Answers to Skeptics' Top Ten
Questions and Objections
Regarding Hell

 

by CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry
© Copyright 2005–2015

 

Critics and skeptics have raised a variety of objections and questions regarding the existence of God and the trustworthiness of the Bible. I’ve responded to those questions elsewhere (see evidence for God, Bible, Jesus). In this article, I want to answer some of their questions and objections regarding the Bible's teaching on Hell.

Let’s read a portion of Matthew's Gospel and briefly remind ourselves of what awaits those who refuse God's gracious offer of reconcilation and forgiveness of sins. Jesus said...

Matthew 25:31-34
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He [Jesus] will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33  And He will set the sheep [a ref. to redeemed believers] on His right hand, but the goats [a ref. to the unsaved] on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…

[Skipping down to v. 41]

Matthew 25:41
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

So, the Bible makes it clear that those who are saved will enter into God’s kingdom to enjoy all that He has in store for those who love Him. But it also makes it clear here, and in numerous other passages of Scripture (e.g., Rev. 20), that those who refuse to repent—those who turn away God’s provision of forgiveness and salvation—will spend eternity separated from God in this dreadful place the Bible calls Hell. And dreadful it will be.

Hell is described elsewhere in the Bible as a place of:

•  a real place that people are "cast...into" (Matt. 13:41-42) and "thrown into" (Rev. 20:15)
•  "outer darkness" (Matt. 25:30)
•  "utter darkness" (Jude 1:13)
•  a place where there is weeping (Matt. 25:30, 8:12)
•  a place where there is gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30, 13:50)
•  a place of everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46)
•  a place of separation from God (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9)
•  a place of wailing (Matt. 13:40-42) 
•  a place of "torment" (Luke 16:23)
•  a place where people "will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10)
•  a place where there are "flames" (Luke 16:24)
•  a place where people will not want others to end up (Luke 16:27-31)

This is certainly not a place you want to end up. But of course critics of the Bible and nonbelievers in general have a difficult time accepting the Bible’s teaching on Hell. They say...

1. "A God of love would never send anybody to Hell."

I find it very interesting that so many people are confident that God is so loving. Where does mankind get the idea that God loves the whole world, including sinners?

–The Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka? No. It's not taught there.
–The Hindu Vedas? No. No loving God there.

–The Quran? Nope. The god of the Quran does not love sinners. It states that over and over again.

The idea that God is a loving, merciful, forgiving God comes from the Bible. It is the Bible alone, amongst these books, that presents God as gracious, loving, merciful and forgiving of sinners. A lot of people have gotten their idea that God is loving from the very same book that teaches us about Hell!

The problem though is that a lot of people want to treat the Bible like a salad bar. “Oh yeah, I’ll have a little bit of that, a scoop of that. Oh, I don’t like that. Ughh, none of that.”

They do that with God!

"Yeah, I’ll take some of the love. I’ll pass on the judgment. Oh yeah, I’ll take some of the mercy! Yuck, none of that Hell stuff.”

They take what they like from the Bible and leave out the other stuff. Well, that's unwise. The same divinely inspired book that reveals to us that God is loving also assures us that God is holy, pure, moral, just, that He hates sin, and that unrepentant, unforgiven sinners will be judged, condemned, and cast away from His presence forever in Hell.

Nonbelievers are right in believing that God is loving but they have seriously erred when it comes to His holiness and His justice. And because He is holy—because He is just—adulterers, murderers, thieves, liars, fornicators, idolaters, and so on, will be punished…unless they are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Answers-Atheists-DVD-4

Well, the skeptic raises a second objection…

2. "God may send some people to Hell, but He's not going to send good people to Hell."

Many people who believe in Hell’s existence and who even believe others may be going there, have been deceived into thinking God will not send them there.

Why? "Well," the person says, "I'm a good person." That is the number one reason why people think they will not end up in Hell (“I’m a good person”). Maybe you’ve thought that to be the case with yourself. But, according to the Bible no one is good enough to go to Heaven on his own. The Bible says...

Romans 3:23
"All have sinned..."

Isaiah 53:6
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way."

Davide wrote in...

Psalm 143:2
“...in Your sight [God’s] no man living is righteous.”

