Sunday, February 3, 2013

How Do People End Up In Hell?

 Here you go, a fuller answer, given to a friend that was struggling with the idea of an eternal hell.  Here’s my answer to him, which I pray is one that truly helps anyone wondering about the same thing, even if only a little bit more.  Earlier, I was only able to give that person a really tiny shout out.  My time is so limited and for that, I ask you all to be patient with me and to forgive me and thanks for understanding.  My friends, Christians must understand that God knows absolutely everything that there is to know.  Nothing can be hidden for Him as He is all-knowing. Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  The ‘big-word,’ theological term for this is, omniscience.  (Let that echo through the hills and valleys for a while.)  He knows every bit of science that there is to know.  This particular principle can be hard for some non-believers to acknowledge, and they find it troubling or perhaps even unacceptable.  They act like, ‘How could God know more than I do?’  They seem to think that God has to work and operate within the confines of their understanding to be real.  If He thinks, works or acts contrary to what they want Him to, then they say, “He must be some sort-of sick species of freak that I just can’t believe in.’  ‘How dare He not follow my codes, thoughts, understanding and preconceived ideas.’  ‘How dare He work outside of the realm of my limited thoughts!’  The list goes on.  To most of them, the concept of a loving God, a God that knows everything, knowing that some people whom He created will end up in hell, just seems absurd to them.  ‘Why would God create people who are destined for hell?’ That is a good question.  But, the answer shows us that there are many unstated assumptions in this question, which are totally not valid for Christianity.  A related question, ‘Why wouldn't God just create everyone to enjoy the glory of Heaven?’  Answer, He did! Read on.

Here is a fuller look at the context of the aforementioned verse, "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” Hebrews 4:12&13.

The primary and most widespread, erroneous supposition made by confused non-believers is that a person who is destined for hell has been predestined for hell by God.  This is so not true!  This is completely false.  People prefer to go to hell rather than to surrender their lives to God.  We all have, as a gift from God, been given free will, in fact, we all have unqualified free will within the confines of our individual personality and ability.  This is provable.  Think about two possible courses of action.  An ‘A,’ course, and a ‘B,’ course, and just two decisions will do, something really simple like will you buy chocolate or strawberry ice cream.  Allocate your chocolate choice a heads-up and the strawberry then will be, heads down.  Toss your coin in the air and then go out and buy the flavor that corresponds with the chance decision of your coin toss.  Repeat this as many times as you’d like, but after a bunch of times, you might want to get diet, or low-fat types of ice cream:  Got to watch the waist-line.  This shows that you do have some choice in life and that you do, indeed, have free will.  Now, to really drive that point home, do the reverse of what the coin tells you.  You can select to do one thing once and a different thing another time.  Did God prevent you from doing what you wanted to do?  No!  He did not.

God is of course, the only Creator that the Universe has ever known.  But, the second incorrect assumption is that God alone is responsible for your character and personality, when He most certainly is not.  We are the product of many different choices, some made by our parents, grandparents, teachers, family members, friends and other choices made just by us for whatever reason, thought, planning or feeling that grabbed us at one time or another.  Therefore, God, yes, has predestined us to be born and He has given us heart, soul, body and mind, yet, we cannot blame Him for creating us to be sent to hell.  He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the saving grace of our souls, found only in Jesus Christ, “ The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” 2 Peter 3:9.

This is not to say that God is not involved at all in the creation and direction of our lives.  He works to help us come to learn the right things, make the right choices and to live lives that are pleasing to Him and helpful to others.  The universal human conscience obviously comes from God.  The Bible says that once a new human life is made, God starts working from that very micro-second of conception and even was involved with our lives way before that point ever happened.  He knew we’d be coming along.  He, knowing how we’d think, be and act during our lives, even called some to serve Him while we were still in the womb, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.  “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb,” Psalm 139:13.

Okay, here is even another inaccurate theory many hold to, thinking that certain people have been destined for hell.  This is just not true.  This is also false.  Every living person has a God-given purpose, design and call placed upon their lives.  Some people will voluntarily work to save others from going to hell, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Working as a pastor, Sunday School teacher, prison minister of the Gospel, ETC., they choose to be directly involved in saving souls.  Others heading for hell might be helped, encouraged, and witnessed to by some lay-person of the church, a family member, friend or co-worker that is already living ready to go to Heaven.  All of us who follow God's plan are presented with many occasions to help others in their spiritual path.  God says that all people are without excuse in rejecting Him, so He provides witnesses of His plan to give them a chance to change their minds, all the time!  The reason people end up in hell is that they reject the only way God has provided for them to escape going to this place, “So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?” Hebrews 2:3.  “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God,” Romans 1:20.

