How Can a Loving God Allow People to be Tormented for Eternity in Hell
The following is a basic question that I’ll probably answer in a different way than you’ve ever heard before. The question we’re going to start with actually has four parts to it. The person who is asking the question is not asking for themselves, but for a person they are dealing with who is a Muslim. They are trying to present Christianity and the God of the Bible as opposed to Allah in the Koran. First there’s a question, then there will be objections to the question from the viewpoint of a lost person. It will be good for us think about how to answer these types of questions.
First part: HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW PEOPLE TO BE TORMENTED FOREVER IN HELL? You don’t have to be a lost person to ask this question. Believers sometimes have a problem with this one. I’m going to answer this in about four different ways. The fourth one is the one that will probably grab your attention and make you think.
The first is answered in a sense that most would not think of as love: Because he is a loving God he will keep evil out of his kingdom. Go to Revelation 21. The thing is, people look at the fact that he is a loving God, ignoring his justice. As I thought about it, it’s because of his love that he is going to judge people and put them in a place of torment in the sense that he is going to keep them out of his kingdom. Revelation 21 concludes what God has accomplished in time and goes out into eternity future (this is where there’s a new heaven and a new earth).
Revelation 21: 3-5: And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said untome, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Now those are comforting words. We talk about the turmoil, the troubles, the tribulation, the loss in death, etc., that takes place in the world and we realize that God has promised that he is going to wipe away all the tears; that there will be no more pain; and that God is going to dwell freely with man. It continues in verse six:
6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Now this person is right in realizing there is a place of eternal torment which is the lake of fire that Chapter 20 ended with. God says he is going to dwell with man, wipe away all tears, and that there will be no more sorrow or suffering; if he did not accomplish verse eight, there would be tears and suffering. If God allowed in his kingdom the unbelievers, the abominable, murderers, whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they would bring all the things that he is going to wipe away: the tears and the sorrow and the pain and the suffering. So the fact that he has created a place apart from his kingdom is the result of a loving God and, in verse 6, he invites all to come and be a part of his kingdom freely. This is the loving part of God and part of his love is to keep all of those things out of his kingdom.
Look at verse 27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. All those things mentioned are going to be kept out of his kingdom. So, why would a loving God allow people to be tormented forever in hell? It’s because he is a loving God and he’s going to keep those things out of his kingdom. But that’s not the full answer and I know you understand that.
There’s another part to the answer. Go to Matthew 25. I won’t elaborate on this because I have done so in other studies and will probably elaborate on some of these things another time. But, when Jesus Christ comes and judges the nations, he makes a statement in verse 41 to those who are going to be thrown into that Lake of Fire. Matthew 25:41 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: Now this statement that the lake of fire is prepared for the devil and his angels tells you the devil and his angels don’t cease to exist. He’s not going to allow them into his kingdom because when they’re allowed in they corrupt. So there’s a place for them to be, and it’s a proper place for them to be.
Joining them are going to be those men who have worked against Jesus Christ. When it says those who worked against Jesus Christ are going to be cast into everlasting fire, (remember that fire was prepared for the devil and his angels), we have to realize that we human beings are not animals. Now the news and the education system of our nation makes us think that we’re probably just the smartest animal, but still we’re just an animal. No we’re not. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. And while we may have a body that can disintegrate, we have a soul that goes somewhere and keeps on existing. Animals don’t have that. The soul has to be put somewhere and just the like the devil and his angels who have no place in his kingdom, they’re going to be put in that lake of fire. So it is that man, who has resisted God’s salvation, is going to be put in that place with the devil and his angels, separated from the kingdom.
Now they’re going to be put in that place, but why do they have to be tormented? They have to be kept out of the kingdom and the only things in existence in this new heaven and new earth is the new heaven, the new earth and the lake of fire. So, that’s the only place for them to be, but why do they have to be tormented?
Well, the other part we have to look at is because God is Holy. Now there’s a verse in Samuel that just jumps out at me whenever I think of this. Look at 1 Samuel 2. You see, the souls of unjust men have to go somewhere. And there’s a “just” place for them to go. Now when we say it’s a “just” place, our problem is we think from a human point of view and justice is God’s point of view. We study the Bible to learn that.
