Many of my fellow Christians accept the traditional view of hell because they believe that God’s sense of justice is so superior that we cannot understand why it is right for Him to punish unredeemed sinners for an endless eternity. Rightly, they agree with scriptures that affirm that God’s ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55:9 says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ironically, believers in the traditional view often cite the fact that they find the idea that God will endlessly torture people for all eternity offensive, even repugnant. Francis Chan, in his new book, Erasing Hell, says that he doesn’t think that it is right that God will punish anyone endlessly, but adds: “Maybe someday I will stand in complete agreement with [God], but for now I attribute the discrepancy to an underdeveloped sense of justice on my part.” (page 141 of Erasing Hell)
Where do we get our sense of justice? Why is the thought of endless torture for deeds done in a short, mortal life offensive to us? Does a more developed sense of justice—even the highest form of justice we can imagine—make endless, conscious torment more palatable?
God, through the inspired writers of the Bible, teaches and models His definition of holiness and justice, and commands people to follow in His ways. He says: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). Justice is a huge theme in the Old Testament. Read Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets, and see how often God commands us to be just, with many specific examples about what justice looks like. Micah 6:8 says: “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”.
When God teaches about justice, what are some of His examples? He shows how thieves are to pay restitution, while murderers deserve death. Accidents are judged much less severely than intentional crimes. No favoritism or bribes are allowed. God implores His people to learn to do justice, to love it, and to do it faithfully. Israel was often judged as a nation for the ineffective application of God’s principles of justice. God expects us to implement His patterns of justice in the world.
Where in the scriptures does God ever teach his people to torture anyone? Does He teach that if a child steals a stick of gum, they are to be locked away and burned for years and years? It’s not there! If God—the best teacher and communicator we will ever know—inspired the authors of the Bible, and the end of all of the millions of those who choose to reject Him and His offer of redemption is a just punishment that lasts an endless eternity, why does God never teach us to do justice like that?
In fact, God does teach us to do justice His way. He tells us to judge “according to their deeds”. In the same way, Jesus says those who reject God will be punished “according to their deeds” (Matthew 16:27). Checkout this Bible search for many similar examples. Is there anything a mortal person can do in an 80-year lifetime to deserve an infinite, unending punishment? No! This is why it violates our God-given sense of justice that He has developed in the Bible over thousands of years.
I believe in the sincerity of men like Francis Chan who honestly and humbly try to accept the traditional view because they want to honor God. There certainly are things that God does or says that are hard to understand, and we just have to trust Him. However, the traditional view of an endless hell does not fall into that category. It violates the clear teaching of what justice means in the scriptures.
As you’ll read in our free e-book, the Bible doesn’t teach that God is going to punish anyone for an endless eternity. The end of those who reject God in this life is a just punishment, followed by literal, final, unending cessation of existence (death). Request our free e-book for the scriptural details.