Friday, September 16, 2011

Hell and the question of fairness

Yesterday we began looking at the difficult doctrine of hell - with particular focus upon Jesus' account of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  We noted how this chapter in Luke helps us to understand this difficult, but nonetheless true teaching of scripture.  Today we want to deal with an even more difficult issue: the fairness of hell.  Below is a continuation of yesterday's discussion.

When we see the attitudes and words of this rich man, we can say that he got what he deserved.  But now we ask: is the punishment too severe? 

1. Consider the Nature of the Offended
To deny the fairness of hell as punishment, as well as its eternal duration, is to not grasp the nature of the sinner's offense against God.    God is an infinite being.  When we look at the concept of justice and punishment, the punishment of the offender always fits the nature of the offense committed against the offended. 

2. The nature of the offended party determines the nature of the punishment
If the offended party is a finite creature, then a finite punishment would be warranted.  However, God is not finite, but infinite.  To do violence to His reputation in any form is sin.  Being that His reputation (His glory) is without limit, then any attack against Him is regarded an infinite attack.              

3. God is Just and Loving
Romans 9:22-23 reveals that it will take eternity to put on display the glory of God's justice and mercy.  Heaven was created for the redeemed, since God through them will be displaying the glory of His mercy.  Hell was created for the devil and his angels, and by default, all those who follow the enemy and die without Christ.  Thus God will be displaying the glory of His justice for all eternity. 

So when we consider those three points above, we can only conclude that in light of the attack that sin is on God's inifinite Holy character, Hell, sadly but truly, is not an unfair punishment. 
IF THERE WAS NO HELL, WE WOULD NEVER KNOW IF GOD WAS A GOD OF JUSTICE             When Christ suffered on the cross, He suffered God's wrath in the place of all who would ever believe on Him.  He also suffered in the place of the rest of humanity to give them space and time for repentance.  Even though Christ's death in the historical sense was for all men, yet in the eternal sense His death was to be applied to all who would ever believe.  Thus God displayed His justice and grace in the cross.  For those who die rejecting Christ, they will suffer in hell because they never took advantage of the grace poured out at the cross.  Thus as difficult as the doctrine of hell is, without it we could never say God is Just and fair.  In order for God to be a good God, He has to be a Just and Loving God.