The reason this verse jumps out at me is because I understand by reading the Bible that there are other beings that are Holy...the Bible talks about Holy angels. There’s the angels that have sinned, but there’also the angels that have not sinned. But even out of the angels that are Holy, look at what we learn when we read Hannah’s prayer for Samuel. Verse two says: “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” If you want to compare holiness, there isnoneholy like the Lord. There are angels that know some holiness because they haven’t broken God’s laws so they stay in line and therefore, they are the holy angels. But who decides what’s right and what’s wrong in the first place?
Who’s got the natural character of holiness that tells us what holiness is? It’s God. There is none holy as God. But when you and I start thinking about eternal torment in a lake of fire we wonder how could a loving God do that? A loving God can do that because he’s Holy and there’s none like him in his holiness. Because he is holy and divine, his holiness demands divine justice. And, the lake of fire is that place of justice.
Now you’re familiar with these verses, but just for the sake of revisiting them in your mind, look at Romans 2. We need to be reminded of this. When we talk about the question about eternal torment, I could show you all the verses where God warns about eternal torment, as he’s certainly warned man about it. I’m reminded of Hebrews Chapter 2:2 where he simply uses a phrase that I just latch onto and understand when it says: “Every deed has a just recompense of reward.” So when God judges, in his divine holiness there’s going to be divine justice. We wouldn’t want to put someone into eternal torment because we don’t think they’re that bad to begin with. But that’s because we’re not holy. Even though you think you’re just, you wouldn’t be as just and holy as God would be. And every deed has a just (so God’s not going to do something unjust) recompense (payback that’s equal to the deed done) of reward. And God’s justice is a true justice. To put yourself up against this is not to understand who you are.
Here’s a verse that will remind you of who you are: Romans 2:3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (Do you think you’re better than someone else?) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering;
His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering are all the things that are bringing salvation to mankind today. A person who is judging someone else, thinking that they are personally OK, they’re overlooking the fact that God is being rich in goodness toward them; that he’s being forbearing toward them i.e., not giving them their just due right now. He’s being longsuffering because this is the age of Grace, he’s not pouring out his wrath. But they despise that, because they think they’re OK. So the warning is, don’t you realize“...the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation (and notice this phrase) of the righteous judgment of God.” Now the judgement that he’s going to pour out, no matter what you think about it, is a righteous judgement of God who will render to every man according to his deeds. When God judges it is going to be right and based on the deeds people have done. It’s going to be a just payment when it’s measured out.
Now I say this to remind all of us of our character and of our nature. Look at Romans 3:10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: So if God is left to judge because a person hasn’t received his salvation, then “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable;” If you create something that has no profit to you whatsoever, you might as well destroy it, right? We deserve a just judgement against us for, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” 13Their throat is an open sepulche;(That’s pretty bad. I like these verses because they don’t just say, deceit is in your mouth. It tells you how bad your words are that come out of your mouth: nothing but death ~ an open sepulchre.) “with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: (We haven’t even gotten to committing physical sins yet, have we?) Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. So, why would a loving God put someone in hell forever? It’s because he’s loving and he’s going to keep those kinds of people out of his kingdom. And since that soul has to go somewhere, there’s a place he’s created for beings that continue to exist after death, that’s called the lake of fire and those souls are going to have to be there. When they go there it will be a just payment for the sins that they’ve committed, a just deed.
Now here’s the one you need to stop and think about. The question is: How can a loving God allow people to be tormented for eternity in Hell? Because God does not love those who have not chosen him nor his salvation. I started thinking about the love of God. Where do you ever read that God loves these people? Now think for a moment, and I believe this to be true, and if I need to be corrected, well, this is where it is scary to speak for God. But I’ll show you the verses that bring me to this understanding. The statement is: God doesn’t love those who have not received his salvation. That’s why a loving God can put them in torment forever...he doesn’t love them. Watch the biblical references:
John 14. This is new to my thinking, I’ve never thought of this before but I realized what the question was doing, pitting God’s love against his justice. So I then started thinking about the verses about God’s love. In John 14:20,this is where the holy spirit is being promised to the believing remnant. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Now who will God the Father and God the Son love? Those who have responded in faith toward him. John 14:22: “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
It didn’t say God would love those who refuse to listen to things God has to say. The ones that God will have fellowship with are those who have responded to God’s offer of salvation that is in his Son. Apart from salvation that is in his Son, God doesn’t love those people. I think of what it says in 1 st John, “Oh what love that the Father hath bestowed upon us.” Well, that’s the believing remnant. God has not bestowed his love upon the Christ rejecting world. And, therefore, they’re going to a place of eternal torment that they deserve to go to. In considering that, John 16:27 “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” So the love of God is found in his Son and those who have responded to his Son, and the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.