On man’s scale a person might appear pretty good, but according to the Bible, each one of us, in our natural state is an unrighteous person...who deserves God’s judgment.

Those are the people who deserve to end up in Hell—sinners, people like you and me (before we were forgiven). And those are the people, if they reject God's offer of forgiveness, who will end up there.

A third and somewhat related question is this:

3. "Why would God have created us, if He knew in advance that so many people would be eternally lost?"

I believe the simplest answer is this: Just as the Lord knew many would reject Him, the opposite is also true; He knew that many would freely receive Him and enjoy eternity with Him. Apparently, even knowing many would reject Him and end up in Hell, He felt it worth it, so that we who would receive Him, could have fellowship with Him and Him with us.

Should God have refused to create humans just because some would refuse to have a relationship with Him? I don’t think so. That would allow evil to triumph over good!

Should Christians refuse to start families even though we realize that some of our kids, grandkids, or great grandkids may turn their backs on God and end up in Hell? No! Why? Because we know that many of our kids and grandkids will not. And if some turn away from God and end up in Hell, it will be of their own free accord (choice). By us giving birth to them, we are not in any way forcing any of them to go to Hell. They, like all people, will have the option to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.

So I’m not going to withhold (deny) the blessings of eternity from my children and other descendants because of the foolish and sinful decisions of others. I think this is also true with God. He knew in advance that many would reject Him, but He also knew that many would receive Him.

That’s why He created us! Well, the skeptic raises another question...

4. "Couldn't God have just created a world in which no one would end up in Hell?"

Sure. He certainly could have. But it would not have been a world with humans; it would have been a world of androids, a world of robots. Why? Well, it would have to have been a world in which sin never takes place. Why? In a universe created by a holy and just God, sin requires judgment and punishment (Hell). So, to prevent people from going to Hell, God would have to prevent people from sinning. To do that, God would have to have created people without free will (i.e., without the freedom to sin). The creatures would have to have been creatures that God pre-programmed to always do what God wanted them to do.

Could God have created creatures like that? Of course. He certainly could have done that, but the fellowship, the worship, etc. would all have been meaningless to God.

In order for a meaningful, genuine, loving relationship to exist between God and people, people must be free, free to love Him or free to hate Him.

And so God created mankind with freedom. You can freely love Him or hate Him. You can freely obey Him or sin against Him. And this freedom is the very thing people want.Go on Facebook or Twitter sometime and ask your non-Christian friends if they would like God to force them to live their lives in accord with all of His holy commandments 24 hours a day with no freedom to do otherwise.

Well, of course the answer on the streets will be, “Absolutely not!” Most people want the option to move freely about, often times from one unholy pursuit to another. So in this respect, God has given mankind the very world that mankind actually wants to live in, a world in which true freedom exists. Unfortunately, our misuse of that freedom has led to our own condemnation.

Well, the skeptic raises a fifth question...

5. “What about those who have never heard of Jesus? Will they be condemned to Hell?”

God will make the final decision on that matter. For those who do end up there, we must keep in mind that it won’t be because they never heard of Jesus. People will end up in Hell because they have lived their lives ignoring or even retreating from the truth that God has revealed to them.

Skeptic: “But some people have never even heard of God.”

Well, in response to this, we believe they will still be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Why? Because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways. The first way is through....

A. Creation. (Romans 1:20, Acts 14:17, Psalm 19:1-4)

Romans 1:19-20
"...that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. [How has God made it evident to them?] For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

Acts 14:17
"Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."

B. Conscience. (Romans 2:14-15)

Romans 2:15
"[The Gentiles] show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness..."

God has inscribed evidence of His existence and His moral laws on the heart (or conscience) of every person. And their consciences convict them when they do something sinful. And that conviction (that guilt) is good. It is there by design to lead them to seek out God and His mercy.

So all of mankind can know through an examination of creation and their own con-science that God exists and that they have failed to live up to His laws written in their hearts.

If a person will respond to the truth that God has revealed to him through creation or the convicting work of his conscience, God will give him additional light about Himself. If a person who has never heard of Jesus, truly wants to know God, God will let Himself be found. Why do I believe that? Because God said that is the case. Where?

