“No one deserves to be nailed to a cross forever.” In response to a movie review I made about the movie Christian Mingle, Christopher Sansone made that comment and continued to explain why he refuses to believe in eternal damnation:
No one asks to be born. Nobody deserves eternal torture. Not even Hitler. Jehovah is a God of justice. The wages of sin is (eternal) death. The gift of salvation is eternal life in paradise.
Let me respond to this in two ways.
First, the Scripture says damnation is eternal, so if you do not like what the Scripture teaches take that up with Jehovah, not me.
Second, those who oppose eternal damnation do so under the presupposition that the universe is man-centered, and not God centered. In a Theocentric universe eternal damnation makes sense.
Lastly, as a slight addendum, I will reflect on the possibility that damnation exists in certain gradations which would be similar to Dante’s Inferno.
1. Scripture and Eternal Damnation. The Scripture is so abundantly clear concerning the issue, I do not need to add commentary beyond what the Scripture plainly teaches:
Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind (Is 66:24).
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-44).
[T]he devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10, 15).
2. The Theocentric Universe. Sansone makes an obvious error: he presumes that God should be judged by man-centered view of ethics. Let’s observe.
“No one deserves to be nailed to a cross forever,” he asks. Why? “No one asks to be born.”
What does someone choosing their birth have to do with anything? I presume the logic is that it would not be fair to be born if God knew that by virtue of being born, you would then go on to live a life that would later merit eternal damnation.
There are obvious Biblical problems with this. First, Paul writes, “[W]ho are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it” (Rom 9:20)?
I suppose Sansone would want to answer back, “But I’m not a clay pot, why can’t I question the idea that you can make anyone in the womb knowing that they will grow up and reap the fruits of hell?”
God simply retorts, “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11).
Translation: “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps 135:6).
When we realize the above, we see that simply not asking to be born is irrelevant. God does not do whatever pleases man. He does whatever pleases Himself.
“Nobody deserves eternal torture. Not even Hitler,” Sansone continues.
Why would this be so? For one, the Scripture says that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).
The sin is eternal. Can an eternal sin somehow not have an eternal punishment? God can just forget about it or something? This is why eternal damnation and eternal salvation makes sense. Those of us who have faith in Christ share in the benefit that Christ has paid our eternal penalty.
How? Indeed the crucifixion only lasted for hours, but it was not the length of the punishment but Who was punished. Jesus is God, and God is eternal. So, a finite punishment on an infinite God is an infinite punishment. Christ can easily absorb the punishment of every finite man that will ever exist because He is eternal and infinite.
In the same way, those men outside of Christ have committed a finite amount of sins, but against an infinite, eternal God. Thereby, their sins merit a punishment that is both infinite, and eternal. I would venture to say that if you reject Christ, ultimately you reject the Holy Spirit that is given to all who believe in Him. This makes all who reject Christ guilty of an eternal sin.
Sansone missed all of this because he made man the measure. However, if we reflect upon the greatness of God, His forebearance and mercy, His justice and love–the very thought of sinning against the infinite God who loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves is so reprehensible, so disgusting, to think that man gets off with a slap on the wrist is unthinkable. How could any of us, who love God, so happily see Him wronged by men and not desire that the wicked are punished for hating the One Being that is the most “unhateable?”
So, eternal damnation is not only explicitly Biblical, it is most obviously fair and just.
Is Everyone Punished the Same? It would seem that sinning against an eternal God would merit an eternally bad punishment. This would mean an infant that dies simply with original sin gets punished as bad as Hitler. I will speculate against this on two grounds.
First, we commit finite sins against an infinite God. Therefore, it makes the most sense that the punishment is infinite, but the degree of punishment is finite.
Second, the Scripture appears to lend some credibility to the above speculation. The Scripture says, “[I]t will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matt 10:15). Clearly, some cities and peoples have it “more tolerable” than others. This alone disproves the notion that all the wicked are simply eternally dead or “annihilated,” because such a punishment would be equally tolerable to all. Yet, the Scripture clearly states that this is not the case.
A couple, more tenuous Scriptures I will put forward are as follows:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin (John 15:22).
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30).
Both of these Scriptures require certain presuppositions when exegeting them. For one, we presume that neither the Pharisees nor idol-worshiping gentiles were going to heaven anyway. They were committing sins against God and they did not know Christ. So what the passage in John is saying is that the Pharisees are guilty of greater sin because they added on top of their list of sins rejecting Christ and His miracles. In a similar way, ancient gentiles were accountable for their sins but were not guilty of the additional sin of rejecting Christ, for He had not yet been declared to them. Therefore, Paul’s admonishment for them to repent is all the more serious, as now their sinfulness is all the more greater.
Now, if the above is the case, greater sinfulness would appear to necessitate a more intolerable judgment.
Lastly, religious hypocrisy appears to also merit greater punishment:
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29).
So, while all of the above may not prove that there are circles in Hell or anything like that, they are highly suggestive that there are different gradations of punishment.
Whatever God has ordained for the afterlife, we know Him to be just and fair. He is just and kind in all His ways (Ps 145:17), we can place our trust and confidence in Him. To God be all the glory. Amen.