When we think of the love of God we think of John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, ...therefore, God did love the world in a sense that he made a provision for all of mankind...he gave his Son. Romans 5:8 actually takes it to a greater level because as we understand from the kingdom message, Jesus Christ was coming for the nation of Israel. Paul says in Romans 5:8: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Commendeth means he magnified, he introduced; he made known his love. So while we were yet sinners, God out of his goodness made known his love and offered it to mankind. So at the cross of Christ, God did give his Son because he loved the world and he commended his love, and we know that all things work together for those who love God and to those who are called according to his purpose (Ro 8:28). So while his love is commended (made known) to all, especially during this age of grace, God’s love is only going to be bestowed upon those who respond in faith.
Look at a couple of verses, verses that you’re somewhat familiar with. However, when you start thinking about it in this way you realize the danger of doing what Romans said, i.e., that by despising the goodness of God and his forbearance and his longsuffering, by having no fear of God before your eyes. . . thinking you can just neglect God and the salvation that is offered in Christ and yet believe that there’s not a punishment for that!
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
That’s the God we are dealing with. And for people, in the age of Grace, to turn down the salvation that’s in Jesus Christ...look at Romans 8:35-39. This is a verse we get great comfort out of, but remember where it is that this comfort, this hope, this encouragement comes from. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, (now you understand that this passage is talking to the believer) or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God,.... So here God is loving us and nothing, no time or being, will ever separate us from the love of God. Where’s the love of God found? “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Apart from Jesus Christ there is no love of God toward you. Apart from Jesus Christ (salvation is only in Jesus Christ) ~ apart from Jesus Christ and his salvation, when God looks at the world (not so much right now because he’s reconciling as he looks through Christ at the world) but a person who does not respond in faith to the salvation message that God is offering, and is not found in Christ, they are as Ephesians 2:3 says children of wrath. They’re associated as children of the Devil. They are what Romans 9:22 says, fitted to destruction. Colossians 1 says they are Alienated from the life of God. It’s a warning that now becomes clearer. Colossians 1:21And you, (that’s us Gentiles) that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath hereconciled. So notice what we were: alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works. Paul says be ye reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). The offer of reconciliation is through Christ, but if you don’t come through Christ for that reconciliation, you are alienated from God and still an enemy.
And the warning here is that you were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled through the cross work of Jesus Christ: In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; This is a warning to Gentiles who are going to despise the goodness of his riches. To not respond to the offer of salvation and be reconciled to God by thinking that you’re ok and that you don’t want/need to be reconciled, then God will deal with you as his enemy.
If you now understand that only those who respond in faith are found in his Son, and therefore have the love of God bestowed upon them, look at some of these verse from the Old Testament which refer to those outside of Christ. I just picked some Psalms because everyone loves to read the Psalms (although I always question why they say that). So let’s look ~ how does God think about a person apart from Jesus Christ and his salvation? Psalms 5:4: 4For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. (It didn’t say he loved them) 6Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. That’s how God thinks about someone in their sins and then naturally the consequences follow as to where they’ll spend eternity and be judged for their sins.
Psalms 7: 11God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
So, looking at God’s attitude, does he love these sinners? No, he’s angry with them every day. In this age of Grace he’s commended his love and they’re despising it and turning it down. They’re rejecting his Son who died for them and made a way for them to be reconciled. So what’s left for them? Well, to find out what it means not to be loved by God, to be judged by a Holy God, a judgement that’s going to be a righteous, holy judgement when its poured out read Psalm 34: 15The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. 16The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Now we’re going to end with just one more passage, Psalm 109. I don’t know where to stop reading in this passage except you’ll see that sometimes when you read the Psalms it’s not always this wonderful, comforting thing that people think the Psalms are. First of all, before I start reading, notice in verse 6, Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. You’re certainly talking about an anti-Christ here, the dragon who is going to be the power of the anti-Christ “set a wicked man over him and let Satan stand at his right hand.” Down in verse 8, Let his days be few; and let another take his office. That’s certainly a person like Judas, right? Now, just watch what the Psalm is saying, Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; 2For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. Now sometimes when you read this you think about David and some of the things he went through, the injustice that was against him. Or, is it speaking about the injustice against Jesus Christ? You’ll see both, but remember, David is a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
God made David king because David, probably more than any of us, understands justice and what it means to have authority and righteous rule. So even when it’s David’s expression, it’s expressing the heart of God. So he’s hated without a cause. Notice verse 4: For my love they are my adversaries. Now what that means is, “for” equals “in place of/instead” like Christ died “for” our sins. “For” (in place of/instead) of my love, they are my adversaries. He showed them love, and they are enemies to him. God commended his love and people are despising it. It says in verse four, “but I give myself unto prayer. 5And they have rewarded me evil for good, (that is, substituted. He did them good, they responded with evil) and hatred for my love.” In exchange for him showing love, he was hated.
