Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Would a Good God Send People to an Everlasting Hell? By Paul Copan

What is hell? Not a place of high thermal output (though some conservative scholars disagree) but being "away from the Lord's presence" (2 Th 1:9)-cut off from intimate union with God (Rv 21•3• 22•4) Hell's darkness and flames (which if literal, would cancel each other out) are figurative, portraying anguish and hopelessness without God. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41)spirit beings, which are unaffected by physical fire.

Let's address some hell-related questions that unbelievers and believers find troubling.

"Isn't God unjust to punish persons forever for sins committed during a limited earthly existence?" Those in hell have committed the ultimate, infinite sin-not simply a string of finite sins-in rejecting a relationship with the-self-giving God. Also, hell is the logical outcome of a mindset to live life apart from God-not simply committing individual sins. The punishment fits the crime. You want no God, you get no God. There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done" (C. S. Lewis).

"But wouldn't persons in hell really want to be with God if they knew what hell is like?" No. Those who have resisted God on earth continue in their hard-heartedness thereafter (just as those living for God on earth continue to enjoy Him). God's holy presence would truly be "hell" for those wanting their own way. We have no hint from Scripture of repentance in hell. Rebellion, hate, and selfishness continue. The rich man in hell (Lk 16:19-26) is remorseful, not repentant-not wanting to change but to find relief!

"But how can people be sent to hell without knowing its full implications?" Even if one isn't fully aware of hell's anguish, this doesn't mean our choice is too much to bear. God is ready to equip anyone for salvation (Jn 16:8). Though the full consequences of our embracing or rejecting God aren't fully apparent to us now, grace to choose responsibly is available to all. What prevents the salvation of everyone? Individuals choosing freely to reject God's grace. We can always resist the Holy Spirit (Ac 7:51). God doesn't send people to hell; they freely reject Him, condemning themselves by not acknowledging their guilt.

"Why didn't God make the world in such a way that all people would love Him?" While a world in which everyone loves God is theoretically possible, it is not feasible. Whatever possible world with free creatures God could create, it may be that none is sin-free, and God's loge isn't forced. Hell-the absence of God's presence-exists because, like Milton's Satan, people would rather "reign in hell than serve in heaven." God isn't unloving but rather has gone to great lengths to show grace to everyone. Should God not create at all because many freely resist Him in the world God created and thus deprive many others of the greatest good possible?

"Why did God create people He knew would reject and be separated from Him forever?" Despite God's desire that all be saved (1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9), many still resist. What if some become more resistant no matter how loving God is (Is 5:4; Mt 23:37)? Should God not create those who would respond to His love simply because others would refuse it? What if God created a world in which a maximal balance of least - condemned and most redeemed was realized? This is not unloving.

"Why couldn't God, from the start, make us like heaven's saints-loving God while unable to sin?" Robust freedom on earth-to embrace freely God's grace or - resist it-is a requirement for arriving at one's final destiny. Our earthly direction is "sealed" in the afterlife; our heart's desire is finally granted-God or no God. So God couldn't have created a heavenlike state in which the redeemed no longer sin without damaging this vitally important freedom. (Or perhaps, rather than "sealing" us from sin in the afterlife, God simply foreknows that no saint will actually freely sin, guaranteeing a sin-free condition in the final state.)

Finally, because God has so fully given of Himself to make salvation freely available through His Son, we can confidently entrust any lingering questions about hell to His excellent character.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

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