This is a common question. The Bible teaches that everyone will be judged by God when they die (Hebrews 9:27), that there are two destinations, heaven and hell (Matthew 25:31-46), and that both destinations are eternal (Matthew 25:46). This typically rattles people. “Surely the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” They say. Both Christians and non-Christians need to grapple with this question. Here are a few reasons for why the punishment does fit the crime.
First, if all good derives from God, which the Bible says it does (James 1:17), then to reject God is to reject all that is good. Naturally, the punishment for rejecting eternal goodness is to receive eternal badness. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Second, the heinousness of a crime is always measured by the object of the crime. For example, punching a grown man is bad but punching a three month old baby is worse. Stealing from a bank is bad but stealing from an orphanage is worse. Cussing out a friend is bad but cussing out your grandma is worse. We measure the heinousness of an action by the innocence, virtue and position of the person being harmed. Now, if all sin is against God, which it is (Psalm 51:4), and God is the perfectly innocent, perfectly virtuous, and holds the highest, most honorable position in the universe, the consequence for spending your entire life not submitting, dishonoring and actively sinning against God is justly severe.
Third, hell won’t make you better. Let’s say that there is parole in hell (there’s not but for the sake of argument). Will anyone be released from hell for good conduct? No. Imagine every evil thought you’ve ever had, every bad attitude, every burst of anger, every ill motive, every stubborn disposition. Now imagine that you lived in a place completely absent of good. There is nothing to be thankful for. There is no friend to cheer you up. No ice cream to turn your mood. There is no God given conscience to say, “Man, I’m being a real ass.” In that place will you be a better or worse person? Obviously you’ll be worse. The longer you are in hell the worse you will be. In this sense hell must be eternal because you’re progressively getting worse and this trajectory is eternal.
Fourth, hell was created for the demons and we have willingly followed them there. Matthew 25:41 reads, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The devil’s name is on the lease of hell and anyone else who is there is willingly sleeping on his couch. Ephesians 2:1-3 states that we are “dead in our sins” because we follow the world, the flesh (our own evil desires) and the devil (“the prince of the power of the air”). In other words, we do things we know are wrong (the flesh) and we especially do these things when others are cheering us on (the world), and, whether we know it or not, all of this is in lockstep formation behind the devil himself. We have chosen the wrong side and his fate is ours.
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