Hell is an unpopular concept. Mention the word to a skeptic and they will automatically dismiss you as resorting to threats. Even some “Christian” leaders dismiss it as an allegory, while other religious leaders claim that love wins and everyone gets to go to Heaven eventually. The church and the world has sadly misrepresented hell. In some cases, it has become a fantasy cartoon with a red devil, horns, and a pitchfork. Yet, the Scriptures are clear in their teaching of hell. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41 “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19 “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:30-31 “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 This is a side of God we don’t like to talk about often. We want Him to be our buddy, our pal, our amigo. Don’t get me wrong, Christians are in a position to address Him as “Abba, Father.” It is a very real relationship that we can enjoy with Him. However, if God were standing in front of me today, I would not go up and slap him high-five. Reverence and respect have been lost in our culture toward teachers, parents, and others in authority. I find this lack of respect extends toward God as well. It is a fearful thing to be standing on the opposite side of God on reckoning day. Some Christians want to say the punishment of the unsaved is a temporary situation, but notice the word “everlasting” in Matthew 25:41. The Bible states the unsaved will spend eternity in everlasting punishment. This should be all we need to accept this truth, but the accusation actually asks: How could God do this and still be loving? So, let me remind you of a few things about God. 1). This world belongs to God. He created it. He can decide the rules. He created it to function in a way that is truly good. Humanity has perverted it into a way that rebels against His intentions. Three of the passages above use the word “vengeance”. This is not to be confused with revenge. Revenge is the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. Vengeance is the punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong. Revenge and vengeance (and avenge for that matter) are similar in definition and may look the same on the surface. However, while revenge is more spiteful, punitive, and injurious, vengeance points more to retribution for the sake of restoring justice. Revenge comes about because someone caused you personal harm and you want to get back at them. It mostly deals with your trying to vindicate yourself. Vengeance looks to make things right. God is not looking to hurt someone for harming Him (revenge); He desires to right what is wrong (vengeance). In order to restore His creation back to righteousness and justice, God’s vengeance goes out against all wickedness, which includes those that stand against Him. The world will never know peace until those at enmity with God are taken out of the way. Everything the unsaved use for selfish, sinful means is an affront to the purpose of their Creator. If you rent a tool from Ace Hardware and you break it, there will be a consequence. If you lose the laptop provided to you through your school, there is a consequence for losing it. If you rent a hotel room and trash it, there will be consequences. None of these things belong to you. You are merely borrowing them. The owners have a right to have punishment in place. God has graciously given us all that we enjoy. We are expected to use them for His honor and glory. When it comes time for reckoning, God will inflict consequences on those who rebelled against Him. What makes the situation sadder is that God has provided a payment for you to be reconciled back to Him. When we choose to reject His offer of justification, we are denying the only chance we have of being saved from God’s fair vengeance. If we choose to remain wrong, we will not survive the judgment of the One who is right. 2. God is righteous. 1 Corinthians 6:9 begins, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” This is the problem. God’s kingdom is purely righteousness. You cannot have unrighteousness in a righteous kingdom. Pretend you own a store. What kind of store would it be? Sports collectibles? Restaurant? Clothing? Supermarket? Gas Station? Pet shop? Whatever it is, I enter your store talking at the top of my voice, cursing, insulting other customers, racing a cart down the aisle. If you own a sports shop, I bounce a basketball against a wall. If you own a supermarket, I knock down displays. If you own a pet store, I punch a kitten in the face. You ask me to stop. If I respond by causing even more of a ruckus, what would be your next step? You would probably call the police to remove me from the store. I would never be welcomed into your store again. Why would you kick me out? Don’t I have a right to go where I want and do what I want to do? I wanted to bounce the basketball against the wall. Who are you to stop me? I don’t like kittens. Why shouldn’t I punch one in the face? You’re not being very loving by kicking me out of your store! God rules in righteousness. In contrast, the current world is influenced by Satan (Ephesians 2:2). We exist in a state of unrighteousness and rebellion (Ephesians 2:3). Those remaining in rebellion to God’s ways are always going to make excuses about God’s actions (e.g., He’s unloving, He’s not good). But, wait a minute, it is His creation! He owns it! He will do the right thing! It goes beyond His acting righteous; He desires that righteousness be the rule of the day. Can you imagine it? A world where no wrong exists? We have destroyed God’s ways of peace and unity. Unrighteousness must be removed for righteousness to remain. You cannot have right in the presence of wrong; the two cannot coexist. Thankfully, not only is God righteous, but He is gracious. While 1 Corinthians 6:9 tells of the problem, verse 14 of the same book and chapter tells us the solution. It says, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” This refers to those who trusted in the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ (see verse 11). Believers will one day be part of God’s Kingdom – the Body of Christ makes us the Heaven division. Let’s revisit your store. Someone has paid to take care of all the damages that occurred during my visit. I can come back, if I acknowledge the payment had been made. You get my phone number and call my cell to present this offer. I yell, “No!” and hang up the phone. My choice. You did everything you could to provide a way for me to get back into the store. I refused the offer. You were right to kick me out of the store. You were gracious to provide a way back. Pay attention to how 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 describes those who will be sent to Hell: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The unbelievers rejected the love of the truth (i.e., God in His grace provides salvation through faith alone in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ), which would save them. They refused the truth and chose unrighteousness. The fault does not lie with God. The fault resides with those who deny His offer of escape from Hell through faith in Jesus Christ. 