We must know that this present life is being used, if I may, as a gauge for both recompense and sentence.  Every single person who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior will truly go to Heaven.  You will not get there and then have to worry about being kicked out.  That just isn’t going to happen to anyone.  But the amount of gifts that we’ll be given in Heaven will be directly related to how closely each of us followed God's will in this life.  Likewise, all those who choose to refuse Jesus Christ will go to hell and will be penalized to the degree of how much evil they committed in their life.  This is why God consents to people making their own choices.  “Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear,” Genesis 4:13.  Not all people are equally bad.  Sincerely, all God-haters and Christ-rejecters deserve damnation because all are sinners, nevertheless, different people have committed different degrees of sin.  So, if Jesus speaks of greater condemnation for Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon, that’s probably just what He means, Matthew 11:21-22.  One slave received more punishment than another, Luke 12:47-48.  The one who delivered Jesus to Pilate has the greater sin, John 19:11, and therewith, a harsher price to pay is reserved for those who squash underfoot the Son of God.  Then, one might suppose that greater sin means greater punishment in hell? Yes, the Bible seems to indicate that it does.  “I will give unto every one of you according to your works,” Revelation 2:23.  “But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire,” 1 Corinthians 3:15, (This verse only refers to people in Heaven).  "How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You devour widows' houses and say long prayers to cover it up.  Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation!” Matthew 23:14.  I just know that God will judge everyone without favoritism and will also chastise all unrepentant sinners justly.  I can rest my heart on the fact that it is all going to come out in the wash, it will all end-up being moral and upright.  No doubt.

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine,” Isaiah 55:8.  I ask this of my students when they start criticizing the works of God, I tell them, ask them, explain to them, how odd it is that we want God to think like and act like a man does.  We limit Him to judge only like we do.  We won’t allow Him to be anything more than what we are.  How unfair that is to Him?  He has got to know more than we could ever know.  He’s got to be smarter than we are, on all levels, at all times and in every situation.  I wonder why it is that when He acts, thinks, works and governs like an All-Knowing God that we can’t handle it.  It makes me wonder about us, not Him.  Why do we have to limit Him and make Him in our image and after our likeness?  No good answers to these little problems.

God had to give us free will.  He didn’t need, want, nor could he have used a bunch of pre-programmed robotic-type humans in His plan.  And, He just couldn’t have put all the people directly into heaven.  As many just do not want to be there.  They sadly, honestly and amazingly, hate God and Jesus and just don’t want to go to Heaven.  Don’t ask me why, as I don’t know.  But, I know that they don’t want to live for Him.  That’s all too obvious.  I guess only God knows the answer to some questions about Mankind’s rebellion, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”  Jeremiah 17:9, God did give us perfection at the beginning, He placed Mankind in a perfect world and even spent time with the first couple.  He came to visit with them, talk with them, instruct and teach them and He gave them things to do in this paradise, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” Genesis 2:15.  Many think that God never did anything up close and personal with us, but He did and it still didn’t work, we still sinned.  See, Mankind, from the beginning chose to go to hell.  We are some pretty stupid beings.  It’s not His fault, it’s ours.

God might be considered to be unjust, that is if His actions were not based upon our bad choices and ultimate rejection of the one and only Savior of the world, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “ John 1:29.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved," Acts 4:12.  We are some real distasteful characters, most of the time.

If people thought profoundly about their never-to-be-faulted strategy about what God should and shouldn’t do, they would soon realize that there are innumerable and immeasurable logical problems with their ways of thinking.  What most people would create, as a god, would be at best a lame android, programmed by their extremely limited and senseless and baseless intelligence that would simple act, think and rule the Universe, like they thought it should be run.  And, if they did that, we’d all shortly be suffering in a living hell, created by men.  How loving is your computer?  How alive is your computer?  Can your computer save your soul?  You cannot honestly have a very satisfying relationship with a machine.

The problems about a loving God sending people to a one-level and one-size-fits-all hell, put forward by Bible skeptics, rests entirely upon several invalid and uneducated assumptions.  Their ideas are based on an unfounded and groundless perception of how great God's foreknowledge is.  He simply knows everything.  They seek to eliminate the Divine character of God, demanding that He act only like a human being and nothing more.  How sad it is that men always need to have a god around them that is smaller, dumber and stupider than they are.

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