Hell – Why It’s Eternal and the Remarkable Ease of Entering Heaven/Part 3
|By: John G. Weldon; ©February 19,2011|
|If we know only a fraction of a nano-fraction of everything in this finite world, how can we ever know the glorious character of an infinite God – or that there is no hell within the depths of an infinite universe?|
It is often true that what we think we know we really don’t. We live with ourselves every day, but how well do we really know us? In science, time remains a mystery despite our intense familiarity with it. But there are other mysteries just as profound — matter, space, light, gravity, magnetism, life, the origin of life, the origin of the universe, the brain, consciousness, music, love, deep space and even “plain” water, to name just a few.
Modern science, even in all its earthly glory, remains mystified before such “simple” things. Viruses and bacteria comprise approximately 60%-90% of all life on earth (endless trillions of them), yet we know next to nothing about them. And even what science knows most thoroughly, it still knows only partially, and the more it does learn, the greater it discovers its own ignorance. As Albert Einstein observed, “We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.”
That declaration is even more pronounced today even after tremendous scientific advances. Scientific discoveries never resolve the mystery of life; they only deepen it. For example, consider the conclusion to a Science Channel program on the amazing properties of light: “Ironically, the more we’ve uncovered its mysteries, the greater those mysteries have grown.”
If we know only a fraction of a nano-fraction of everything in this finite world, how can we ever know the glorious character of an infinite God – or that there is no hell within the depths of an infinite universe? Obviously, we can’t. And how do we stand before things that are infinite? If our ignorance in this life is everywhere present, how much more when it comes to God and infinite holiness, righteousness, and justice? If we balk at the idea of eternal punishment, isn’t the reason obvious — we balk because we fear or can’t stand the idea, not because we have any assurance of its non-existence, let alone our personal escape apart from trust in Christ.
As Dr. Peter Kreeft observes, “…it must be possible for the creature to say no [to God]. And that is what hell is, essentially. Free will, in turn, was created out of God’s love. Therefore hell is a result of God’s love. Everything is. No sane person wants hell to exist. No sane person wants evil to exist. But hell is just evil eternalized. If there is evil and if there is eternity, there can be hell. If it is intellectually dishonest to disbelieve in evil just because it is shocking and uncomfortable, it is the same with hell. Reality has hard corners, surprises, and terrible dangers in it. We desperately need a true road map, not nice feelings, if we are to get home. It is true, as people often say, that ‘hell just feels unreal, impossible.’ Yes. So does Auschwitz. So does Calvary.”
In the ancient world and in some places today, all day long people have walked above the prisons and dungeons below them, knowing full well that many prisoners existed in horrible conditions and some were being tortured by those conditions. It didn’t seem to bother most of those outside the dungeons, nor does it now, because of the realization that justice was being done, however uncomfortable for the offender.
But isn’t it also true that there are probably millions of unbelievers in the world today who don’t ultimately have a problem with hell, even an eternal hell — at least, that is, once things become all too personal? Whether it is their dearly beloved spouse who was brutally murdered or their precious only child who was raped and strangled, the idea of an eternal hell as something just and appropriate tends to come into focus. I have heard more than one livid person interviewed on TV say, “May they rot in hell forever” – and I’m not at all sure it wasn’t a heartfelt and literal sentiment. But if at least some unbelievers can perhaps sense justice with an eternal hell even here, in some circumstances, with all our imperfections, how much more does God –who is infinitely more just and holy than we are — realize the necessity of such justice?
Further, how can we demand of God that He never have the right to openly display and prove the glories of every one of his infinite perfections for the eternal welfare of all His creatures and especially for the redeemed? For example, we see His infinite love, mercy, righteousness, and justice at the cross (see Romans 3:25-26; 5:8; Ephesians 3:17-19). We witness His infinite wisdom to the “heavenly rulers and authorities” through the eternal Church (Ephesians 3:10). He also openly displays His infinite holiness and justice upon willfully and eternally rebellious creatures who clearly chose and justly deserve such a penalty (Romans 9:22-23).
