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Question 82

Q: I can accept most of the doctrines taught by Christians, but I can’t accept the doctrine of an eternal hell which says that God brutally tortures non-believers forever in the flames of hell.

Is it a sin to practice torture like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein have done? The Christian community condemns the actions of these and others like them, but believes it’s okay for God to torture people in hell.

How can God say in eternity that there will be no more sorrow, no more crying, and no more pain if there’s this torture chamber somewhere where billions of people are screaming, crying, and hollering in pain as they’re being tortured by Almighty God?

Asked by: William, Nebraska

A: Well William you certainly have chosen a very, very difficult question for me to answer. And it’s one I’m sure that has plagued all of us, and one that I’ve thought about many, many times.

I’ve preached about hell, I’ve written about hell, so your question in one sense, is not new. But I need to say that you need to revise your image of God. God doesn’t torture people like Saddam Hussein or Hitler did. They did it with wrong motives. They wanted to have political expediency, or it was done out of vengeance.

It seems to me that hell is where people bear the weight of their own guilt forever. And one of the things that distinguishes it from the situations that you described is that while those others (Hitler, Stalin, Hussein) were unjust, hell will be just. As a matter of fact, because responsibility is based on knowledge, not everyone in hell is going to suffer the same way or for the same reasons. It is going to be finely tuned justice.

And yes, hell is terrible, but we must remember that sin is terrible, and God is eminently holy.

Now let me respond to the second part of your question regarding no tears and sorrow in heaven. We don’t know less in heaven than we do on Earth; it’s not as if we won’t know that there are people suffering in hell. But I believe that we will see everything from God’s perspective with such clarity that if God can “be happy,” throughout all of eternity, we will also be happy. And we will be able to say with truthfulness: great and wonderful is the Lord and His judgments are unsearchable and just. That’s the best I can do with your very tough question.

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