God’s love for us is evident throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. With that in mind, one of the most common and reasonable criticisms of Christianity is to ask why a loving God would condemn someone to eternal torment. It seems like a valid question, so let’s consider it. Why would God do such a thing?
The interesting thing about the question is the presupposition it makes. You see, when we ask that question, we assume that we do not deserve eternal torment. A God who would claim to be loving while condemning an innocent person to eternal punishment is a contradiction. He would be a hypocrite at best; an absolute monster in the worst sense.
Sadly, our innocence is not what the Bible teaches us, and it certainly is not what we experience. Every one of us is guilty of something. No one is perfect, and we all know it.
Even so, we might conclude that eternal torment is a disproportionate response to our little sins. Again, we are betrayed by our presuppositions. We are accustomed to a society in which we earn what we get. Generally, those of us who work hard get more stuff in return: money, power, fame. Those of us who slack off do not make it as far. God’s judgment, on the other hand, is not like this. How we are judged is not a percentage grade; it’s pass or fail.
God is the righteous judge. That phrase may not mean much to us today, so let’s dig into it. The word “righteous” carries a lot of meaning with it. It means “fair” or “equitable.” It means “right.” It means “just,” which is what we look for in a person when we seek justice. It means “upright” in the moral sense. When God is described as righteous, what it means is that He is fair, that He provides justice, and that He is perfectly right morally. When God judges, He judges with righteousness.
That sounds wonderful until you consider that we are not righteous. God created us to be
exactly what He wanted. He made us so that we would pass, not fail, but when sin entered into the world, everything changed. Our most ancient ancestors chose to disobey God, and now we all know the pain of imperfection. Again, no one is perfect, and we all know it. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Every one of us is guilty, and we face God’s righteous judgment. We are already dead due to
our sin (Ephesians 2:1). In fact, though we may not sense it, God’s judgment is already upon us. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet, it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was [sic] suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.” Only God’s love and grace keeps us from His judgment right now, in this very second.
This sounds harsh to modern ears, but when we think about it, this is what we seek. We want criminals to be judged. We do not want rapists and molesters to lurk in the dark and claim victims. We do not want psychopaths with guns on the loose. We don’t even want the guy who ran the red light and cut us off to get away without a ticket. We want justice.
Justice is great until our turn comes. God’s judgment is perfect, which is terrible news for us.
That is why the gospel is, indeed, good news. Jesus came to forgive our sin. He has taken our punishment on Himself and offers us the inconceivable gift of forgiveness. Instead of experiencing God’s judgment, we can live in His love. What will you choose? Will you accept His forgiveness and follow Him? Send us your comments or questions on Facebook or private message!