So, in Hell: Part 1, we discussed how God wouldn’t send good people to hell because there are no good people. In Hell: Part 2, we discussed how God wouldn’t send anyone to hell because we choose it for ourselves. This week, we want to look at the solution to the problem that hell creates.
We need to be clear that God didn’t create the world so that we would be condemned to hell. He didn’t decide that we would be sinners and some of us would be forgiven but others would go to eternal destruction. Hell is a consequence of sin, which is a consequence of our rejection of God.
But what do we mean by ‘Hell’?
If heaven is the undiluted presence of God, then hell might well be the total absence of Him. He loves us unconditionally, and if we say ‘No’ to His offer of love, then what more can He do but remove Himself from our sight? The problem is that, when He goes, Love, Hope, Beauty, Justice all go with Him – because He is all those things. We love because He first loved us. We understand Beauty because of His hand in Creation. Etc…
When we reject the presence of God, we choose the absence of Him: hell. That was our move. Fortunately, God has countered so that our move away from Him doesn’t have to be check-mate. He knows where the path we have chosen leads, and He’s not cool with that, so He has done something about it.
The answer is Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of both God’s Justice and Love. At the cross, we see God’s love for people and His wrath upon sin. He cannot allow sin/wrongdoing into his presence, but He loves us too much to just let us run away hopeless.
When Jesus died on the cross, He took the consequence of our sin/rebellion/rejection upon himself. He took your bullet/paid your fine/jumped on your grenade. He provided that doorway (the narrow gate) between you and God. Nobody else has ever made that gesture for you. In every other major religion, it’s up to you to save yourself. That’s a lot of pressure. But the moment you say ‘Yes’ to Jesus – the moment you let Him take over at the centre of your life – it’s no longer about you. He looks at your sin, your guilt, your wrongdoing, and He says, ‘I’ll take that, thanks. You’re free now.’
Nobody need end up in hell. “The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2Pet. 3.9). “He desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2.4).
Of course, if we reject Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, then there is simply is no one else to pay the penalty for our sin -except ourselves. If you were on the verge of signing a contract and, instead of shaking on it with the other guy, you pulled your hand away and spat in his face, you wouldn’t still walk away thinking, ‘that deal’ll probably still go through.’
Jesus is the only rescue plan. No other God is coming for you. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Next week, in the final part of the Hell Quadrilogy, we will look at questions like, ‘What about those people who never hear the Gospel?’