willingly walk into the fiery furnace?”
“They must be sent there – against their will, right? So who sends them there?”
“The devil… maybe.”
“No. Scripture teaches the lake of fire is prepared for the devil and his angels, he does not lord over it. Only a righteous judge can pronounce sentence. The devil does not have that authority. So if we don’t go in willingly and the devil doesn’t take us there, then that leaves God as the only viable option, doesn’t it?”
She had no reply. The plain truth stared her straight in the face and she was loathe to accept it. I went on to proclaim that God the Father is the judge of all the universe. He created hell as a place of punishment for all unrepentant sinners, to stand as an eternal monument to his wrath against sin. The Father has handed His authority to damn and to vindicate over to His Son, who will judge the quick and the dead upon his return to establish his eternal kingdom. The wicked will be cast into the furnace of fire, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mat 13:42).
Who will cast them there?
The Lord Jesus Christ, who will sit upon the throne of his glory (Mat 25:31-46). He will judge the hearts and minds of every living person. Jesus will say to many on that day, “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.” (Mat 7:23)
This silly belief that God does not send people to hell is more evidence of the rotten fruit of modern evangelicalism. Spineless preachers will say, “Oh no, God is too jolly a fellow to actively punish man for his ‘mistakes’. They go there all by themselves, God is not responsible for their doom”.
Of course, it makes complete sense to ‘spiritual seekers’ and “I said a prayer” converts who are spoon-fed this ‘God is a God of love and not of hate’ garbage every weekend in churches across the world. Alas, I fell victim to this ‘Care Bear Christianity’ in my early years as a believer. I spouted the same sentiments as this young woman did! However, after carefully searching the scriptures, God swept away the fog of deception. My eyes now behold the fullness of His glory. A glory that includes his holy attributes of judgment, wrath and justice.
God, by necessity, is a God of hate because He is a God of love. God cannot truly love unless he hates the destructive power of sin that utterly destroys those things He created and called ‘very good’ in the beginning.
As a consequence of sin, death came into the world.
As a consequence of sin, every thought of man’s heart is only evil continually.
As a consequence of sin, God flooded the earth and every living thing perished (Noah and his passengers excluded).
As a consequence of sin, the heavens and earth are reserved for fire and utter destruction.
God can only love if he puts away for all time the forces of evil that rebel against His righteous government. Those who merrily go about committing sin must be given final justice. The word says God is angry with the wicked everyday (Ps 7:11). He hates the wicked and those who do violence (Ps 11:5). This is scriptural truth, it cannot be denied. An infinite hell must exist by necessity to punish men for sins committed against an infinite and holy God. If a man’s sins are never forgiven, his punishment can never cease. God’s holy attributes of justice and wrath will forever be on display in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. In contrast, God in His boundless mercy and compassion loves his own people enough to send His Son to die on a cross to redeem them. All rebellion must be put down in order for the Father to establish a world where His elect will suffer no more death, sorrow, pain or tears. This is love.
I shudder as I write these words. I do not take them lightly. It is the sober truth. That is why I am so hard on American evangelicalism and why I am critical of many of their high profile preachers and teachers. These old truths are just not presented anymore. Sin and its consequences are reduced to ‘mistakes’. God is painted as the doddering old grandfather who merely winks and pats sinners on the back saying “Ahhh, its OK, just say a quick prayer and we’ll call it good!” But the scriptures are clear;
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Act 17:30-31)
I soon learned my conversation with this young woman had a profound effect on her. She began to have doubts about her own conversion. Now, I don’t know anything about her past or how she came to salvation, but the odds are pretty good she fell victim to the heresy of decisional regeneration. The gospel message I taught seemed foreign to her. My friend rebuked me (in a kind and gentle way) for causing her to question her spiritual state with my ‘abrasive’ approach. My response was, “Self-examination is always a good thing! The Apostle Paul admonishes us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). I guess I was supposed to feel bad – but I didn’t. I rejoice that the truth of God’s word pierced her conscience, compelling her to look within her own heart to see if God is actually doing a work there, instead of relying on a preacher’s guarantee of salvation through a canned prayer – or worse, relying on the testimony of her own deceitful heart.
For those who read this and despair of ever escaping God’s righteous judgments, I have good news to share. Jesus Christ died to fulfill God’s justice against sin. He took upon himself the punishment we are all due. In this way God can remain just and have mercy. Run to Jesus for forgiveness, he is more than willing to cleanse you of all your sins. Repent of the wickedness that condemns your soul before a righteous and holy God. It is your only hope. Take hold of mercy while it is offered. After death is the judgment (Heb 9:21) and God will deal out his justice most severely. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). He will trod the winepress of His great wrath and none that have rejected Him shall escape (Rev 14:19-20). Hell is a real place and everyday it enlarges its mouth to receive the countless souls that God casts into its gaping maw (Is 5:14). Examine yourself! Make sure you are not counted among them.