So then the prayer, “Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. 7When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. 8Let his days be few; and let another take his office. 9Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. 10Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. 11Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. 12Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
Some people say as they read the Psalms, all they read is love, but you know what you have here? Divine retribution. Divine judgment. Rendering good for evil and so forth. When I read this, I read what Divine justice is all about. And so when a person asks how can a loving God allow people to be tormented for eternity in hell, it’s because he is a just God and he hates them. They’re not loved by him. They had an opportunity to be loved. He commended his love and they rejected it. And so there will be that judgment. Now that’s a question we might all want to ask at different times.
Are there any questions? Comment from audience: We say, God loves man but he hates the sinner. Answer: And, God won’t always love man. That’s my point. God might be commending his love, magnifying and displaying it, showing it, and offering it today, but when it’s turned down and a person dies without it, that love doesn’t continue on. The bestowal of his love has been turned down and he doesn’t love them anymore...doesn’t offer that love.
Comment from the audience: The way my mind works, I always try to look at some verses that’s supposed to be a truth to what I’m trying to understand. You and I have had discussions about the depth of the immaturity of my understanding of righteousness, hell, and the suffering. I think one of things I jokingly said to you was I don’t even think Hitler was bad enough to deserve maybe 40 years of eternal torment, or something like that. No more than that. And so when I look at it, it tells me that I don’t understand just how saddening my sins are to God and the depth of them, the repercussions of sins. The world has softened my understanding. I need to understand just how serious those things are especially if I deserve eternal suffering had Christ not paid the price of my sins for me. So it’s kind of sobering how damaging even what seems to be little sins, that aren’t so bad, must be to God if I didn’t have a Savior to pay at the cross in my place, what the price would have been for those sins that didn’t seem so bad.
Response: I agree with everything you said, but I don’t think we can ever understand it. We’d have to be as holy as God to understand it, but we can read the Bible and realize what his holiness is and what HE says is right and wrong and what just judgement is and believe that.
Question from the audience: Are there degrees of hell?
Response: Yes. We’re not really studying hell, but “a just recompense of reward.” So, based on the sins that a person has committed, the offence toward God, we do know that the lake of fire is a degree of punishment that they’ll suffer for all eternity and there will be a proper judgment based on the sins they’ve committed. But you have to be a little careful. When reading those verses in Romans about none being righteous, he is describing what you would think as a good religious person (none that seeketh after God). However, they weren’t trying to find the truth, they were just going ahead and following the way of what they were taught rather than actually realizing that as an individual you are responsible to know God. There will be times, I believe, that God will use a person’s mouth to condemn them ~ doubts that they had, “Was this really true?” And, they didn’t look into it. Things where they probably heard the gospel, and didn’t give it a second thought. God will do what is right.
Other questions were asked but the clarity on the tape was limited.
Tom’s answer to another question regarding the meaning of life: 1) First purpose in life is to know God 2) then to glorify him. Glorifying him is also appreciating him. Not necessarily doing something for him, just standing back in awe and appreciating who he is, is glorifying him.
The following week’s continuation of the study . . .
What do you say to a person who thinks that a God who would cast a person into eternal torment is evil?
Most people don’t have the guts to say that, but a lot of people think that, and (as I said, this question was submitted, I believe, because these are questions a Muslim is throwing at a believer. And, certainly a person of this persuasion wouldn’t have trouble calling the God of the Bible evil because he doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible, he believes in a pagan God. So, he would naturally word the question that way.) What would you say?
