Readers will hopefully recall that in a recent blog, I mentioned a co-worker who had asked me about Hell and how I insisted on starting at the beginning. The reply I got going into a doctrine of God as basic as can be done in a couple of minutes is “That still doesn’t answer my question.” Well, I didn’t get to answer him there, but I can say something here.
The first question that is to be asked though is simply “Why do people go there?” The answer many of you would probably give is that they do not accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness of their sins. That is an understandable answer, but as one who can tend to disagree with some points, I must say that I do disagree with this one.
Let us examine it more closely. Notice that they do not accept Christ’s forgiveness of their sins. What is that last part but forgiveness of sins? Suppose we had a sinless individual who lived who never wronged God once. (I know Christ did that, but for sake of argument, suppose there was another.) Would that person need forgiveness? No.
The sad truth is that we’ve all seemed to fail at that plan for salvation. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that God instituted what we would call a “Plan B.”
If they do not have Christ and Christ is what provides forgiveness of sins, then it follows that they do not have forgiveness. For those who are wondering about my earlier post on those who never heard, I would say God knows what such people would have done if they had had the knowledge of Christ. It can simply be said that in the end, the judge of all things will do right and in Christian thought, no one will be able to say “It wasn’t fair.”
Let us suppose then that we are at the judgment day and we see the books being opened and there is someone there who does not have Christ, which will sadly happen. What are they going to be judged on? It will not be because they did not accept Christ, although if they had the knowledge of the truth and denied it, I would say that certainly counts as sin. Instead, it will be the same way any good and fair judge would judge them.
God will judge them based on their works. You want to weigh your works out on the balance against your sins? Go ahead. Some of you might be concerned I’m getting into an Islamic ideal here. Note though what I said about the goodness of God. To go against all that in every sin is indeed a great evil. Can there be any good that can overcome denying goodness itself? I know not of one for even that good could be seen as wanting to replace God.
Thus, God judges someone based on their works and if they are found wanting, which they are, then they receive the just penalty for their works. It is not simply that they got the wrong answer on a theological exam. It is that they spent their lives living in rebellion against that which is good and this is the culmination of their lives. The same is true for believers. It is not that they just got the right answer on a theological exam. The demons could ace the theological exam better than we can. It is that they saw that and they lived accordingly.
Now some of you might still be wondering if this is fair really. Why can’t God just forgive everyone and let them all in? How is it that a loving God can allow anyone to go to Hell? For those people, I say at this point, stay tuned.