Is it Just to Allow People to Go to Hell? (Part 6)

This is the latest in a series of posts about hell. the other posts lay the foundation for this post, especially posts 1 and 2.

Question: Hell is not mentioned in the Old Testament, or heaven either. It seems that if a teaching was as important as hell, it would have been clearly taught to all people at all times.

Answering this involves several related concepts. First, we must realize that the logic of this argument appears to rest on a couple of opinions, namely that God should have made the teachings clear to all people in all times, and that it is not clear enough in the OT. Being opinions, they do not form a logical proof of anything. They are certainly not a logical disproof of the existence of hell.

Second, several important teachings are not taught in earlier time periods, but taught in later ones. 

  • The law of Moses was not revealed until after the Exodus, leaving people to live and die for centuries prior to this point without this key teaching. Many acts were legal prior to Moses but made capital offenses when the Mosaic law was given. Capital offenses are arguably equally important to hell.  
  • Many years prior to Abraham, there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God set apart a distinct people. Gentiles were kept separate and outside of Israel under much of the OT, then brought into fellowship with God in the NT (Ephesians 3:4-11). Paul calls this a mystery which was not revealed in former times, but a “mystery hidden for ages in God.” (v.9). Something as important as whether it is possible to be in a right relationship with God is not a trivial matter.
  • God changed his dispensations with mankind several times. In the beginning, man was to only eat vegetables (Gen. 2:16), then was allowed to eat all kinds of meat also (Gen. 9:3), then is allowed to only eat certain kinds of meat (Lev. 11), then is allowed to eat all kinds of meat again (Mark 7:18-19). There is some indication that animal death might cease in the future (Rev. 21:4).  
  • Jesus the Messiah and the age of grace that He brought was only partially revealed to OT prophets, and the details were not revealed to them. (1 Peter 1:10-12). Some of the details of future events are not revealed yet (1 John 3:2).

These are but examples of things that God has kept hidden in former times, then revealed in later times. So God is under no obligation to reveal all teachings to everyone at all times, and progressive revelation is somewhat common in the Bible.

Third, as was mentioned earlier, the OT is not totally silent about the future state of mankind. While details of hell may not have been revealed as much in former times as in later times, the OT is not silent. Daniel 12:2 clearly tells us the grave will not be the final end of man, but there will be a future resurrection, some to good and some to unpleasantness; Isaiah 66:24 clearly suggests an eternal torment of some sort; several times the OT speaks of the ‘great and terrible’ day of the Lord, a later time which should be feared by those who do not follow God (Joel 2:31; Mal.4:5)

In conclusion, because it does not seem to me that God should reveal things the way He does, I have no logical reason to believe that hell does not exist.

Question: Since hell is not mentioned much in the Old Testament, but many times in the New Testament, the NT writers must have gotten the teaching from other religious stories, such as the Egyptian Osiris religion and others.

First, this is again an opinion given without a proof.

Second, when comparing multiple things, such as religious teachings, we must not merely compare the things which are similar, but also compare the things which are different. It is not fair to only compare such obvious and general things as that a religious figure was born, lived, taught a moral code, taught about an afterlife, then died and went somewhere after death. These things are so universal as to fit many religions in some sense.  We must also compare the things which are different. Some of the distinctions with the Christian heaven and hell are that we accept salvation as a free gift by faith, not by works; heaven is a state of worshiping Jesus; hell is a state of eternal separation; and heaven and hell are physical, not merely spiritual.

Third, the story of the Bible would appear to support that first century Jews were stringently trying to not imitate pagan religions. Starting in Joshua, Israel was to drive out and destroy all pagan nations. Israel did not do so, and for most of the rest of the OT were plagued with adapting pagan religious practices, such as sacrificing to Molech and Baal. The result was God’s judgment as described at the end of the books of Kings and Jeremiah. By the time we get to the New Testament, the Jewish people were stridently against being influenced by pagan peoples. The Jews were so fanatical about not being influenced by outside nations that that they would not even have contact with the Samaritans (John 4:9), a half-Jewish group. Paul, when he was with the Jewish leaders, was persecuting Christians to the point of death, even helping to stone Stephen to death (Acts 7:57-58). The Jews were so intent on keeping their ways without compromise that they were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. So if anything, the story of the Jews is that by the first century, they were stridently trying to not be influenced by other religions.

Fourth, the Osiris story is often used to compare to Jesus, but the comparision is mis-informed. There is actually very little comparison between Osiris, Horus, and Jesus or any New Testament teaching. See more details here and here.

 Question: The New Testament uses Greek terms to speak of the afterlife, so it must have been influenced by Greek culture.

After Alexander the Great, the language of common communication throughout the known world was Greek. The New Testament was written in the common Greek of the day, so it used Greek words. This does not prove that the Greek myths were copied into Christianity. Jesus and the NT writers often used terms with which their audience would be familiar.

Question: If hell and heaven are so important, why doesn’t God make it more clear?