Jeremiah 29:13
“…you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

David assured his son Solomon...

1 Chronicles 28:9
“If you seek Him, He will let you find Him...”

One of the reasons many people are not finding God today is because they do not want to find Him! They enjoy living in darkness and they realize that having a relationship with God will require they turn their backs on sins that they find too enticing. But, if they are willing to seek after God, they will find Him.

Hebrews 11:6 says God...
"is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Psalm 145:18-19
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” 

There are lots of ways God can get the truth about Jesus to a seeker. He may send them a missionary, allow a radio program to penetrate their part of the world, send them a Bible, a tract, an angel or give them a vision so that they can know more about Jesus.

Skeptic: "Why doesn't He just do that with all people?"

Christians have been sharing the truth about God with millions of people and many refuse to hear it! They refuse to respond.

For God to give more light (truth) to hard-hearted people who He knows will not respond to the gospel would only result in their greater guilt and condemnation.

Why? Greater light brings about greater responsibility.

Luke 12:48
“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”

 

God Apologetics DVD

 

Skeptic: “It just seems that some people who live in third world countries are at such a disadvantage geographically when it comes to hearing the gospel.”

Well, in addition to God’s assurance that He will respond to those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6, Jer. 29:13) the Bible says that God has actually placed each person in a specific place geographically that he or she might be prone to call upon the Lord.

Turn over to Acts, Chapter 17. I want you to see something that Paul points out here...

Acts 17:22-27
22  So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.  23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having [What?] determined [What?] their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…”

Paul tells us here in Acts 17 that God “determined” ahead of time the “times” in history that each of us would be born and the geographical “boundaries” (v. 26) of our dwelling place. Why?

Verse 27, there in Acts 17, tells us, in order that we might “seek the Lord” and “find Him.”

It is amazing to know that every person (including you) has been born, by the sovereign will of God, in a place (both in time and geographically) that would be advantageous to actually finding the Lord.

There are no geographical disadvantages or mistakes. A person will not go to Hell because of some historical or geographical misfortune, which somehow prevented him from hearing about Christ. If a person seeks to know God, God will be found.

In the end, all will receive what they actually chose in this life, either to be with God or to be without Him.

As J. P. Moreland has pointed out in Lee Strobel's book The Case for Faith, if a person constantly ignores God, constantly mocks Him by the way he chooses to live, saying “I couldn’t care less about what You put me here to do, Your values, or Your Son’s death for me. Leave me alone! I want to live my life without You!” Well, God will honor that decision and in the end, that person will have his preference.

C. S. Lewis said...
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Separation from God is not simply a sentence that is handed down out of the blue on judgment day. It is the end of a path that is chosen, to some degree, in this life right here and now, day by day...as you exercise your will. [Wording here inspired by what J. P. Moreland said in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, p. 178]

C. S. Lewis said...
“I believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of Hell are locked on the inside.” [C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 1962, p. 27]

What he’s saying is that ultimately it’s not God who condemns a person to Hell, but individual sinners and the choices they make.

Well, the skeptic raises another question at this time....

6. "Gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, flames, everlasting fire? Why does Hell have to be so bad? Why will Hell be so severe?"

Some might say, "Well, Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). That's why it's going to be so bad!"

I'm not sure that is a very good answer.

Jesus did say that one day He would say to the unrighteous, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). But God, being omniscient, knew ahead of time that Hell was also the place where He would send human persons who would reject Him.

Why would God create Hell to be so bad (so "severe")? Here are three reasons:

A. Hell is a place of separation from God.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 says...
"And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” When man chooses to separate himself from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and God finally gives him over to the desire of his heart and finally allows him to have his way and to be left alone, the consequences, by default, are going to be severe! Why? The Bible teaches that God is the sole source of all that is good, all that brings joy, and comfort. James 1:17 says, "Every [not most, but every] good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” 

Hell is a place of separation from the very source of... 

• all that is good
• all that would cause joy
• all that would bring comfort 

Remove all that is good, all that would cause joy, or bring comfort, and you're going have an utterly miserable place! 

CRITIC: Don’t you think that separation from God is too severe a punishment?

