Does Hell Make God Evil?
Many skeptics and atheists believe that they have some strong arguments against the Bible. One of the arguments that they pose is that they believe the existence of a place called hell would cause God to be evil. Bertrand Russell wrote: "There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment." (Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian, 1957, p. 17)
1. The Place - Is It Real?
There are some people who deny the existence of hell in the broader religious community; but Jesus (more than any other person in the New Testament) spoke of hell as a real place (Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5). If Jesus is indeed the Son of God (and the evidence indicates that is - John 20:30,31), then He knows what type of existence there is on the other side of physical death.
2. The Pictures - What Is It Like?
God uses pictures to describe concepts that help us better understand what it will be like in the afterlife. For instance, God describes the state of eternal life as a "street of pure gold" (revealing its splendor and beauty, Revelation 21:21) and as a "river of pure life" (which conveys a place of true satisfaction in an eternal new creation, Revelation 21:1,2).
Hell is described as a place of darkness (Matthew 8:10-12; Jude 12-13), burning fire (Revelation 21:8), a place of everlasting, conscious punishment (Matthew 25:46), and a place where lost souls are separated from God forever (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Why is hell described in this manner? God is conveying images that are horrifying and terrifying as a possible deterrent for disobedient behavior. The reality is far much worse! Fear is a legitimate motivator to move one toward being freed from the enslavement of sin, such as Felix (Acts 24:24,25; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
3. The Purpose - Why Did It Come Into Existence?
Why would God create such an awful place? In Matthew 25:37-41, we learn that hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels. God's justice had to be carried out against these beings who went rogue and rebelled against their Creator. We learn of the devil's treachery in Genesis 3:1-6; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3. Even today Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8,9). Does the devil deserve to go to hell? Yes - because of his rebellion against a holy and righteous God.
4. The Puzzling Question - Does Hell Make God Evil?
- This question is related to what is known as the problem of evil. Atheists will charge that there can be no God if there is evil, pain, and suffering in the world because a loving God would not allow it to go on/exist. Atheists are appealing to some objective moral standard that is outside of themselves. Evil is the parasite that feeds off of good. What is the source of good? It is the intrinsic nature of God (Mark 10:18). Therefore, atheists cannot account for objective moral evil in their worldview, but the Christian worldview does.
- People must realize that God is not one-sided. We recognize that God is good, merciful, and gracious in His nature (Ephesians 2:1-10). He is also infinite in His justice and must punish evil (Psalm 89:14; Deuteronomy 32:3,4) . How would you feel if you knew there was a judge in your town who decided arbitrarily on a given day that he would free all criminals at their sentence hearings without punishing them for their crimes? Would you not consider that injustice? Certainly.
- Justice demands that the length of punishment must be longer than the crime committed. Let us use the illustration of a bank robbery that happened at a local bank. Let us say that there were some robbers who took thirty minutes to rob the bank and they sadly murdered a few individuals. Should they only spend the length of time in prison that it took to rob the bank and murder the individuals? No. We all recognize the injustice in that scenario. Would it be morally permissible for God to punish a person for their sins for one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one year, one hundred years, and for all eternity?
- We do not fully understand the seriousness of sin and the damage that its causes unto God, ourselves, and others around us. Isaiah recognized the seriousness of sin before a holy God in Isaiah 6:1-6. We must see how sin is a treason against a holy and righteous God. We must see as it is and stop watering it down.
- God does not want you to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; Ezekiel 33:11). What if you saw a man who was running into a burning building to save someone from the fire? Would you view that person as heroic or evil for wanting to rescue someone? What about God (who came into the flesh - John 1:14) who wants to rescue us from sin? He gave Himself to die for our sins (John 3:16). He has done everything in His power and love to detour us from wanting to go down the path of destruction.
5. The Power of Choice - What Will You Do?
God, because of His loving nature, made us creatures of choice. He does not want any of us to perish; instead, He wants us all to make the right choices (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; Matthew 7:13,14). Will you take yourself off the throne and allow Him to rule your life? Where you want to go in eternity is an indicator in this life. You can choose to say to God: "I want nothing to do with you" and keep on living the life of sin and separation (which if you die in that lost state, then you will go to hell). Or you can fear God, keep His commandments and remain faithful so that you can be with Him for all eternity (Ecclesiastes 12:13; John 14:15; Revelation 2:10).
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