3. God is holy. He is pure. It is not a pleasant moment when you reach into a bag of potatoes and you pull your hand out covered in foul-smelling mush. Grimacing, you probably start pulling out potatoes to make sure other potatoes have not started to rot. It is true that one bad apple, or in this case, potatoes, has the potential to spoil the whole bunch (due to the ethylene, science lovers). While that one rotten potato remained in that bag, the bag was impure. It needed to be removed to spare the other potatoes. Why am I talking about potatoes? To help explain why a holy, pure God cannot stand for any impurity. One stain taints perfection. Titus 1:15-16 states, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” I have a white shirt that was clean until I got a mustard stain on it. From that day on, that shirt had an impurity on it. If people noticed the mustard stain on my shirt, I did not respond by saying, “Yes, but this spot over here is pure.” The one stain ruined the entire shirt. One impurity made it impure. Titus speaks of impurity as something that grows like the rot that will spread through a bag of potatoes. The impure will affect the pure. A holy, pure God cannot –-not simply will not, but cannot — stand for anything impure. One impurity that made its way into His kingdom would taint the whole thing. Once again, it is God who provided the solution to our problem. Titus 2:13-14 reads, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” We are made pure by the application of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God has used all sorts of illustrations to try to explain this to people. The Bible speaks of removing the impurities in metal (e.g., Psalm 119:119; Proverbs 24:4; Isaiah 1:25). Why do this? Well, it makes it look nicer and it makes the instrument stronger. The Bible speaks of separating the wheat from the chaff (e.g., Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 5:24; Matthew 3:12). This analogy made more sense to me when I began growing chives, which is an herb that looks like grass, but tastes like garlic. When chives are cut, they have to be separated from the grass surrounding it. If you want perfection, you can’t have blemish and imperfections. We don’t live in a perfect world. One day we will, when holiness is finally reinstated in the world. 4. God is just A retail store will not accept stealing. A school will not accept cheating. A book company will act against plagiarism. These immoral acts go against the very reason for the existence of these businesses or organizations. In the same way, our God can not accept ungodliness. The word “just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” God acts fairly to bring about morality. Immorality (the Biblical word is “ungodliness”) needs to be judged. Human judges always have a possibility to err. But God is always fair and right in His judgments. There is no evidence that is withheld from Him; He sees all. We cringe when hearing about God’s judging people and sending them to Hell, as we apply it to loved ones who have lived what we consider to be “good” lives, like our dear Aunt Theda. Aunt Theda never harmed a fly. She was so kind and baked delicious chocolate chip cookies. Do you mean God would send Aunt Theda to Hell just because she didn’t trust in Jesus Christ? The Bible presents Aunt Theda and the rest of us in a different light. Without Christ, we are dead sinners. No amount of chocolate chip cookies and sparing flies changes this fact. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can change a dead, unrighteous, impure sinner into an alive, righteous, pure saint. We have a low view of God, if we think we can attain to His holiness. We also rebel against Hell, because we conjure up pictures of people reforming and repenting if just given the chance. The people of Revelation knew the harm that was coming to them was from God. Listen to their response: “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory…And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:9&11). Their response was not, “God we are so sorry!” They responded, “God, I hate you even more for doing this to me.” This saddens me a great deal, because, all of their lives, God had been patiently waiting for them to come to Him. It tells me that, even if God were to come down and beg on His hands and knees for the skeptic to accept Him, they wouldn’t do it. They may even spit in His face, hit Him with a rod, whip Him, and nail Him to a cross. Fine, but how does this make God loving? You want to know why God loves you. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Even though we were against Him and had nothing to offer Him, He still sent His Son Jesus Christ to take upon Himself the punishment that each of us deserves. Even though He knew there would be many who would continue to thumb their noses at Him, He demonstrated His love toward us. Even with those celebrating ungodliness, He still provided the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ. God loves us because He has not left us in a state of hopelessness and helplessness. If He wouldn’t have intervened, not one of us would make it to heaven on our own accord. The only solution was a perfect sacrifice. The Father declared His love by sending His Son to be that sacrifice. Another way of saying it is that God took upon flesh and went to the cross. Please, know: • God did not prepare everlasting fire with you in mind. Matthew 24:41 says that the everlasting fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” • He does not want that to be your destiny. 2 Peter 3:9 says God is “not willing that any should perish…” • God desires that everyone be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). The negative way to say it is that God doesn’t want anyone to be condemned to Hell. He has done everything that He can, while allowing free will, to keep you from that. All remaining for you to do is trust fully on the redemption offered through Jesus Christ. Hell is not a threat. It is a warning. The Bible gives us the reasons for unbelief – the cause of condemnation. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:19-20. “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Romans 1:32. It also tells us that all men know there is a heaven and a hell. You may have hardened your heart to it. You may have convinced yourself otherwise, but the truth remains. To answer the question: How could a loving God send people to Hell? Because you have left a holy, righteous, just God no choice, when you reject His gift of love. Please, if you have not already done so, PLEASE, place your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to order to be assured that Heaven is your destination.
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