Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Kind of God Would Condemn People to Eternal Torment?

How can you believe in a God who would condemn people to suffer the torments of hell eternally? I have been asked this question many times and, if you are a Christian, you probably have too. If you haven’t, you would do well to get working on an answer because the question may not be too far off. Hell is no laughing matter, despite cartoons and lampoons to the contrary. In all the world, in all eternity, there are few matters weightier than this one, and to every man and woman there is no issue more urgent.

You’re Asking the Wrong Question

How can you believe in a God who would condemn people to suffer the torments of hell eternally? I reply with a question of my own: “How can you believe in a God who would not?”
To ask the first question is to fundamentally misunderstand the very nature of God; it is to re-form God in the image of man, because here’s the thing: If you want a God who is good—truly good—and if you want a God who is just and holy, then you must have this God, this God who condemns people to suffer the eternal torments of hell. You cannot have the God you want unless there is a hell.
You cannot have a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful and so very good. God’s goodness doesn’t negate eternal punishment in hell; it demands it.

Scripture Is Clear About Hell

If you want a God who is good—truly good—and if you want a God who is just and holy, then you must have this God, this God who condemns people to suffer the eternal torments of hell.
On what basis can I so strongly and confidently assert the necessity and existence of eternal, conscious torment in hell, even if my heart naturally cries out in rebellion against the thought? Only because God’s Word is clear on the matter. The Bible describes hell as a place where God pours out His wrath on people who have been created in His image (Matthew 10:28; 25:46; Revelation 14:10–11; 20:10–15). God the Father has appointed His Son to be the eternal Judge who will condemn people to hell (Matthew 25:31–34, 25:41; Acts 10:42). This is not momentary or temporary torture dispensed by Satan or his demons, but eternal torment poured out by God Himself. This punishment will be inflicted upon conscious human beings, people who know who they are, what they were, what they have done (Luke 16:22–31).
It is truly, literally impossible to imagine a worse reality than this one. Yet the Bible, the best of books by the best of authors, the perfect book by the most trustworthy of authors, tells us it is so. If this is His judgment, then anything less wouldn’t be worthy of an infinitely holy, just, and good God.
Who am I to question God? If this infinitely holy and just God declares that hell exists and asserts that hell must exist, then rebellion against His will reveals a failure in my own understanding of justice and goodness. Do I know better than God? Or is it possible that I am far worse than God, infinitely worse, and that I fall woefully short of a complete understanding of God’s goodness and sin’s wickedness? To ask the question is to answer it.

God’s Eternal Holiness Demands That Hell Be Eternal, Conscious Torment

Why Eternal? The eternal, neverending nature of the sinner’s punishment is directly related to the infinite and eternal nature of God. When you sin against an infinite God—and all sin is primarily oriented toward God—you accrue an infinite debt. This is the only way to explain the Father’s decision not to spare His Son but to deliver Him to suffer in our place (Romans 8:32). An eternal, infinite being was needed to bear the weight of an infinite punishment.
Why Torment? The torments of hell are directly related to the transcendent holiness of God. Those who face that weight of condemnation have sinned against a God who is truly, purely holy. God’s holiness is unable to tolerate anything or anyone that is unholy; His holiness is like a gag reflex that acts out in wrath against all sin (Romans 1:18) so that on the Cross even Christ had to cry out in His forsakenness, cut off from all that was good and pure and holy (Matthew 27:46).
Why Conscious? Those who have sinned consciously must also bear their punishment consciously. The Bible tells us that we have not been passive in our rebellion against God, but have been willing participants, active rebels. In some mysterious way we were even willing participants in the sin of Adam. Justice demands conscious punishment, not mere annihilation of the person or his or her sin. What clearer example do we have than Jesus Christ who consciously bore God’s wrath against sin? If Christ’s suffering for our sin was conscious, so too will be the suffering of those who bear their own sin. God will not ask less of them than He asked of His Son.
The God every person wants is a God who is good, a God who gives good things to the ones He loves. But to have a God who is good, we must first have a God who is holy. God’s goodness flows out of His holiness. The God of the Bible is a holy God. This attribute of God draws attention to His otherness, His set-apartness, the vast gulf between Creator and creature. It tells us that God must be separated from sin, and it says that He is committed to seeking His own honor. God is unimaginably holy, utterly perfect to the greatest degree and the farthest extent. And because He is holy, He is good.
What a stark contrast we make. We human beings are sinful in body, mind, and spirit—no part of us has escaped or remained undefiled. It is only God’s restraining grace that keeps any of us from pursuing our sin to a greater and greater degree, from becoming as utterly and horribly sinful as we could possibly be (James 1:14–15; Romans 1:28–32; 8:2). Only the grace of God stands between any one of us and the vilest of sins. We are not this way because God made us this way, but because this is what we have chosen for ourselves (James 1:13–14). No one has forced us into such unholiness, such moral depravity. This is what we have desired and the path we have taken. Our moral freedom has led us to utter moral corruption.
It is this contrast that makes hell a horrible necessity. The holiness of God demands that He remain separate from sin, that those who commit sin must be kept out of His presence. How could such holiness mingle with such impurity? Holiness flees from sin. They are incompatible, irreconcilable. And so sinners must be cast out, and they must be kept out of God’s presence.