And if at least the concept doesn’t bother many unbelievers here, how much less will the reality bother those in heaven when they fully understand what infinite holiness actually constitutes and how truly evil sin is? As a matter of fact, once things are fully understood, I doubt there will be a single person in heaven who won’t in some sense actually be grateful there is an eternal hell. Grateful, in part, because it becomes the eternal proof of God’s never-ending holiness, justice, and love; grateful, in part, because justice finally is accomplished – and eternally so; grateful most of all, in another sense, because they exist in the never ending and increasing joys of heaven rather than consigned to agony, forever separate from God in hell.
But why remain captive to our ignorance of eternal realities? In heaven God promises we “shall know fully, even as we are fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) So in the end, one thing is for sure: everyone in hell will fully know and freely acknowledge the justice of their sentence, no matter how much they may rebel against it. They will understand that it exists in full harmony with the infinite love of God – and to be sure, they will no longer think it impossible. Based upon the perfect character of God and Scripture it is clear that every person in hell will be absolutely certain of two things: 1) they freely chose to be there and 2) they truly deserve to be there.
C.S. Lewis points out that what death is to every man, the Second Coming of Christ is to the entire human race. He proceeds to discuss the return of Christ as the final judgment, noting that any day could be the world’s last. But for each of us individually, “Some day an absolutely correct verdict — if you like, a perfect critique – will be passed on each of us.” He points out that because the judgment will come from God it will be an infallible judgment, and that if positive, we will have no fear. But if not, we will have no hope that the judgment is incorrect. “We shall not only believe, we shall know, beyond doubt in every fiber of our appalled or delighted being, that as the judge has said, so we are: neither more, nor less, nor other.”
However, what sense does it make to wait until we have no choice but to accept an Eternal Verdict against us when that same Verdict can be pronounced now, in this life, for us positively as to our justification? God can declare us eternally righteous on the basis of our faith in the death of Christ for our sins. It makes no sense to forgo forgiveness now when this may become impossible merely an hour from now.
Simply because we don’t like the idea of hell or don’t understand it hardly proves it false. If God says there is an eternal hell, in the end, that’s the end of the matter. So, why not give your life to Christ, the One who died for you and prefers you not go to hell? Despite all our attempts at self-mastery, look at how very little we are already in control of our lives. We never asked to be born. Much of our life is controlled by forces beyond our power. It is impossible to prevent death and being consigned to an eternal heaven or hell. We only win in this life and throughout eternity when we submit wholly to God. But once we do submit to God, we always win, no matter what, because God promises that He works everything together for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28) and because all things will glorify Him. So, for the believer, no matter how good or bad their personal circumstances, it never gets any better – only forever.
- “It is good for our days to declare that we are a small dot on the landscape of time, and that eternity holds the sweeping brush strokes of a masterwork of which we, at present, catch only glimpses. There are treasures to be mined in the simplicity of a day and wonders to be discovered beyond our lifetimes. God’s thoughts are beyond our own. All of creation declares God’s glory. And we are at present only sampling infinity.”
Because we ignore the “staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels” we reveal that we are “half-hardy creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us…we are far too easily pleased.”
The best of the worlds’ pleasures, enticements, and satisfactions even for thousands of millenniums is nothing more than sitting on a dung heap swatting flies compared to a single second experienced in divine Glory. Amazingly, most people seem to prefer the dung heap.
But as long as there is breath, there is hope. For the sake of your soul and your eternal destiny, “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- The Science Channel, “Light Fantastic: the Stuff of Light,” 2004
- Peter Kreeft, “The Problem of Evil”; http://peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm
- CS Lewis, Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, HarperCollins, 2000, pp. 52-53
- Jill Carattini,”A Slice of Infinity,”
- CS Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in CS Lewis, Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church HarperCollins, 2000 p. 96