A number of the ideas and suggestions here were suggested on the GTY Website.
The more I read, the more I am upset and disheartened by the many, many writers out there who, in the name of what they call the “defense of a loving God” end up tearing down the accurate and true defense of the Word of that God in order to make up one for themselves that they think more appropriate and appealing to the world. In addition, they seek, many of them, to meld the evangelical understanding of the Lord with the Roman Catholic (as well as the Eastern Catholic) view of eternal destiny together, once again in order to make us abler to play nice together.
It seems as though they have the perception that Bible believers take pleasure in considering the Biblical view of the eternal destiny of the unsaved. But they couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t know that anyone likes to think about hell. With the exception of, perhaps a few of the fire breathing Baptist preacher types, no one takes pleasure in considering the wrath that awaits unrepentant sinners, and nor should they! Likewise, it is very obvious that no one ought enjoy considering the fullness of what the Bible means when it says very clearly that
“…it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
It seems that many, if they could, would tear that passage (and others like it) right out of the Bible and, once again, seek to make the Bible a more caramel apple sort of experience for its readers. Quite a number have even gone so far as to proclaim that the view of a God Who would demand the eternal, suffering punishment of those who die in an unredeemed state is a violation of His nature and that such a God cannot be the God of the Bible, but is one that is a construction of the hateful and prideful mentality of men.
The problem is that this is virtually the exact opposite of the truth. A God who does not lay forth and proclaim the coming judgment and punishment is the opposite of the One put forth in the fullness of the pages of Scripture. Likewise, it demonstrates very clearly what must be a deliberate and purposeful reshaping of the “face” of God. It seems obvious that this point of view is not so much ones’ honest and God honoring point of view that comes from the study and opinion forming categorical taking in of what God has actually said as it is the putting forth and honoring of ones’ own opinions and perception of what really ought to be.
It is fairly common for men to reshape the Biblical picture and definition of Who and what God is and what He is like into one that is shaped and active in man’s own image. How many times do we hear these days about how we’re all worshipping the same God and we need to learn to accept each other our religious differences. We need to be more like Jesus was, they say. One who condemned no one and taught a doctrine of the love of God for all men and condemned no one.
The late Clark Pinnock was one who put forth such a view. He was a terribly liberal theologian who was responsible, at least sharing the
How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards. . . . Surely the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no fiend; torturing people without end is not what our God does. Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on His own enemies for all eternity?
His opinion was not based on the clear, literal and plain testimony of God’s Word. Rather he began with his own thoughts, opinions and perspective about what God ought to like; based on what he perceived to be morality and what ought to be in the world he lived in and He thought that his perception of what was good and best ought to apply to God as well. Now that may make some sort of sense humanly speaking; but if and when we think of it from a solid Biblical point of view, we are forced to come to the conclusion that unless one’s worldly and even eternal point of view MUST come from the Word of God and that Word alone, or it is useless. I am not talking about a Christian traditional point of view. I am talking about an understanding of the world and eternity that finds it foundation and even its details in a literal understanding of what God has said in all of His Word the Bible.
Sadly, this is NOT the case in most evangelical understandings and/or portrayals of things today. More than anything, these portrayals are rooted and founded in human thinking and ponderances. The God’s of men, no matter if they are associated with a tradition with a lengthy history or not. Neither does it matter what they “say” they are rooted in. What matters is whether or not it is actually consistent with a literal and verbal content of the Bible. Many will (and have) protested that we have to “interpret” the Bible anyway, and much of what we understand is just a matter of our minds and their working through these things. What we understand, then, according to this perception, is only arrived at by means of our minds making the Bible say what they really want it to say.
What OUGHT to be the source for how we understand the matters of eternal destiny, judgment and punishment of the unredeemed (as well as any other matter upon which service and obedience to God touches) stands simply demands to be what God has objectively said.
One truly distressing thing that we observe in our culture and in what is professed to be an understanding of God in many of these folks lives. The problem, as best I can see is that, like the ancient Babylonians and other Pagan nations, is that God is made over in the image of man, not man, recognizing that he is made in the image of God and submitting himself to the command and directions of God revealed in His Word. I suspect that is why so much of the religion around the world and around what passes for Christianity is humanistic and not truly holy and Christ oriented. I readily acknowledge that the way in which I have said this is clumsy, but I maintain that it is basically accurate in what it presents.
I strongly believe that the central issue in the differences between religions and spirituality is that men refuse to acknowledge the God Who is the Creator of all (not just white Americans) but it that they, virtually to a “man”, have reshaped God into man’s image (their own image btw). Their response in these matters is that God would or would never do such and so because that is just wrong to do, immoral, etc. The problem is that they have drawn their definition of what the wrongness or immorality from their own psyche rather than looking to the plain statements of the Bible to use as the foundation for their thinking. Thus, they twist and reshape what is there to fit that understanding so that their humanness is not threatened.
