One of the most common arguments I hear from non-Christians runs something like this: “How could an all loving God send people to hell? They burn for eternity? It seems like the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Now, there are all kinds of approaches to answering this question — but I think an effective one, that is usually overlooked is “Exactly what do you believe hell is? Why do you believe that?”
God is Just.
The bible doesn’t say a whole lot about hell except for that it is a very bad place that you want to avoid at all costs… It does use a lot of similes and metaphors about fire and burning torment, but it is figurative language. I literal approach to bible accepts that figurative langauge ought to be read figuratively and literal language ought to be read literally.
I do not think we have an accurate picture of Hell. It is not fair to imagine something up in our evil human hearts, then turn around and judge God for sending people to the place of our creation. That really isn’t giving God a fair shake.
God is Just. If Hell does not seem just, then it is probably not God that is wrong. Our vision of Hell is wrong.
My vision of hell goes something like what is portrayed in Isaiah 28:
I see Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plumb line;
and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
Then your covenant with death will be annulled,
and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
you will be beaten down by it.
As often as it passes through it will take you;
for morning by morning it will pass through,
by day and by night;
and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.
I have taught this before to a rather diverse group, and I think this idea was a sheer terror to some – The idea that we build a shelter of lies to convince ourselves that we are going to be okay. Unless you are not connected to the foundation that God has set – the Cornerstone (his name is Jesus), The flood of truth is going to sweep through and wash away all of the lies. No matter how sincerely you believed the lies that you told yourself to numb yourself to the pain of death. The lies will be gone, and you will be standing there with only the truth staring you in the face for eternity. All of your sin will be naked before you, as plain as day. No lie will work. No excuse will be believed. You are who you are in spite of all of your pretending.
Anyway, that would hurt in the same way as eternal flames. And this is much more believable than a Halloween cartoon that we extracted from some figurative language. It is not unjust that lies die, and the truth is eternal. That is justice. Now I am not saying there will not be eternal flames — There might be.. But there will most certainly be victorious truth.. And that should scare us plenty with or without fire.