The Hope

The Bible leaves us no option but to recognize that hell is the punishment due to sinners who have rejected the goodness of an infinitely good God. But there is hope. God has not left us without a means by which any of us can be rescued, by which our sinfulness can be taken from us and exchanged for true goodness. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man and served as the substitute for sinful humanity, taking upon Himself the guilt of our sin and then facing God’s curse against that sin. Amazingly, astoundingly, the infinite Son of God suffered infinite punishment upon the Cross.
What is so remarkable and so praiseworthy is that He did this for others instead of for Himself. He had no sin but took the punishment for the sin of others; He took that sin upon Himself and now freely offers forgiveness and His righteousness to all who will receive it (2 Corinthians 5:21; John 1:12; Titus 3:5–7). He Himself is the way, He is the door, He is the escape. And all He requires is that we put our faith, our trust, in Him, trusting that He is God, that He has made that way. To these people He now offers all the joy of an eternity of holiness, an eternity basking in His pure and holy presence. This is grace, this is God offering what we so badly need but could never do for ourselves.


When you cry out against a God who punishes people in a place like hell, you cry out against the God who has revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture. You cry out against His goodness, holiness, and justice; and all the while you minimize your own sinfulness or the sinfulness of others. Those who understand hell best, those who grasp it most deeply, are those with the greatest sense that they deserve to be there. They marvel at the grace that has called them from that place to a place that is far, far better—infinitely better!
To wish away eternity in hell is to wish away eternity in heaven. It is not that they exist in some kind of mutual dependence so that one can only exist alongside the other. But sin demands eternal punishment, while grace calls for eternal love and joy, the re-establishment of the good and holy relationship that our Creator intended to enjoy with us forever. How can I believe in a God who condemns people to hell? I must believe in this God, for He poured out the punishment of hell on Jesus Christ through whom I have hope.

Tim Challies is author of one of the most influential and widely read Christian blogs and co-founder of Cruciform Press. He is Associate Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, where he lives with his wife Aileen and three children.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Look at Legalism from Legion

If you are unfamiliar with C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, this post might not make much sense. However, if you have read and enjoyed Lewis' work, I believe you will find this post extremely worthy of your time.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Screwtape Letters, let me say a few words: C. S. Lewis wrote the Screwtape Letters as if from the devil's point of view, looking at humankind and all their struggles, failings and temptations. Screwtape is the administrator in the bureaucracy of Hell. He is the mentor to Wormwood, an apprentice in tempting. Throughout the book, Screwtape gives forth advice, in the form of letters, on various ways Wormwood can undermine faith and promote sin in the minds of men. Much observation is given on human nature and Christian doctrine. Obviously, Wormwood and Screwtape live in a morally-reversed world where greed and gain are seen as the highest of benefits.

R. C. Sproul (founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and president of Ligonier Academy. He is also the author of the commentaries on Romans and John), in one of his posts in Tabletalk Magazine, he took on the act of writing from a "devil's point of view" to a tempter in training, just as Lewis did. His overall emphasis is on the subject of legalism. Written in this unfamiliar form, the Christian begins viewing man's sinful nature in a whole new light.

