Board index Heaven and Hell

What we know about heaven and hell

How do you reconcile eternal damnation?

Postby Political Cactus » Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:10 pm

How do you reconcile or cope with eternal damnation?

I'm an atheist but raised in a zealously Catholic household. Hell scared the living hell out of me because I never believed but didn't know I was atheist at the time. And even after I realized that I was atheist and never believed in God nor the Bible, the fear of hell traumatized me until 3 years into my atheism. Many of my friends are religious, some very devoutly so with various degrees of liberalism in their interpretation of the Bible, however, I don't want to ask because I can imagine that it hurts them very much to think of the eternal damnation they think I will receive. Could someone please tell me how they cope with the constant fear of hell? How do you cope with 'knowing' your friends of different beliefs are going to suffer the utmost and unimaginable torture of their soul? Do you think non-Christians are worthy of this solely out of different beliefs?
Political Cactus
 

Re: How do you reconcile eternal damnation?

Postby jimwalton » Fri May 04, 2018 9:36 pm

The Bible makes quite clear that hell wasn't made for people. Mt. 25.41 says that hell was specifically created solely for the devil and his angels. There was never intent on God's part that any human should go there.

Secondly, the Bible also makes clear that God is just, and frankly, any God worth his salt would have to be. A cop who lets the criminals do what they want is not a cop at all, and then society just becomes anarchic. A courtroom judge who lets everyone go free, regardless of what they've done, has no clue what justice is. In the same way, a God who ignores wrong-doing is a monster, not a deity.

So here's the scene: God invites each person into a loving relationship with himself. He has prepared a wonderful place for them, and leaves the door wide open. It doesn't make God barbarous that a person refuses to come in and chooses of their own free will to stay outside in the chaos. There's a Book of Life, but there's no Book of Death. But people who reject God choose to be separated from him, and they will go to a fate that was never meant to be theirs. We are free agents, and the choices we get to make regarding spiritual truths are real choices. God does not force anyone towards heaven or hell. Those choices are ours alone to make.

So here's the true scenario: God loves you (Jn. 3.16), knows that you can't save yourself (since no one is worthy), and so has made every provision for your rescue, offering it as a free gift to all comers. We must repudiate what separates us from God (repent of our sins), and turn to him in love (very different from "religion". It's much like a marriage ceremony, where you forsake all others to commit yourself in love to the one who loves you.) But since love must always be chosen and never forced, he informs and invites all people to come to him for rescue (salvation). The choice belongs to each individual, and it is always ours to make. No worthiness is involved, but only choice and love. All sincere comers will be accepted. All who refuse and choose to have nothing to do with God will endure the consequences of that decision: life without God, and eternity without God, if they get all the way to the end of life spurning his every invitation. They weren't created bound for hell, and Jer. 18.1-12 lets us know that they always have a legitimate choice to do as they wish with their lives. God will make adjustments according to their free-will choices. The path to hell is never a certainty unless the person in question makes it such.

The Bible pictures it this way: Let's suppose there are two doors, one leading to eternal separation from God, and one leading to eternal joy in his presence. Door #1 was only prepared for Satan and his sycophants, and door #2 was prepared for all people. Jesus is standing between the doors, and as people approach, he expresses his love for them and invites them to enter door #2 and bliss. But when people grab the handle to door #1, he cries out to them, "Don't do that. It's a terrible thing. You don't want to go there. Come this way, into door #2." But they choose to enter door #1 anyway.

In addition, though, not all Christians, you should know, believe in the traditional concept of hell. There are theories about reconcilationism, semi-restorationism, modified eternalism, and annihilationism, all with some kind of scriptural backing. In other words, hell isn't necessarily eternal for all who enter it. It may only be eternal for those who absolutely, stubbornly, and persistently refuse to be reconciled.

I also don't believe that hell is fire. Hell is not "One Fire Tortures All." Fire is just the image of untold suffering, which is what one will experience when separated from God. We have strong hints that there are different degrees of punishment in hell (totally unlike the different levels of hell as in Dante's Divine Comedy, which is not Scripture).

- Matthew 11.22-24 & Luke 10.12: Jesus says it will be “more tolerable” for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than for the people of Capernaum. That would indicate to me a more harsh punishment and a less harsh punishment.
- Matthew 23.14: Jesus tells the Pharisees they will be punished more severely for the way they are deceiving the people and living as hypocrites.
- Revelation 20.13: Each is going to be judged according to what he has done. Since that is the case, then the punishments and rewards can’t be the same for everybody.
- and finally, Luke 12.47-48 (workers are punished with more or fewer blows). There are degrees of punishment, and even sins of ignorance are treated differently than sins of intention.

Why I bother to point this out is because often those who consider hell to be messed up are picturing the same punishment for all, which is most likely not the case, and infinite punishment for finite crimes, which may also not be the case. People will be punished according to the works they have done (2 Corinthians 5.10).

C.S. Lewis makes some interesting observations about hell. I'll reword them and summarize some of them here: You object to the doctrine of hell. What are you asking God to do? To wipe out past sins at all costs and to give anyone who wants it a fresh start, smoothing difficulties and offering help? But He has DONE that. That's what his death and resurrection were all about. OK, then, are you asking God to forgive you? It's a RELATIONSHIP. He will forgive anyone who wants it, and cannot forgive those who choose not to be forgiven. To leave you alone then? Well, I'm afraid that's what hell is.

If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If there is a way that must be found by the will, and by love, then it must be possible to refuse it. If the happiness of a person is honestly the result of self-surrender, then no one can make that decision except himself, and he may refuse. I would love to say everyone will be saved. But then I'd have to ask, "Will they be saved against their will, or with it?" If I say "against their will," I'm in the middle of a contradiction; how can self-surrender and love be involuntary? But if the answer is "With their will," it begs the question: "What if they will not give in?"

So, with all that has been said, and with all the disagreements, even from Christians, about hell, I can conclude with confidence with this statement: Those who turn away from God will be separated from the life of God. Though we can’t be sure about the form or duration of that separation, this we can be sure of: it will be a horrible experience, and God will be fair about the form and duration of it. If you reject God, you take your chances.


Last bumped by Anonymous on Fri May 04, 2018 9:36 pm.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4661
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm


Return to Heaven and Hell

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


cron