Friday, April 8, 2011

An Introduction to the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment: Reconciling the Love of God with a Literal Hell

A few days ago, I was sent a very angry e-mail by a theologian whose theology I wrote on at another blog some time ago. The individual stated that he disagreed with my interpretation of his work, cited pages in his book where he supposedly “proved” he disagreed with me, and told me that I was not being “intellectually honest” about his position. I received his e-mail that night, and, upset about being labeled a “liar” (that’s basically what I was called), decided to write him back and begin to show all the places where he said things that contradicted what he claimed he believed. He wrote me back and basically told me that the “A” (one of his claims) and “non-A” (another of his claims) could not be reconciled...that he was not trying to reconcile them...that they are merely “tensions” of the Scriptural text that we have to affirm and live with not knowing. My response? This person affirmed such tensions in the text because he wants to argue on one hand (as a Calvinist) that one does not need faith to be regenerated (saved) by God; then, however, his inclusivism (this theologian is inclusivist) turned around and wanted to argue that God can save individuals without explicit faith, but the evangelized must explicitly confess the name of Jesus in order to be saved. If the evangelized do not, then they will eternally perish because they have rejected the Gospel. What this theologian is doing, however, is setting up two standards: one for the the evangelized, and one for the unevangelized. But where does Scripture do this? Does Scripture state that there are “two” kinds of belief that Christ will accept: explicit and implicit? Do the Scriptures ever state that anyone, anywhere, will be “unevangelized” and allowed to respond to general revelation for salvation? The text does not state any of this; rather, the text distinguishes between “those who believe” and those who “do not believe” (John 3:18). In addition, the apostle Paul himself stated that
“truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:30-31a, NKJV).
The testimony of Scripture is that now, all men must “repent” of their sins, confessing them, and believe on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation. Nowhere does the apostle Paul state that some will never get the opportunity to hear the gospel or to confess and believe. As much as it may seem that geographical circumstances are varied, no one will be able to say in the end, “I could not believe because I never got the gospel.” God is sovereign enough to reach individuals, even those who do not have access to a human missionary. This is why the apostle Paul as a prisoner could write, “I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9). Because the Word of God is not chained, not bound by human strength, God’s Word can travel to even the deepest, darkest recesses of the earth and transform the hardest of hearts.
So I think that this theologian’s so-called “perceived problems” that he finds in the text are really his own personal “perceived problems.” God’s Word is clear and accurate on the way of salvation and of eternal judgment. God has clearly spoken and revealed Himself, and if we fail to understand, it is not because God did not clearly communicate. The fault lies with us.
It is because of this theologian (who is Calvinist, inclusivist, and a conditional immortalist), Rob Bell and his latest book, “Love Wins,” as well as the likes of Clark Pinnock, Amos Yong, and Todd Mangum (see last few posts), that I have decided to finally produce a series on the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment. I think this new series is fitting for the time in which we live, where the gospel of Jesus Christ is getting exchanged for nothing short of lies and deceit. Make no mistake, world: Jesus Christ is coming back for all those who believe. And for those who do not believe, Hell eternal is all that awaits. Yes, Hell is a real place and for those who do not confess Him, Hell is where such individuals will find themselves. The rich man in the teaching on the rich man and Lazarus is no exception (see Luke 16:19-31).
So what is the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment? The Doctrine itself states that there is a divine judgment for all persons who do not receive the gospel, repent of their sins, and trust in Christ for salvation. The goal of this series is to demonstrate that the Scriptures affirm this doctrine, that Hell is a real place, and that punishment is not just metaphorical (where, as Rob Bell says, “we create our own ‘hells’ everyday"), but also literal and physical. That the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment is a real Christian teaching is affirmed by the Hebrew writer’s words to persecuted Jewish Christians:
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).
As can be seen from these two verses, eternal judgment is a doctrine taught by the earliest Christians, and it is a doctrine that is being destroyed and eliminated in these modern times. This series will tackle this doctrine and the passages that argue in favor of it. With each new post, I pray that your love for God is renewed and that, for those who read these words who have never repented and trusted Christ, I pray you will do so. Please respond here if you ever need to know how to trust and receive Christ as your personal Savior.
Universalism, Conditional Immortality, and Inclusivism are nothing short of deceptive doctrines that will lead you astray. Don’t be led astray; don’t be led from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). Trust and believe in Christ today---for “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13, Joel 2:32). God bless.


The Seeking Disciple said...

Great post.

Deidre Richardson, B.A., M.Div. said...


Thanks so much. I am actually teaching on the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment (as shown in Hebrews 6:2) in a couple of weeks in a class at my church. Pray for me, that this series would please the Lord and aid the body of Christ. Your support means so much.