No. God is absolutely just and fair. If Hell is where sinners end up, I believe the punishment that will be meted out there will fit the crime perfectly. I believe the only reason Hell may seem too extreme to some is because people are underestimating how wicked they are! 

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) argued that if a person had a true spiritual awareness, he would not be amazed at Hell's severity, but at his own depravity!

Regarding the severity of Hell, Peter Kreeft wisely said in his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics:

"Hell's punishment [separation from God] fits sin's crime because sin is to separate oneself from God. The punishment [separation from God] fits the crime because the punishment is the crime."

The punishment (Hell) will fit the crime. In fact, in the end, all will receive what they actually chose in this life, either to be with God or to be without Him. If a person chooses all their life, to say "I want nothing to do with You God," God will honor that decision. 

There are 2 more reasons why I think God purposely designed Hell to be severe.  

B. Hell's severity causes sinners to seek Him. 

The possibility that Hell is real causes many people to consider God. If the Bible taught that Hell was something different, perhaps that souls were just annihilated upon death, millions would choose to just eat, drink and be merry in this life. And millions would never experience the greatest joy of all, knowing God in this life and experiencing the glorious future He has in store for all those who love Him. 

C. The severity of Hell brings about a saner, safer world.

The evil that takes place in the world is already bad enough, but you can rest assured that sin would run far more rampant if there were not a universal fear of punishment in the afterlife. The thought that Hell might exist restrains a good amount of the evil that would be taking place. Think of how crime would escalate if our police departments shut down and there was no longer any fear of punishment for crimes committed. That is a frightening thought.  

Fear of punishment restrains evil and leads to a safer, saner world. It's been said that without a fear of Hell (divine retribution) in the afterlife, mankind would create Hell on Earth.  

And so we can thank God for His wisdom regarding this. The existence of Hell causes people to seek Him and it brings about a safer, saner world.

Well, the skeptic poses a seventh question at this time...

7. "Why doesn't God give people a second chance after death?"

The truth of the matter is that God is giving people a second chance. Right now. And a third chance and a fourth chance. Every hour that passes is an opportunity for a person to cry out to God and be a recipient of His mercy and grace. And God obviously thinks the chances He extends to us in this life are sufficient. When a person dies it will be too late.

Hebrews 9:27
"It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Well, the skeptic raises ann eighth objection...

8. "Why doesn't God seek to reform (change) sinners in some form of temporary purgatory?"

This is similar to the last question about a second chance after death.

Purgatory (for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this term) is, according to the Catholic Church, a place of torment where people go for a time of suffering in order to be prepared for Heaven. It is an unbiblical teaching that has no basis in Scripture.

Skeptic: “But why doesn’t God try something like this in order to reform people?”

Well, God is seeking to reform people. The time of reformation is called...LIFE.

For the lifetime of the individual, God’s Spirit patiently (2 Peter 3:9)...

Strives with them (Genesis 6:3)
Convicts them of their sin (John 16:8)
Reminds them of God's righteousness (John 16:8)
Warns them of coming judgment (Acts 24:25)
Testifies to them through creation (Romans 1:20)
Sends them messengers with the good news of salvation (Romans 10:15)

When they finally die, the reformation process is over. Those in Hell will be those who are unreformable.Apologetics Videos DVDs-

A ninth objection that has been raised against the Bible's teaching regarding Hell is this:

9. "It seems unfair that God would give out the same punishment to everyone who ends up in Hell. Some people seem to be so much more guilty of terrible crimes than others.”

Some critics of Christianity believe that eternity in Hell is unfair because they imagine that your ordinary unbeliever is going to get the same punishment as someone like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin (evil men who were responsible for the murder of millions of people).

Well, the person who raises this objection has overlooked or misunderstood what the Bible actually teaches regarding Hell. God is not going to indiscriminately (i.e., randomly without careful judgment) send the unrepentant to Hell to suffer  the exact same judgment.

Revelation 20:11-15 says that every unsaved person is going to be resurrected to stand before God at a “great white throne” to be judged for every one of their deeds before they are sentenced.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 assures us that...
“God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

Jesus said in Matthew 12:36...
“I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.”

