Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)
As followers of Christ, we will be asked some really tough questions. There are very real objections among the seekers of the world, many of whom genuinely want to know the answers. Some, on the other hand, may have already made up their minds and will refuse to accept any response contrary to their own views. But for the rest, you and me have the responsibility to offer them the basis for our own hope and beliefs. Over the next few posts I will attempt to offer somewhat simple answers to questions that I’ve been asked that I believe many struggle with. These won’t be exhaustive responses for the purpose of debating anyone. They will be taken straight from what any of us can learn from reading what God has provided in the Bible. I want to keep them simple because that will be easier to remember. I’m not for a moment assuming that everyone reading these posts will not have an answer for themselves. I only want to provide a resource for anyone who needs it, whether you’re the one asking the question, or being asked the question.
For the first question I selected one that multiple atheists have posed to me over the years. I’ve even seen some in the church battle over the concept of hell and how people could actually be sent there. Not long ago I came across a book that took a stab at answering this question by completely erasing hell and claiming that everyone gets saved. That’s only one example of why we have to stick to the Bible when answering these tough questions and not put our own speculations into it. One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve heard from multiple people is that the Bible’s response should be our response and if the Bible is silent then so should we.
The Bible does have a lot to say about hell. Check out verses like Revelation 21:8, Matthew 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Mark 9:43, and Proverbs 15:24 just to name a handful. It’s a very real place. And it’s horrible. Because it’s so bad, we can approach that one of three ways: One, being overly thankful that Jesus came to save us from such a place causing us to become more urgent in sharing the gospel and seeing people saved and loving like Jesus. Two, look at God with disdain for allowing people to go there and continue to reject His love or share His love. And three, disregard it all and live life with a sense of apathy and run a huge risk of being wrong. Ignorance will never be bliss in matters like this.
So, my response to the question is three-fold:
- People reject God, not the other way around. The last thing God wants is for someone to go to hell. The Bible is very clear that His heart is for the salvation of mankind. Look no further than the cross for that. God stepped out of heaven, became flesh, and died on our behalf. The way to life is simple. It’s Jesus. Who is God in the flesh. God made salvation clear and open to all. But man, in the stubbornness of their heart, refuses the life raft. That’s because our sinful nature would prefer to think highly of ourselves than admit to the need for salvation. As technology advances, more and more people live a life absent of God because they feel as though they don’t need Him. A lot of people just can’t come to grips with their need for healing and saving. Every other religion in the world, other than Christianity, is man-made as a means to reach heaven on our own warrants and credentials. The problem with that is, none of us will ever be good enough. That’s why God came to us, with open arms, and continues to do so as long as we are alive.
- Freewill is really risky. Out of God’s great love, He allowed us to have the ability to choose. We can choose sin or holiness. We can choose love or indifference. We can live fully self absorbed or completely poured out for others. God didn’t create robots, He created humanity. And because He loves us so much, He wants our love and affection in return, but only willingly.
- Great love has to have a full measure of justice. There has to be punishment for the depravity of mankind. The greater the love, the greater the wrath. That wrath is fully displayed on the cross of Jesus or in the fires of hell. Everyone who falls on Jesus, who took on the full punishment for us, will escape the later wrath. Those who reject the sacrifice of Jesus will have to pay for their own sins themselves.
God loves every single person who has ever and will ever walk the face of this earth. No matter your sin, God loves you. No matter how broken, He wants to put you back together. No matter how lost, God wants to save you. Choose life. Choose the love that’s freely offered.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 (ESV)