Look at Isaiah, Chapter 5:20. We do care and God does have answers to questions like this. So, let’s look at some of the verses. Some of the verses we’ll look at are for our sake, not necessarily for the person asking the question. Now some of these verses are the woes of pronouncing judgment against the nation of Israel, but listen to why they are being judged.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
That scripture reflects exactly a person who says that God is evil for casting people into Hell. We know that God is good. There’s none good but God the Bible says. So he’s calling good evil and he’s thinking himself good. The Bible says “How can you being evil do good to your sons?” So man who is evil is thinking he’s good, and God, who is good, is evil. The warning is “woe unto them.” Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Isaiah 5:21 So there’s a real warning by God for a person who thinks like this guy. However, that might not scare him because he doesn’t have the fear of God.
Look also at Isaiah 55:7-9. I quote this quite often because I realize this is the trouble with mankind. It became the trouble of the nation of Israel as they became like the nations. In verse seven it says:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
What a man does when he begins to cast judgment on God is think that he and God are on the same plane. This man needs to realize that our job is to realize what God has said and realize who God is and not to try and put our own judgment and thinking on the same level as God.
Go to Ezekiel 18 with the same question. This is all about Israel questioning God’s judgment because within the nation of Israel some are going to be cast into hell with the Gentiles and this is the chapter where it says the soul that sinneth it shall die. God is announcing who he is going to cut off, and who’s going to get saved. There’s some wicked people who have repented and they’re going to be righteous before God and some righteous people who turned evil just near the end of their lives and God throws them in hell. This is Israel in it’s covenant relationship with God and so they may not like the things God’s saying here. God anticipates that and says in verse 29:
29Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the LORD is not equal. Now see, justice is something that is equal; a judgment that equals the penalty that it deserves. And so, the guy who is posing the question thinks that if God casts someone into hell he must be evil because that’s not a proper judgment; it’s not an equal judgment. Well, that is what Israel is saying to the Lord. Yet the house of Israel will say, The way of the LORD is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? 30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
So you see, the Lord is calling them to repent; his way will be equal. And when he judges it’s going to be right and Israel is the one who is unequal. This man is thinking that men don’t deserve that, but he’s the one who doesn’t know what justice is. God does know. Now, some verses that are expressive concerning this:
1 Corinthians 10:22. The Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians about participating in satanic things and he says, Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? This is a provoking question to call God evil and to question his judgment. If you’re stronger than God then you can question him. If you’re smarter than God, then you can judge him. But if you’re not, you better be careful.
Look at this passage in Job: 9. See, this man is doing what Job is actually talking about: contending with God. When you think of these verses, it’s what the whole book of Job is about. Job is going through some struggles. He thinks what he is going through is not just; men are saying that God is getting him, and they’re trying to figure out God’s judgment. The whole thing has to do with contending about God’s judgment, but the thought that Job expresses here is wise:
Then Job answered and said, 2I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? 3If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. (That happens in Job 38. God just starts asking Job questions and Job can’t answer one out of 100) It says in verse four: 4He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Now that’s the person who asked the question saying, I think if God casts someone into hell, I think God’s evil. Well, who are you to contend with God? God is so mighty that if a man contends with him he’s not going to prosper. Those are just some thoughts when a person starts questioning God.
Now actually the question that this man asked goes a step further. Not only ‘what do you say to a person who thinks that if God casts someone into eternal punishment then God is evil’ but, what do you say to a person who says he wouldn’t want to believe or serve a God such as that. The premise this all comes to is based on the question, “How can a loving God cast people into the eternal torment of hell?” Remember what we learned last week? God doesn’t love the people he casts into hell. He’s commending his love, especially in this age of Grace, giving everyone an opportunity to be saved, but if a person chooses not to be saved, technically you can say that God is then saying you can go to hell. It’s not an untruth, we don’t use that as a slang, because it’s a bad slang, but God can do it. And he will do it. It’s a truth that only God can do and he has established who he will save and who he won’t. When a person says, “A God like that, I don’t choose to believe in him or I’ll never serve him,” then fine, go to hell. That would be the answer.
By the way there was a tract I read some time ago, where a guy got saved because a little kid was witnessing to him, telling about how Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins and the man said, “I don’t believe that.” And the child said something to the effect that you’re going to go to hell and it struck the man to the point that he began to question what if there is a hell? And eventually the tract, which was written by this man, got saved. When he said he didn’t believe that and the response was “Well then go to hell” he began to realize the reality of either believing and being saved, or not believing and going to hell. That’s a fact. So, that’s part of the equation here.