Now, this judgment of each individual’s deeds seems to suggest that a person will receive a greater condemnation or judgment based on what he or she has done. And this lines up precisely with what Jesus said in Mark 12:40, when He stated that the scribes of His day would “receive greater condemnation” than others.

There will be greater condemnation for greater sins.

Christian: “Hold on a second here Charlie. I read the Bible. Are you saying that some sins are more serious than others? I thought that sin was sin.”

Well, yes, all sins are sinful, but some sins are greater than others. You don’t have to take my word for it. Jesus affirmed this to be the case. For example, in John 19, Jesus was standing before Pilate on trial. Notice what Jesus said to Pilate...

John 19:11
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.”

Jesus told Pilate that he who delivered Him over to Pilate (probably a reference to Caiaphas or Judas, we’re not sure) was guilty of a “greater sin” than Pilate.

There are greater sins. And the Bible teaches that there will be “greater condemnation” for those sins.

On another occasion, in Matthew 11, Jesus tells the people of Capernaum that the judgment coming to the people of Sodom would be “more tolerable” than their judgment (Matthew 11:24), because the people of Capernaum were guilty of greater sin.

According to Jesus, those with the lesser sins will have a “more tolerable” (Matt. 11:24) judgment than those with the greater sin.

Now, don’t misunderstand; this is not to suggest that their suffering will not be horrible. Separation from God in Hell will be horrible for everyone who goes there, but it will be worse for others. What will a “greater condemnation” (Mark 12:40) result in?” We don’t know for sure. Perhaps some will suffer a greater degree of separation, isolation, emptiness, and regret. The bottom line is this: You do not want to go there!

Well, the skeptic raises a tenth and final objection...

10. "I could never be happy in Heaven knowing my loved ones are in Hell."

The thought of being apart from your friends and family who do not know the Lord is a heart wrenching thought. But God assures us in His Word that in Heaven our joy will be absolutely full.

Psalm 16:11 says...
“In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

In eternity, God’s people are going to experience and perpetually know “fullness of joy.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us...
"He [God] shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Notice that! There will “no longer be any mourning” for God’s people in eternity.

C. S. Lewis, the former atheist, turned follower of Jesus, gave this exhortation to people who wrestle with the reality that some of their loved ones won’t be in Heaven:

"If you are concerned about your loved one's that won't be in Heaven, the most irrational thing you could do if you are truly concerned about those on the outside is to remain outside yourself."

The best thing you could ever do is to make sure you’re going to Heaven and then do all that you can to help wake up your loved ones! That would be the wisest course of action.

I’ll close with two questions: One for Christians. One for non-Christians...

Christian, do you have a loved one on their way to Hell?

I think we all do. May I encourage you to stand in their way with your love and your prayers?

Charles Spurgeon said...
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees...Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

That is a great exhortation! God help us to get in the way of those on their way to this dreadful place! Pray for your loved ones! Pray for your friends and co-workers! And pray for yourself that God would give you the courage and love to reach out to them and to share the gospel and reason with them about the path they are on.

Would you like to make sure you won’t end up in Hell? Would you like to know your sins are forgiven? Would you like to be confident you are going to Heaven?

You can because two thousand years ago, Jesus, (God in the flesh —your Maker) out of His great love for you, suffered and died on that cruel wooden Roman cross. Why? To take the punishment for your sins. So that you could be forgiven, saved from eternity in Hell, and be brought back into a relationship with Him.

Jesus rose from  the grave three days  later and today He  is offering mankind (you!) the forgive-ness of sins and the “free gift” (Rom. 6:23) of everlasting life to all those who will turn from their sins and place their faith in Him.

John 3:16
“Whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

That’s it! Believing in Jesus to save you! I exhort you friend to trust in Jesus right now...while you still have time. He is your only hope of everlasting life. He’s the only One who can save you from Hell. So, don’t put it off. Turn to Him now! Amen?

Charlie-Campbell

CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL (Twitter: @charlieabready)
Charlie Campbell is the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and DVDs, including:

•  Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
•  Evidence for the Existence of God
•  One Minute Answers to Skeptics
•  Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
•  The End Times: Ten Upcoming Events in Bible Prophecy
•  The Case for the Resurrection

•  Teaching and Preaching God's Word

His DVDs and books have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others.

 

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