The thought of hell lasting forever seems unimaginable and unreasonable to most skeptics, and even some Christians truthfully. They ask “how is it fair that hell lasts forever since we’ve only sinned for a finite period of time”? Their opinion suggests that the punishment for sin doesn’t fit the crime. In fact, it seems awfully unfair to have to suffer in hell for all of eternity.
So, Whattaya do?
Ask a question: Does the consequence for a crime depend on the length of time it took to commit it, or the seriousness of the crime?
If the punishment for a crime was determined by the time it took to commit one, then a murderer who took one second to pull the trigger and kill someone should be sentenced to one second in prison! Or, let’s take the rapist who took one day to plan and rape a woman; would one day in prison seem like an appropriate punishment for that type of crime? Hopefully you’re saying no right now.
The length of time it takes to commit a crime has less to do with the length of punishment than it does the seriousness of the crime itself. The severity and gravity of the crime determines the length of punishment. Taking ten minutes to rob a bank is more serious that taking ten minutes to steal a loaf of bread. I think this is self evident and agreeable to most people.
So, why is hell forever?
First and foremost, it’s the severity of the crime that’s paramount. We’ve sinned against a holy and righteous God who has given us life. Picture the severity of to lying to your friend. Now picture the severity of lying to your parents. What about lying to the police? Or, what about lying to a supreme court judge? Can you see how the responsibility increases with the elevated authority of each person?
The problem is not an eternal hell. The problem is not taking sin seriously enough.
We haven’t just sinned against a friend, our parents, a policeman, or even a judge; we’ve sinned against the infinite and holy righteous judge of the universe who created all things. We’ve rejected His payment for our sins in His Son Jesus and claimed that we’re good enough to go to heaven. An infinite crime deserves an infinite punishment. And, have you ever considered that we will continue to sin in hell? If our ongoing sin continues, then so will our ongoing consequence.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. If you turn from your sin, and place your faith in Jesus as the payment for them, God will give you eternal life. This is not something that anyone should take lightly.
So, now you know Whattaya Do. Thanks for asking.
Anthony Uvenio is one of the directors of New York Apologetics along with Nick Mitchell. He serves in his local church and seeks to equip people to engage the culture with the truth claims of Christianity. You can watch him debate an atheist here: DEBATE