Judgment and punishment is one of those things most cited issues of what we are discussing. We already noted that Pinnock, among others, is very definite and, BTW, insulting to God and to His Word when he says things related to what we cited earlier. His very human point of view is very clear. The matter is that it is not at all Biblical. Even where he makes reference to the “love” of God he badly misunderstands and misrepresents just what that love is. Because HE would do or not do a thing, his mind and ego tells him that certainly God would not either. This is a terrible misrepresentation, and is very, very dangerous as well because Pinnock and others like him are widely read and heard as representatives of what God really thinks.
It is a perspective that is driven by sentiment and that ignores what the clear teaching of the Bible is, not to mention what Jesus Himself said on numerous occasions. The theory is that God’s love for mankind is so overwhelming that He can’t bear to surrender anyone to the due penalty of his or her sin. If He’s already gone to such great lengths to rescue sinners (John 3:16), why wouldn’t He finish the job? In this view, hell is often disregarded as a literal location, and seen instead as a state of being that describes the frustration and futility of sin.
Christ Himself said about hell: that it is a realm of “outer darkness” filled with “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13). It’s a “furnace” (Matthew 13:42, 50) of unquenchable fires (Mark 9:48-49). It’s the endless torment (Luke 16:23-24) of spiritual and bodily destruction (Matthew 8:12).
Likewise, Scripture is clear that God takes sin seriously, and that we must, too.
“The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves one who pursues righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9).
The prophet Isaiah declared,
“Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him” (Isaiah 3:11).
Paul echoed that warning in his letter to the Romans:
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
I remember when I was in school, one of the prevalent arguments that went round and round in larger Christianity was the idea of “universalism”, namely that all men will, one day, end up in heaven together. Everything from Hinduism and Confucianism to, sadly, even Roman and Orthodox Catholicism posit the idea in one way or another. There are many other groups that say the same thing as well. The heart of universalism is unbelief regarding the gospel. It’s a rejection of Christ as the only way of salvation (John 14:6), and a deadly downplaying of the severity of sin. A universalist sees no need to plead with others over the gospel, since his view negates the sinfulness of sin, the exclusivity of Christ, and the finality of the grave. Universalism is a repudiation of the gospel and salvation that makes God a weak-willed liar.
It is essential for us to allow the Bible to say what it says and to be sure that we hold those truths forward to a lost world so that God may use them to convict and call them to His presence. We dare not simply allow things to take their own way! That dishonors God and denies the efficacy of His Word and the essential power of His Spirit in the matter of regeneration. It also denies the crippling power of sin and the inherited disabling power of sins work inherited from Adam. We can do it ourselves right? Or, in the minds of many, we are never really that bad to begin with! Of course, the Catholic perspective is that God is going to provide an after the fact help to us in the presence of purgatory and the ability of the saints to aid and enable to faithful to correct those faults and sin that they did in and entered the afterlife still in possession of. Another idea is what is called “Annihilationism” which posits that all men, upon their death, or at some time thereafter, will simply, via the judgment of God, simply cease to be. If they die in sin, unrepentant, God will indeed judge them, but His judgment will be to make them vanish, as if they had never been.
Again, the matter here, for Christians, is the complete lack of any Biblical substance whatsoever. If the Scripture says anything about the matter, it proclaims loudly and forcefully that it (universalism/annihilationism) is untrue and that there will be many who will enter the afterlife of eternity future facing the everlasting judgement of God. As believers we must hold these ideas as the driving force for preaching and delivering the Gospel to the lost world.
Just as a final word, again, on the GTY website we are told that in his sermon “A Testimony of One Surprised to Be in Hell, Part 2,” John MacArthur explains why it’s so critical to believe in Scripture’s testimony to an eternal hell.
Punishment in hell is defined by the word aionios, which is the word eternal or everlasting. There are people who would like to redefine that word aionios and say, “Well, it doesn’t really mean forever.” But if you do that with hell, you’ve just done it with heaven, because the same word is used to describe both. If there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven. And I’ll go one beyond that. The same word is used to describe God. And so if there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven, nor is there an everlasting God. It is clear that God is eternal; and, therefore, that heaven is eternal, and so is hell.
Let’s be clear: any attempt to avoid or overturn the truth about hell is a direct assault on Scripture and the gospel. Those who champion such demonic lies are stripping the teeth from God’s judgment, subverting Scripture’s urgent calls for repentance, denying Christ’s own testimony to the reality of hell, underselling the severity of sin, promoting heinous unbelief, and questioning the very character and nature of God Himself.
Believers who profess allegiance to the truth cannot abide these forms of eternal compromise. As we stand together for the gospel, we must also stand together against these heretical corruptions of vital gospel truth.