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Answers to Skeptics' Top Ten Questions
and Objections Regarding Hell
Lecture notes by Charlie Campbell
Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry
The Bible has a lot to say about Hell. The Bible describes Hell as a place of...
• outer darkness (Matthew 25:30)
Just as the Bible goes to great lengths to describe the glories of Heaven, the Bible seems to exhaust the human language describing just how awful Hell will be. Question for you: Who said these things about Hell?
All but two of these descriptions were uttered by Jesus Himself. I tell you that because I have heard people say, “I don’t believe in all that Hell stuff! Jesus never talked about Hell.”
Well, apparently they haven’t been reading their Bibles. Jesus made mention of Hell and a coming judgment more than 70 times. Jesus had more to say about Hell than He did about Heaven!
And Jesus made it absolutely clear that people who refuse to repent, who turn away God’s provision of forgiveness and salvation, will spend eternity separated from God in a place of conscious torment that He often called “Hell” (Matthew 5:29).
Now in spite of the Bible's clarity on this issue, Satan has deceived millions of people into believing a variety of other "softer" options. Satan, "the father of lies" (John 8:44), never ceases to take advantage of those who are willing to lay aside Biblical revelation for something that is more palatable.
So there are a wide variety of beliefs that people have bought into. The lie behind all of these unbiblical beliefs is this:
"There's no need to be concerned about what
That is the lie (“It’s not important to really even consider what happens after death. Eat, drink and be merry. Live it up. It will all work out in the end”).
Now, not only have many people rejected what the Bible has to say about Hell (opting for a softer view), skeptics and critics of Christianity are posing some difficult...
Questions and Objections About Hell
The first objection is one I've heard many times...
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 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. People get their idea that God is loving from the very same book that teaches us about Hell!
The problem though is that 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. Ewww, none of that.”
They take what they like from the Bible and leave out the other stuff.
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 and cast away from His presence forever in Hell.
Let’s imagine that a little child has been the subject of some terrible crime. But thankfully the police have apprehended the criminal. Now, the day comes when the criminal stands before the judge. Question: What if the judge listened to the overwhelming evidence pointing to this man’s guilt, started laughing and said, “Its obvious that this man did these things, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things. Let this man go!”
What would you think? Would you consider that judge loving? Is a judge who lets rapists, child molesters, drug dealers and thieves off the hook, loving?
No. That would be an unloving act against humanity wouldn’t it? A loving judge condemns the lawbreaker in order to love his neighbors.
The same is true of God. It would be unloving for Him to welcome sinners into Heaven with out justice being meted out for the evil things they did in this life. Can you imagine Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin walking around in Heaven, laughing and saying, “Yeah, God just laughed and let me off the hook!”
So if a person ever tells you, “A God of love would never send anybody to Hell” you might say, “The Bible says He will because He’s not only loving, He’s holy and just!” Of course it would also be good to remind them though how God has, in His love, made a way for mankind to be forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Explain to them how Jesus took the punishment for mankind’s sins upon Himself, that we might be freely forgiven and God might remain just.
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 are going there, have deceived themselves into thinking that God will not send them there.
Why? "Well," they reason, "I'm a good person."
So let me ask you a question. Will God send good people to Hell? The answer is, No. Good people go straight to Heaven. But here's the bad news. According to the Bible there are no good people. Did you realize that? The Bible says we are all sinners!!
Jesus Himself said "No one is good but One, that is, God" (Luke 18:19).
Romans 3:10: "There is none righteous, no, not one;"
Isaiah 53:6: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way."
Jesus even referred to His disciples as being evil: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13)
On man's scale a person might appear pretty good, but according to the Word of God, the Bible, each one of us, in our natural state is an unrighteous, evil person. 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 also knew that many would freely receive Him and enjoy eternity with Him. Apparently, even knowing that 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 submit their lives to Him? I don’t think so. That would allow evil to triumph over good!
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 of humans; it would have been 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 not only would a robotic population of creatures be meaningless to God, that kind of world is the very kind of world that people today would dread! Do a little survey on the street sometime. Ask people if they would like to live their lives in accord with all of God’s holy commandments twenty four 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 the freedom God has given us is what 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?”
Some will. But it will not be because they have 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?
God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways:
A. Creation. (Romans 1:20, Acts 14:17, Psalm 19:1-4)
Romans 1:19-20 says: "...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?] 20 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 says, "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 says: "[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. So all of mankind can know through an examination of creation and their own conscience 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 them through creation or the convicting work of their conscience, God will give them additional light about Himself, in order that they can be saved.
Hebrews 11:6 says God, "is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Jesus said, "Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). God said, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13, also see Acts 10:35).
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 the 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 says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”
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 more prone to call upon the Lord.
Turn over to Acts, Chapter 17. I want you to see something that Paul points out here...
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 the place (both in time and geographically) that would be most advantageous to them 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.
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.
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.” What he’s saying is that ultimately it’s not God who condemns a person to Hell, but individual sinners and the choices that 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 so severe!"
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 is Hell 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
Remove all that is good, all that would cause joy, or bring comfort, and you're going have an utterly miserable place!
Is separation from God too severe for the sinner? No.
Remember God is absolutely just and fair. If Hell is where sinners end up, its punishment must fit the crime. I believe the only reason Hell may seem too extreme is because mankind does not understand how extremely wicked, nor how sinful he is!
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 lives, 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 let's say "lukewarm," less severe, or that the soul was just annihilated upon death, many 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 that Hell is as severe as it is. It 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.
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 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Well, the skeptic raises ann eighth objection...
This is similar to the last question about a second chance after death.
Skeptic: “But why doesn’t God try something like this in order to reform people?”
Well, God has tried to reform people. The time of reformation is called...LIFE.
• Strives with them (Genesis 6:3)
When they finally die, the reformation process is over. Those in Hell will be those who are unreformable.
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 throw the unrighteous into 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.”
This judgment of each individual’s deeds seems to suggest that a person will receive a greater condemnation or judgment based on what he has done. And this lines up precisely with what Jesus said in Mark 12:40, where 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, sin is sin, yes, and all of it is an offense to God, but some sins are greater than others. You don’t have to take my word for it. Jesus affirmed that this was the case. For example, in John 19, Jesus was standing before Pilate on trial. Notice what Jesus said to Pilate...
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.
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: 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 that 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.”
All who go to Heaven will experience “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."
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!
So those are concise answers to some of the questions that critics raise regarding the doctrine of Hell.
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.”
Christian, do you have friends or family members who are “unwarned” and “unprayed” for?
May the Lord 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 with the gospel.
Non-Christian friend here tonight...
Would you like to escape the sentence of Hell? Would you like to know your sins are forgiven? Would you like to be confident you are going to Heaven?
Death could be right around the corner for some of you. How can you make sure you’re going to Heaven?
A. Acknowledge your sinfulness to God (Rom. 3:10, 1 John 1:9).
B. Believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again to pay for your sins (Romans 10:9-10).
C. Change direction. Turn away from your sinful way of living (Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30).
D. Decide to receive Jesus into your life and follow Him as Lord (John 1:12-13)
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 three books:
His teachings and resources have been endorsed by:
• Norman Geisler
He resides in southern California with his wife and five children.Scheduling Charlie to Teach:
Additional Resources by Charlie Campbell