We are continuing our meditation on eternal things and explicitly thinking of the topic of Hell. Some say that Hell is a place where a person who rejects God's free pardon for sin is annihilated. The word annihilation means "to reduce to utter ruin or nonexistence; to destroy utterly." Three times in the passage we looked at yesterday, Jesus used the Greek word aiōnios, which means “Eternal, perpetual, to describe the eternal separation of people from God in Hell (Matthew 25:41-46). That does not sound like annihilation. It is the clear teaching of Jesus that someone who rejects the gospel and continues in his sin, at the end of his life, will suffer eternal punishment.
Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, leader of Russia from 1922-1953, accompanied her father at death's door and said that she would never sit alongside an unbeliever who was dying again. She said that he went into Hell kicking and screaming. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Voltaire was said to have died crying out in torment, as did King Charles the ninth of France, David Hume, and Thomas Paine. Speaking for those who do know God, C.M. Ward said, "No Christian has ever been known to recant on his deathbed."
The question we must ask and answer is, why would a loving God send anyone to Hell? How bad does a person have to be to be sent to Hell? Is there a line that a person crosses? Jesus Himself has answered this question:
16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:16-18).
The question isn’t why would a loving God send people to Hell. The question is Why would anyone choose hell over a loving God? The creator God has established the way to salvation. The situation is that the entire human race is in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God's ideal for living. None of us can say we have never sinned. If you have only sinned once, then it is enough to make you a sinner. We all suffer from the same disease. Sin is what eternally separates us from God. James puts it this way, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10). If there could have been another way for God to get you to heaven, apart from sending His Son to die a cruel and torturous death, don't you think He would have taken it? God has given Man the gift of free will, but His justice demands that rebellion has to be penalized. A holy God cannot allow sin to be in His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). So, He honors the choice that a rebel who refuses to repent has made.
Due to His love for the human race, God initiated a rescue plan. The Son of God would take on human form and be a substitute to take the place of guilty man, taking the punishment upon Himself. In that way, His justice would be satisfied, and He can reach out in love to save all who will turn their lives over to Him and walk in obedience to Him. When we repent (change our minds and the direction of our lives) and receive Christ, the Spirit of God gives us the power to live for Christ. We also hold the answer for others, and the Holy Spirit provides us with the strength and boldness to speak to people about God's rescue plan for the human race. We damage Satan's kingdom when we talk about the truth of God's Word, and release precious people from his control. God has told us what happens in the end, and guess what, those who belong to Christ win! Keith Thomas