Rev 22:11-12 “Let the unrighteous continue to be unrighteous, and the vile continue to be vile; let the righteous continue to practice righteousness, and the holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to what he has done.…”
Dear CBC Family,
I was asked a question by a visitor this last weekend about hell and punishment. He asked if the punishment was really eternal and if it is just for God to send a person to hell for eternity for living only 80 years as a sinner. Another person, who listened online, said the quote from my book, at the end of the sermon, about being thrown into hell as trash made her very uncomfortable and thought a “God of love” would act differently.
These questions and comments reflect some assumptions that many in our day hold to. I am sharing these with their permission to reason together with you so we can come to consensus.
First let me say that the quote about “refuse” or “trash” comes right from the Bible. Matthew 25:30 for example is one place this is seen. Jesus is speaking about the judgment at the end of the age and says “cast the worthless servant into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The term translated “worthless” means unprofitable, good for nothing, useless, that which is discarded (trash). Only Jesus uses this word and both times applies it to the lost sinner in judgment.
Secondly, is hell eternal? The Bible says that hell is eternal (Matthew 25:46). The eternal punishment spoken of is just as eternal as the eternal life which is the other half of the text. A proper hermeneutic requires the statement to mean both the salvation of the saint and the punishment of the wicked both go on forever. Many people struggle with the justice of that so I will address that now.
How it is just for God to punish a person for eternity in response to “only” a human lifetime of 70 or 80 years of sin? How does a sinner’s finite lifespan merit an infinite punishment? Perhaps you are wrestling with that yourself. There are two biblical principles that show why eternity in hell is the only reasonable and just punishment for sin, no matter how long one’s earthly life lasts. Follow along and think with me here.
The Bible declares that all sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4). The severity of the punishment depends, in part, on the value of the victim. In other words, the punishment goes up in direct proportion to the one wronged. In a human court of law, violence against an animal may result in a fine and possibly some time in jail. In contrast, the murder of a human being will likely result in a lifetime in prison. And this is the case despite the fact that the crime was a one-time offense, not an ongoing, continuous action. God is infinitely higher and greater in value than every human being, angel and creature all added together. Thus, how much more punishment are our crimes worthy of in light of the fact that our sins are against the infinitely holy and worthy God (Romans 6:23)?
A massively important error to avoid here is the FALSE idea that lost people cease sinning after death. That idea is not taught in the Bible at all. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Why do we assume that those who go to hell are suddenly sorry, sinless and well behaving? First, they are not sorry, they actually start justifying themselves (see Matthew 7). Those who go into eternity without Christ will be given over completely to their wickedness. The hard-hearted will be eternally hard-hearted. The evil and cruel will be evil and cruel for eternity. Yes, there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in hell (Matthew 25:30), but no repentance will ever come from it.
Sinners in hell will be sin-infected, evil, immoral, and depraved beings for all of eternity, forever unredeemed and unregenerate. The lake of fire will be a place of eternal rebellion against God—even as that rebellion is judged the penalty is never paid. Notice the way man responds to the judgment of God in the book of Revelation (Revelation 20:14–15; cf. Revelation 16:9, 11). Unsaved people do not sin only for 70 or 80 years. They sin for eternity! This also explains one reason why Satan cannot repent. Without the restraining grace of God evil will only be evil still and increase in the depth of its depravity. Those who hate God in this life will only despise Him more throughout eternity. Thus, the evil treason that condemned them in the first place never ends nor does the punishment for it because every moment they continue to increase the debt!
This is why the gospel is so important as it not only pays the sinner’s debt in full but also changes the heart so we hate sin and want to turn from it. Believers are those who say to God, “Your will be done.” Unbelievers are those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” The will of the unsaved is to reject salvation, remain at enmity with God and love sin; God will honor that, and its consequences, for eternity.
This weekend I will be expounding on Romans 2:11 in a study called “God Shows No Partiality”. This will look at the immutability of God as it pertains to His holiness. If the holiness of God scares you as a believer, you should look at that differently. We will explore this in light of God’s unchanging, impartial love to us in Christ. I believe you will be greatly encouraged.
Blessings to you all,