Dear Cousin Gall,

We are excited to write to you regarding the new training we have received from our great mentor. He has come up with a wonderful ploy to create havoc with the enemy. We know that hordes of converts have gone over to the side of our most hated one. We are not able to unconvert them, for once they are converted to Him, He keeps them on His side. So what can we do? Our great leader advises a new way by which we can paralyze them to make their impact in our domain slight.

How is that? The principal means is by stealing their liberty. We can do that by binding them with chains where God has left them free. We will direct their attention to a different law, a false law, a new law. We’ll tell them that what obedience to the enemy really requires is that they refrain from dancing, from smoking, from wearing lipstick, and from going to movies. By putting the accent there, we can keep their attention away from pursuing real righteousness and the fruit of the Spirit. In a word, the strategy we will employ is to make them legalists.

Of course, we know that it is not legalism to obey the law of God, but it is legalism to think that the enemy’s law is something different from what it is. We must work hard to fool them, to tell them that true righteousness comes by obeying these cultural standards that we will suggest to the church. We’ll get people so caught up with refraining from these worldly things that they will be paralyzed and confused about what true righteousness is. We’ll also get them to think that by keeping this new law, their works will save them.

If we’re not able to convince them altogether of this false law, then we’ll give them an unbalanced view of the real law, that is, we’ll encourage them to act like the Pharisees of old by majoring in minors, by obeying lesser items of the law while ignoring the weightier matters. This is part of the strategy of keeping them unbalanced and paralyzed. If we can accomplish this stratagem, then perhaps our gates will prevail against them.

Your Master,

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: Toll free: 1-800-435-4343

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Fight of the Christian Faith

We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would? (Gal. 5:17). Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. He may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace.

He (the Christian) sees his own many sins, his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair. But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathizing Saviour—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood—and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus, and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on, with a confidence that he will prove “more than conqueror through Him that loved him” (Rom. 8:37)

J. C. Ryle (1879)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Girls Are Like Apples on Trees

I thought this might be an encouragement to some of you single girls and women out there! God's timing is always perfect! Pray for your future man daily, just as you would want him to pray for you daily! Stay pure, in thought and action, just as you would want him to stay pure and wait for you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ark Encounter

Help Build Noah's Ark!
The Ark Encounter, powered by Answers In Genesis, will open in 2014. The site will include A Journey Through Biblical History, the Tower of Babel, a First-Century Village, a Children's Arena, an Aviary, the Walled City, Noah's Animals, and of course, a life-size replica of Noah's Ark, supposedly built identical to how Noah and his sons would have constructed it.
Partner with this amazing outreach by sponsoring a peg, plank or beam that will be used to build the ark.
Take a walk through the Ark Encounter on the following link to view what you will be sponsoring. Don't forget to catch the Ark Vision by Ken Ham on "The Ark" tab.
Spread the news for others to help out with this vision which will become a powerful outreach to teach the world about God's Word and the message of Salvation!

Visit Ark Encounter now by clicking the highlighted words!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Before Summer Ends...

Before the summer ends I thought I might spread a
bit from Puritan's Providence

We finally realized that our mulberry tree was a white
Asian mulberry tree. Fine by me, except that we waited too
long for them to ripen and the birds
found them before we realized our mistake

After this picture was taken we had the pond extended
to the other side of the fence, to the ducks great

Speaking of the ducks, I think my pictures are a little
out of date. They no longer look like cute, fuzzy
little things

Our plums did quite well. Once Belle found us picking
our fruit, she decided she would do the same

My garden marker is no longer visible from the
feathery, green stalks of the carrots.
They seem just about ready to harvest!

I believed this was going to be our most productive
tree until the figs and blueberries came on

Just as our fruit came on and our bees arrived
small, yellow flowers showed their heads
all around our yard

This garden marker has also completely disappeared
amongst the onions and cabbage

Every day a tomato or four... ready to be picked.

We're thankful for Belle--if it weren't for her, the ducks
would never get into their pen at night