Monday, May 16, 2011

The Justice of Eternal Hell

"My uncle Billy lived for 75 years. How can it be just or fair for God to punish him eternally in Hell for the sins of only 75 years?" This is perhaps one of the most common objections to the doctrine of Hell. The heart of this objection lies in the comparison of eternity to time and the apparent severity of eternal punishment for sin that was confined to what is an infinitesimal speck by comparison.

Though there are several flaws in this objection, we shall attempt to answer them as succinctly as possible.

First of all, we should deal with the mistaken assumption that Hell is full of repentant souls. It is frequently asserted and almost always simply assumed that the souls in Hell now "get it." Only now it is too late for them to be sorry about what they've done. I defy anyone to prove that notion from Scripture. If the Bible gives us any indication of the attitude of the damned souls in Hell, it is that they continue to be sinful and unrepentant. This is in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Even though the rich man was suffering the fires of hell, he still though he was too good to speak to Lazarus directly. He even wants Abraham to command Lazarus to wait on his needs. I have been in countries where there still exists the strata of classes dividing servants from their bosses and it is common practice for the "help" to be spoken about, even in a derogatory manner, right in his or her presence and if he or she weren't present. I recognize this immediately in the rich man. We do not see him begging for forgiveness from Lazarus for his former contempt and mistreatment of him. No! He still feels that he is better than Lazarus and that it is not unreasonable that even in Hell he should have Lazarus wait on him.

It seems to be quite an unwarranted assumption that once people get to Hell they finally wake up and realize the error of their ways and that their torment consists in being too late to rectify things or to make amends. If we take this story as any kind of indication about the attitudes of the damned, then the objection evaporates instantly. Why is it unfair to eternally punish people who are going to continue eternally to shake their fists at God and refuse to admit their wrong?

But secondly, this objection belittles both God and sin. It belittles sin because it belittles God. A small view of sin is a direct result of a small view of God. God is infinite. God is the ultimate Good. Any action made against His prescribed will is, in its very essence, an affront to the infinite God, maker of heaven and earth. But the real kicker is this: God sees all men in one of two ways - either in Christ or in sin. If your sins are not covered by Christ then God, since He is eternal and infinite, must necessarily continue infinitely and eternally to see you in sin. Case closed.

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