Common Questions about Hell
What about Purgatory?
Purgatory is an “in-between” state in Catholic theology meant to delineate the space between when we die and when we go to heaven. It is a condition in which the souls of Christians are made ready for heaven.
Evangelical Christians find the doctrine of purgatory suspicious for three reasons:  because it’s not found in the canon of the Scriptures, only in the apocrypha (specifically 2 Maccabees 12.41-16);  because the doctrine didn’t appear for almost 1100 years after Jesus left the earth; and  because purgatory depends upon special “revelation” given to the Catholic church during the Middle Ages. By appealing to the authority of the church at a time when it was selling indulgences to release souls from torment, this doctrine has no credible basis for belief among Protestants.
What about people who have never heard about Jesus—do they go to Hell?
Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me,” meaning that there is only one way to escape Hell and enter Heaven: a relationship with Jesus.
However, just as Jesus is the only way to Heaven, we must understand that there are many ways to find Jesus. Some find Jesus through intellectual belief, some through dreams (like Pharoah), some through visions (like Balaam), or prophesies or strange experiences.
We cannot overlook the creativity of God to get the gospel out. God wants people to be saved and is capable of revealing Himself to all in order for every single person to be given a justifiable opportunity to embrace their Creator.
What about babies? Do they go to Hell?
This is a disturbing question that’s asked a lot, especially among people who grew up in very religious homes where there is a lot of anger and hellfire and brimstone kind of talk. If they lose a child, they get terrified that the baby is going to end up in hell.
Consider this, however: “Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do what is Just?” (Genesis 18.25).
Since we know God is good, and He is the Judge of all, we can be confident that God will not unfairly damn any soul – especially innocents or invalids – to eternal torment.
In 2 Samuel 12, we read about King David’s son dying as an infant. It is a sad story, but in the midst of that sadness we read about David’s assurance that he will see his child in the next life. David has this unshakeable confidence that he will be with his dead child in the presence of God.
Finally, we know that Jesus had a special concern for children. Jesus gathers the children to himself and said: “Suffer not the little children to come unto me” (Matthew 19.14).
If you know someone who has lost a child and they’re worried about this (God forbid that you would ever be in that situation or that they would), you can give them all manner of comfort.
Is there a last chance for redemption at the time of our death?
No. There is a spectacular responsibility on the way you live right now. Live now the way you want to live for eternity. If what you want ultimately is to be with God then, then you must begin to be with God now.
Is there anything wrong with “Last Rites?”
Not necessarily. In fact, I think the idea of giving your life to God and committing your soul into His care with your dying breaths is a beautiful and sincere notion. Some people, however, use the Last Rites as a cop out. They plan to live like fools, rejecting God in this life, and then quickly beg for forgiveness at the end to sneak their way into God’s good graces. In a case like this, which – sadly – is surprisingly common, we must ask ourselves how sincere our “last-minute” repentance truly is—if it is insincere, we risk Hell. Are you willing to risk an eternity in torment on a gamble like that?
Do you believe eternal positions are fixed at death forever more? Why or why not?
The people who go to Hell are there because they don’t want to be with God. The Scriptures really seem to indicate that once you are there in Hell, there is no way out.
I love God, but have made mistakes and still prospered. Am I going to Hell?
That’s such a sad, sad question. I, too, love God and I have made mistakes and still prospered. I make mistakes all the time. I get mad at my kids. I lose my cool. Ben jokingly said that it’s never safe to take me to a conference of church leaders because it’s like taking a Pit Bull to a playground…you’re just waiting for an “incident” to occur.
I am riddled with sin and God has still prospered me. I feel so gracious, so grateful and thankful to God for the life I have. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I don’t think my family has ever been better. That’s what we call grace—God’s grace for me, loving me in spite of my sin that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. He died just because he loved me in all my crap and all my garbage. He would die again tomorrow for me, for the person I am now. Whatever good things in this life I enjoy, I enjoy because of his grace, his common grace poured out to all humanity.
The last question I would separate from the previous statement.
“Am I going to Hell?”
I don’t know. I don’t even know who you are. Even if I knew you, I wouldn’t know if you’re going to Hell. The question is: Are you right with Jesus? If you make mistakes, do you repent? Do you thank God for his grace? Is your life oriented towards Jesus, to make him Lord, to confess that he is Lord? Do your actions belie your belief that he is, in fact, raised from the dead and God is, in fact, at work in you?
What does it mean that Christ descended into Hell?
Jesus proved his love for us by descending into Hell – a theological bit of pizzazz rarely talked about, though ultimately very significant.
Here it is in a nutshell:
We believe that Jesus died and descended into the depths of Hades (Ephesians 4.8-10). He did not suffer, for his suffering was completed on the cross (John 19.30). He preached to those tormented because of their sin (1 Peter 3.18, 20; 4.4), spreading the fragrance of himself even into Hell (2 Corinthians 2.14-16). He departed (Acts 2.27, 31), bearing the keys of Hades (Revelation 1.18) and destroying Death itself (Hebrews 2.14).
The doctrine of the descent into Hell is first and foremost a doctrine about love, God’s love for us, and the power of that love to go to all lengths, to descend to all depths and to go through virtually every barrier in order to redeem a wounded, huddled, frightened, paranoid, alienated, and unfree humanity.
Did God create Hell? If so, why did He create something from which we need saving?
The most accurate theological answer is that Hell is not necessarily a place that God created. It’s a place from which God has withdrawn. It’s the place where he is not, rather than the place where everything is as he wants it to be.
So, why did he need something from which we need saving? The question is maybe misplaced. The question is: Will you live with him? That’s the real question.
If you’re a Christian and you continually sin, is there ever a point where you can cross the line, where you sin too much and are condemned to Hell?
No, you can’t sin too much for the grace of God to make up the difference. There is always grace for you (cf 2 Corinthians 12.9). Think about when Jesus told his disciples to forgive not only seven times seven, but seventy times seven (cf Matthew 18.22).
When I worked for Campus Crusade, we used to say that question is misplaced. Imagine that in order for you to get to heaven, figuratively speaking, you would have to live on the moon and the only way you could get to the moon was to jump high enough to arrive there under your own power. In other words, you had to be good enough or athletic enough or whatever super power enough to jump from here to the moon. Some of you might be able to jump only 6 inches and some of you might be able to jump four feet, but nobody can ever jump all the way to the moon.
So, in effect, the question of our relative sinfulness is moot, because nobody is sinless enough or not quite so sinful as to ever make up the difference. God’s grace covers for everybody, no matter how crappy you are, which I’m particularly happy about.
The question as to whether there is ever a point where you can cross the line or sin too much—the question refers to that scripture about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. There’s a blasphemy of Holy Spirit—one sin which can never be forgiven (Mark 3.29). Basically, if you do this one sin, you blaspheme the Holy Spirit and automatically go to hell. The whole idea of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate rejection of God.
The only way you can blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to reject God, reject God, reject God, reject God, and then die. Even if you were still alive and rejecting God and rejecting God and rejecting God, there’s still grace. There’s still grace for everybody. There’s still space for everybody, because Jesus, again, is standing there saying, “Come, come to the banquet. There’s room for everyone.”
So, if you’re a Christian and continually sin, is there ever a point where you can cross the line or sin too much? No, not if you keep fighting and trying to live as God intends you to live, not if you keep repenting, not if you keep inviting the Spirit to change you. Just don’t give up.