I just can’t. Something just isn’t right. I know this might rub some the wrong way. That isn’t my intention.
I’ve struggled with how to present these things for weeks, months even. I just can’t dictate the terms of unconditional “surrender” to “unbelievers” under threat of everlasting burning in hell. Something here just doesn’t add up.
Had I the power, I would save every single person from such a fate, and God is much more powerful than me. He is also much more loving, gracious, faithful, and merciful than I am. Placing him in the role of eternal tormentor just doesn’t make any sense, especially for beings he created knowing their fate in advance.
If I’m called to love my enemy, why couldn’t God love so much more than me, especially if my love for others flows from him?
If God never changes and his love is never ending, what causes him to change when our heart stops beating?
If God wins in the end, what are the terms of his winning? If he loves each and every one of his creations infinitely, than losing even one person to everlasting torment would mean he wasn’t all-powerful to save them.
If God’s will be done, how does that will get trumped by man’s?
How is it good news or love to repent under threat of everlasting torture?
Paul only mentions Hades once (that I can find) in that Jesus has defeated it (1 Cor 15:55).
Jesus mentions Hades in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (prior to Jesus claiming the keys to Hades and setting the captives free! Rev 1:18, Eph 4:8, Luke 4:18). He mentions Gehenna a handful of times which means the Valley of Hinnom. This was a valley that was often burning that originally hosted child sacrifices (by fire) and mass corpse burning after major wars. This was to perhaps warn of the judgment that was coming on Israel via the Romans in 66-70AD (see also Matthew 24 and my posts on that chapter if interested).
In addition, in all of the Old Testament, “hell” is not directly referenced. Mainly, only the word Sheol, meaning the grave, was translated to say hell in some versions of the Bible.
Why wasn’t God more adamant and clear about proclaiming hell in the Old Testament, through Jesus, or through the Apostle Paul?
All in all, what the Good News was about for the first 500 years of Christianity, and what it is still about today, is the message that all have been chosen for salvation. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and defeated death so we can live victorious lives now, in this world. We are enabled to have true joy and hope. We are enabled to truly love others without comparing ourselves to see if we are better at avoiding hell-fire based on our relative degree of sinfulness.
How can anyone tell a grieving family that their loved one is burning in hell forever?
How could anyone, especially God, live “happily ever after” in Paradise knowing that millions or even billions are endlessly suffering?
Is punishment for the benefit of those being punished or the one doing the punishing? How does God benefit from our corrective punishment, especially for all eternity?
I believe God is good. He is love. And he has a plan.
Being so hellbent on “good news” that teaches everlasting torment is just confusing to me. And it’s confusing to those hurting who are only heaped with guilt and shame instead of being shown the love Jesus exemplifies.