Good question. If it were up to me, I would have written it in the sky with fire. But the Bible deals with this issue:  the account in Luke 16 has the man in torment, wishing to tell his family of the horribleness of hell. He asks to go and tell them, but is refused, being told “if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should return from the dead.”(v.31). This is exactly what happened, for Jesus did fantastic sign miracles and even rose from the dead, yet some people who saw these did not believe. So some people will not believe no matter what evidence they see. More evidence will not convince anyone who is determined to not believe.

For some good statements about hell, see here.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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6 Responses to Is it Just to Allow People to Go to Hell? (Part 6)

  1. Nate says:

    So it honestly doesn’t seem strange to you that God would let most people who have lived on this planet never know that they would be judged and either sent to Heaven or Hell for all eternity? Did he just not love them as much as he loved people who were born much later?

    Also, I don’t know why you make points like this:

    First, this is again an opinion given without a proof.

    No one can prove anything about God or religion. The best we can do is evidence, and the evidence has been provided. The evidence shows that the Bible’s teachings on the afterlife change dramatically over time. We see that occur naturally in all societies. So is it more likely that the Jews were just another society like all the others whose beliefs have changed over time, or were they really receiving divine commands from the one and only God, and he decided to change his teachings on what eternity is like?

    I’m not going to take up more of your time, just know that I disagree with virtually everything you wrote here. And I actually find it hard to believe that you’re completely satisfied with your answers. If it’s okay, I’m going to post a link to what I wrote on this subject some time ago, since it deals with much of what you covered here. Here’s the link.

    Thanks

    • humblesmith says:

      Opinions are common in theology. The value of learning philosophy is that it trains us to know when we have proved a point and when we are sneaking in invalid arguments. The point is indeed an opionion to say that something is mentioned in more detail in one part of the Bible, and less detail in others, then concluding that it is “obvious” or is “evidence” that the Jews were influenced by pagan cultures. The case in your post is not proven; you are merely taking an argument from silence and applying your opinion as to the cause. By contrast, I showed from history and the Bible that if anything, the first century Jews were less likely to be influenced by outside culutres, not more likely, as your position holds.

      Saying “no one can prove anything about God or religion” is either another opinion or self-refuting. If you are saying that “the evidence shows” but can’t prove, it is unclear as to whether you are making a point. And as I showed in the post, the evidence does not show that teachings on hell in the Bible have changed over time. Plus this seems to ignore the several proofs for God, such arguments as Kalam, vertical cosmological, moral, and others.

      Nate, I’ve read your stuff, and I think you’re an honest guy. But respectfully, you are using emotional personal justifications, not reasons based in logic or evidence.

      As for whether it seems strange about how many people go to hell verses heaven, my response is this: First, truth is not determined by what seems best to us, but by what exists in reality. So whether it seems strange to me does not prove what is actually the case in the Bible or the world around us. Second, not all Christians agree that the vast majority of humans will go to hell. See the work of Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society, who makes a case that the percentages that we commonly think of as being saved is false. Third, the Bible gives us some indication that God sends His servants to pagan lands to solve this exact problem. Fourth, God answers this question, in a sense. Several places in the scriptures, such as in Job, He refuses to be questioned. In the end, if we say that our sense of what we think ought to be is enough reason to question God, we are placing ourselves over God, saying we know better. In the Bible, He does not give us that option.

      Again, I believe you are a sincere guy. But so far, all I’ve seen is opinions and “seems to me” type arguments which do not provide logically valid arguments.

      I’m allowing your link here; I would ask that you put a link to mine from yours.

  2. M. Rodriguez says:

    I’ve thourghly read both the comments and post serires. I actually think the concept of hell is a by product of Jesus (if he actually existed) being a hellenistic Jew. And assimalating into the Greek culture their concept of hades with the Jewish culture in creating hell.

    • humblesmith says:

      As stated above in this post, the evidence shows otherwise. The evidence shows that the Jews were influenced by other nations in the Old Testament, but by the time of the New Testament, the Jewish nation was stridently not influenced by other nations. For example, when Paul was a Jewish leader, he so much did not want this new Christian group to influence Israel that he was throwing them in prison, most likely even to the point of death. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well in John 4, John tells us Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, and they were half Jewish.
      We are all entitled to our opinion, but when we look at the evidence in light of reason and logic, we find that the evidence points to hell being an inspired teaching of Jesus and the New Testament writers, most definitely not influenced by other nations.

  3. Jack says:

    In this series you quote from C.S. Lewis to assert that Hell is a conscious choice while at the same time quoting scripture about the wicked being severed from among the just and cast into a fiery furnace resulting in weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. So how do you reconcile those two very different descriptions of hell?

    • humblesmith says:

      Good question. The answer is in the way humans dislike God, as explained in Part 2. In our natural state, we hate God and do not want to come into His light. Men hate the light and prefer darkness, as we’re told in John 3:19. The conscious choice is to reject God and all things Godly. They prefer weeping and torment in hell over what they hate worse, which is God. The analogy is similar to a drug addict, who may no longer get pleasure out of the addiction, but hates the idea of giving it up, and hates rehab, so he willingly chooses the suffering of the addiction. Those who reject God are given many chances to accept God in this life, but do not want the things of God, so in the end God separates them from the just and gives them what they prefer: an eternity of separation from God. Being with God is bliss, and without God is weeping.

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