Go to Isaiah 45:22. Here’s a kinder way to respond to a person who says they would not want to believe or serve such a God. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
When you think about a person saying he wouldn’t want to believe or serve a God like that, well, there is no other God. You may name Allah and claim you’ve got another God, but he doesn’t even exist. To us who are saved, there is no other God. In the Bible there is no other God. There are those who are called gods, they’re idolatrous gods. There are devils that claim to be god, but there’s only one true God. And if you’re not going to believe in him, it’s not like you get a choice to choose God A, B, or C, There is none else, that’s the point here. But, he is willing to save those who will come to him. So the invitation is there in verse 22, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Now you know how that continues on in the book of Philippians. It says there that every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, things in earth, and things under the earth. And every one will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. So when a person like this says he wouldn’t believe or serve, you either bow now or you bow later, but you will bow. And that would be worth telling someone to put some fear into them. And, of course, as we say, Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: (This person needs to realize that he’s speaking against the only true God who has pronounced these things as fact, and he’s going to answer to that God someday.)
Go over to Psalm 19:7. It’s a neat Psalm talking about the heavens declaring the glory of God. Just look at these expressions about God and about his word, about his justice, and realize when you talk about God, and the things that God does, these verses should come to mind. In Grace School of the Bible, I remember a class in which we had to sit down and outline just these verses:
7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: (Notice the pattern of the verse: There is a statement about God, or his word, or his justice, and then the consequence of it). 7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. These are just simple facts, just something that every person needs to stop and recognize about God, his word and his justice, and the benefit of them. And, certainly, to miss God and his righteousness, his word, and to speak against it is contrary to all the blessings that are listed in the passage for those who respond and know how God thinks, and what he says, and what his judgments are.
That leads us now to the fourth part of the question, and certainly you’ll understand how this question reflects someone making up an excuse to reject the God of the Bible and his Son Jesus Christ and the salvation that is offered. They’re not good arguments, but that’s exactly what they are doing. The fourth part of their question is:
Other fathers gave their sons to die in war, to die for their country. So why is Jesus’ death for our sins such a big deal? Oh my goodness, you talk about someone who is really trying to defy God...to attack his Son is to really get his anger, that’s for sure. But from an unsaved, lost person’s point of view he sees how a guy lays down on a grenade and saves his whole platoon, he gave his life for his country; he gave his life for his comrades in the army; other men have died for other people, so why is Jesus Christ’s death on the cross such a big deal? First of all, because of who he is.
Remember that before Jesus Christ came out from the Father, Jesus Christ is one with God the Father and with God the Holy Spirit. And, when you read John, Chapter 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus Christ, himself, (as it says in Colossians) is the one who created all things. So, there’s a big difference between a creation dying for another creation versus the Creator dying for the creation that he made. There’s a huge vast difference there and for someone who’s asking this question , “Why is Jesus Christ’s death such a big deal?” that person doesn’t understand who Jesus Christ is. He is the very creator God himself who has come to earth as the only begotten Son of God. You don’t take the only begotten Son of God and put him on equal par with a created human being. So, that’s the first thing that person needs to understand.
The second is the worth of Jesus Christ. Romans, Chapter 8:32 says, He that spared not his own Son. God gave us his only begotten Son and delivered him up for us all. If Jesus Christ is God who became a man so that he could die for all of us (and he did die for all of us) well, then his value is greater than the value of all human beings put together. Just think of that. It’s greater than all the humans beings. I heard that right now on planet earth there are as many people alive today who have ever been born. So, if that’s somewhere around five billion people and all the people who ever lived since Adam are another 5 billion, that’s 10 billion people. Jesus Christ is greater than 10 billion people. And, if God gave his Son for the creation, then certainly he would freely give us all things because he’s given the greater value than what we’re all worth.
With that in mind let’s look at some verses: Hebrews 11. The whole point of Hebrews (and it’s a good book to answer a question like this) is that it shows the Hebrew people that Jesus Christ is better than anything they had under the Mosaic covenant, whether it be the Tabernacle, the priesthood, or the sacrifices. Over and over again the theme throughout the book of Hebrews is Christ is better. As we’re thinking of the value of Christ and his worth, Hebrews 9:11:
11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
That’s pretty fancy language there, but you don’t have to be a scholar to understand that Jesus Christ super abounded over everything that was under the law because of who he is and the blood that he shed.
