The Justice of Hell

In my sermon yesterday on Deuteronomy 25 I mentioned how hell (the eternal conscious suffering of all those who have not been united to Christ by faith) is perfectly just; that is, the punishment is in proportion to the offense.

This is a hard topic and there is much that could be said on it.  Here are just three concepts that have helped me understand how eternity is not excessive.

(1) There is a gradation of punishment in hell based upon the level of one’s rejection of God.  Jesus said to those who heard him and rejected him, “I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Mt. 11:24).  Will the person who never heard the gospel be condemned to hell for eternity?  Yes, because they suppressed the knowledge of God that they did have from general revelation (cf. Rom. 1:18ff).  But it there will be a more severe judgment for those who had greater light and exposure to the gospel.  God will be fair.

(2) Punishment is proportionate to the magnitude of the One sinned against.  Sin against an infinite God deserves an infinite punishment that can never be repaid by a mere human.  After preaching I came home to find that my dog had gotten sick and soiled my $100 rug from Target.  It reminded me of this illustration from Jerry Bridges:

Suppose you want a new rug to cover the wooden floor in your living room.  Being of modest means, you go [to] the local discount store and pay three hundred dollars for a rug.  I come into your house with a bottle of black indelible ink and spill that ink on your rug.  I have just ruined your three-hundred-dollar rug.  But suppose you are a wealthy person and you pay thirty thousand dollars for an expensive Persian rug.  If I spill ink on that rug, it is an entirely different matter.  Why is that true?  It is the same act on my part.  In both instances, I have spilled black indelible ink on a rug.  The difference, of course, lies in the value of the rug.

God’s holiness is infinite.  We don’t just have accidental spills, we have spite.  When we think that eternal hell is overkill, we reveal the littleness which we view God’s glory.

(3) People in hell never stop sinning.  Not only is our debt infinite and unable to ever be repaid by us, but those in hell continue to add sin to sin.  Jesus describes hell as a place where there is “gnashing of teeth” (i.e. Mt. 8:12).  That is not an indication of people’s pain.  It reveals people’s hearts.  Gnashing of teeth in the Bible indicates a deep hatred, anger, and resentment (cf. Job 16:9; Pss. 35:16, 37:12, 112:10; Lam. 2:16; Acts 7:54).  Nobody is repentant or regenerated in hell.  They continue to bristle at God’s authority.

 

The time of salvation is now.  Praise God for the infinitely valuable Christ and his sufficient sacrifice!  Let’s spread the news…

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