Is an eternal hell just? One objection often levied against Christianity is that it is immoral to be punished eternally for a temporal crime. I can sympathize with this objection. I don’t like the idea of hell either. But when we take a closer look at hell and punishment, it think you will see how an eternal hell actually makes sense.
Can We Believe Hell Out Of Existence?
I once had a conversation with a coworker about Christianity. She told me that she couldn’t believe in Christianity because it taught that if you didn’t accept Jesus, then you would go to hell. “My cousin didn’t believe in Jesus, so if I believe that Christianity is true, that would mean he is in hell. I just can’t make myself believe that about him”.
I had to point out to her gently, and over a few different conversations that what she believed about hell had no bearing on where her cousin was. Hell either exists or it doesn’t. Hell doesn’t pop into or out of existence because of our beliefs. We could be wrong, and hell could not exist at all. But it can’t exist for some people and not for others. This would be like saying if you stopped believing in gravity you would float off the earth. No, gravity is there whether you believe in it or not, in the same way that hell exists whether or not you believe in it.
Is Eternal Punishment Warranted?
But, people will claim, how can God punish us for eternity for crimes that are finite? Isn’t that extreme? I mean, I commit one little sin and am dammed for eternity?
The first thing we need to recognize is that the length of time it takes to commit a crime doesn’t correlate to the length of time one is punished. How long does it take to pull the trigger on a gun and kill someone? Less than a second? So should the murderer only be confined for 1 second? If you would like to see a funny example of this, check out this video titled “Is an infinite Hell unjust?” . Brett Kunkle has some fun using his kid’s misbehavior as a lesson on length of punishment for finite crimes. So, we punish based on the severity of the crime, not the amount of time it takes to commit a crime.
And remember, when we sin, we are committing a crime against God. And the ultimate crime is our rebellion against him, and failure to accept his free gift of forgiveness.
God’s Really Going To Send Me To Hell For One Little Sin?
Also, no one commits “Just one little sin”. I often used this illustration with my youth group. Imagine you commit only 10 sins a day (I usually reach this number before breakfast, so I think this is a conservative estimate) from the time you are 6 until the time you reach 18. Some quick math will tell you that in 12 years you commit (on my admittedly conservative estimate) 43,800 crimes against God. Now imagine standing before a judge who is trying to decide how to punish you for a small crime, say stealing candy from a store. You tell the judge you should receive a light sentence because you really aren’t that bad. “Really, how many previous crimes have you committed?” the judge asks. “Only 43,800!” you answer. How would you rate your chances of getting of easy with that track record?
Does Death Stop Us From Sinning?
Finally, the Bible seems to indicate we will continue in our rebellion against God even while we are in hell. Revelation 16:8-11 says that those under God’s judgement continue to curse God and do not repent. So even with full knowledge of God’s existence, people will continue to sin.
I hope this will help you to have meaningful conversations about hell. I know this can be a painful and difficult subject for many, myself included. The thought of people suffering for eternity is often too painful to contemplate. But this pain and sadness should be a motivating force for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
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