Referring now to Hebrews 9:14: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit. . . He existed forever, but he took on human flesh that he might have blood, perfect blood, to shed for the creation and that through him is the promise of eternal life. Talk about value!
Verse 23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
You have to understand a little bit about Israel’s priesthood. Only the high priest could go into the presence of the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the goat or the bull on the mercy seat. But those were just patterns of heavenly things. Jesus Christ, himself, went right before God the Father and put his blood before God the Father at the mercy seat there for our redemption. And so, as you understand these things, you understand Jesus Christ’s death, who he is, and what he’s worth.
The third point: Because of the debt that he paid. We just mentioned the eternal spirit that he offered, now just continue down: Hebrews 9:25: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: (See the priest went every year and if Christ was like that he’d have to suffer over and over and over again) but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ paid not only his value but he paid an eternal debt for all of mankind’s sins.
As you go on in Hebrews 10, it says that he died once for all. And that is for all sin, for all mankind, for all time. So he paid an eternal debt for sin. 1 Peter 3:18 says For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God. So it’s because of who he is, because of his worth, because of the debt that he paid and also because he rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Someone dies. That person might die and spare someone’s life, but Jesus Christ said in John 14, Because I live ye shall live also. And so the Lord Jesus Christ, the cross work is the death, burial and resurrection and as the Bible says he was delivered for our offenses and was raised for our justification so that he is able to impart to us eternal life.
Now the last thing I want to share with you on this. We talked about why Christ’s death is such a big deal. It is because of who he is, because of his worth, because of the debt that he paid, because he rose from the dead to give us eternal life. He didn’t just die for our sins, he rose to declare us righteous and to give us eternal life. The counter balance of this question in comparing Jesus Christ to a man is the fact of man’s unworthiness. That makes the big deal of Jesus Christ. Someone here implied it when they quoted Romans Chapter 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There’s not an equal comradeship whatsoever. Two more verses:
I know that apart from God’s word (and it takes the Bible to make you think differently about yourself), man thinks way too highly of himself. You read in the Bible where David says, What is man that thou art mindful of him? But, see, that’s a Godly man who’s realizing that before God “does man have any worth at all?” Galatians 6: For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. Now in that verse, you’re dealing with the ego of man who thinks he is something. Here is a revelation from God: What is man? He’s nothing. And that’s where the ego of man has deceived himself, because he thinks he is something, but God says man is nothing.
I think about Corinthians 1:27-28, how God uses things that are “not” But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are. You know what he’s talking about? Using you. We are nothing. And God’s going to use you to bring about an eternal glory of his Son. But see, you’ve got to realize what man is.
Like I say, if someone asks you on the street, you don’t say to him, look at all these verses. No, but you and I need to have God’s thoughts about it, and it is really quite devotional to realize the glory and greatness of God, the rightness of God, and how we ought to think properly concerning him and concerning ourselves.
Psalms 39:4 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am. 5Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
Apart from God you’re nothing. But God makes us part of something: His eternal purpose. Actually, the glorification of his Son, when you understand the eternal end. Paul says the riches of the glory of this mystery of God’s grace today is Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Take your place in Christ and find value there. Don’t value yourself apart from Christ and think you can cast judgment on God.
Our God and our Father, we pray for the person who either wrote the question or is trying to answer someone who asks these questions, and we pray that by our thinking about this subject from a biblical point of view that some of these thoughts can be expressed to this person and that there might be some genuine fear generated in him so that he might realize that to cast judgment on the things your Bible says is, in fact, your righteous judgment, and that there’s no other God for him to love and serve and believe in. May he see that the God he’s casting judgment on is a God who invites him to be saved and to be a part of a glorious eternity and one who, if this man remains apart from Jesus Christ, will find out how he is really nothing and how worthy of your judgment and wrath he really is. So we pray for this soul and we pray for ourselves as we minister to lost people that we might express these eternal truths and allow man to see himself as he is and to see the salvation that is offered through your Son and the worthiness of your Son to be believed, to trust in and to receive from him eternal life. We thank you for these things in Christ’s name. Amen
Transcribed and edited 9/12/08
Wednesday, September 19 & 26, 2007