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Posts tagged ‘hell’

We Are Being Lied to All the Time

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The devil no doubt has a place in our theology, but is he a category we even think about in the daily events of our lives?

Has it ever crossed your mind that not every thought that crosses your mind comes from you?

We are being lied to all the time.

Yet we never stop to say, “Wait a minute . . . who else is speaking here? Where are those ideas coming from? Where are those feelings coming from?”

If you read the saints from every age before the Modern Era-that pride-filled age of reason, science, and technology we all were thoroughly educated in–you’ll find that they take the devil very seriously indeed. As Paul says, “We are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). But we, the enlightened, have a much more commonsense approach to things. We look for a psychological or physical or even political explanation for every trouble we meet.

Who caused the Chaldeans to steal Job’s herds and kill his servants? Satan, clearly (Job 1:12, 17). Yet do we even give him a passing thought when we hear of terrorism today?

Who kept that poor woman bent over for eighteen years, the one Jesus healed on the Sabbath? Satan, clearly (Luke 13:16). But do we consider him when we are having a headache that keeps us from praying or reading Scripture?

Who moved Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the apostles? Satan again (Acts 5:3). But do we really see his hand behind a fallout or schism in ministry?

Who was behind that brutal assault on your own strength, those wounds you’ve taken? As William Gurnall said, “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons.”

There is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes of our lives than most of us have been led to believe.

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(Wild at Heart , 152-53)

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“Choose life”

SOURCE:  Jonathan Edwards as posted by Tolle Lege

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God!

The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him.

The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

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–Jonathan Edwards, “Dying to Gain” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 (The Works of Jonathan Edwards Series) Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 588-589. Edwards was 19 years old when he preached this sermon.

We Are at War

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Notes:  Yes, as the author of the article below states, “We are at war.”  That is a fact of life this side of heaven.  At the same time, we, who have a personal faith in Christ, are aligned with and belong to the One who has overcome Satan, death, sin, and the world and is the Victor in the war (Rev 3:21). 

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons.

By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn’t just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. Why won’t we face this? I know so few people who will face this. The offer is life, but you’re going to have to fight for it, because there’s an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.

There is something set against us.

We are at war.

I don’t like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want.

This is not Eden.

You probably figured that out.

This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld’s world, this is not Survivor.

The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death.

I am sorry if I’m the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.

Where did you think all this opposition was coming from?

(Waking the Dead , 12-13)

DEMONS HAVE FAITH!

SOURCE:  W. W. Wiersbe

It comes as a shock to people that demons have faith!

What do they believe?

For one thing, they believe in the existence of God; they are neither atheists nor agnostics. They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ when He was on earth, they bore witness to His sonship (Mark 3:11–12). They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Luke 8:31); and they also recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge (Mark 5:1–13). They submit to the power of His Word.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord!” (Deut. 6:4) This was the daily affirmation of faith of the godly Jew. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19, NIV).

The man with dead faith was touched only in his intellect; but the demons are touched also in their emotions. They believe and tremble.

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Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jas 2:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

How Can I Truly Know God — Now and Forever?

SOURCE:   Blue Letter Bible

Did you know that you were created to have a loving relationship with God?

He is patiently and lovingly waiting for you to respond to His invitation to salvation.

Yes, you can receive forgiveness for your sins and assurance of eternal life through faith in His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

You may be asking yourself: “How can I know God?” Man is able to know the true and living God through His Word (that is, the Bible). The Bible reveals God’s character and His plan for mankind. It is through reading His Word that we come to a knowledge of the righteousness of God and that which He requires of us.

What is it that prevents us from personally knowing God? Our sin has separated us from God — our corruption is to such a degree that we cannot know Him personally and cannot experience His love. God’s Word says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man was created to have fellowship with God, but because of his sin (i.e., anything that is against the righteousness revealed in God’s Law) he is prevented from that fellowship. This includes anything less than perfect obedience to God’s commands.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). The ultimate result of this death is an eternity in Hell. This spiritual death forces a separation from God. Man is sinful and God is holy. This creates a gulf unbridgeable by man making that intended fellowship impossible. The only solution is a divine bridge — that bridge is Christ.

God created a way by sending His Son to pay the price for our sin. “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died in our place; He who knew no sin became sin for us. This removed our burden of sin and allows us to enter into that desired fellowship if we follow His way.

He is the only way. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

It is not just enough that you know these truths. We must individually place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is by repenting of our sins and believing on Christ that we can know God personally and experience His love.

“But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

You can receive Jesus Christ right now by faith. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

If you now believe on God and place your faith in His Son, congratulations — and welcome to His family. We, all being His children, share in a heavenly inheritance! We are heirs to heaven and are promised the eternal pleasure of glorifying God. As our life here on earth progresses, God will continue to work in our hearts. We are daily being conformed to the image of Christ, Himself. We will begin to live lives of righteousness. Obedience to God will not be a burden to us, but rather a joy.

You may wonder, now that you are a Christian, “What now?”

Our greatest recommendation for believers, new and old, is fourfold:

1) find a church so you might hear the preaching of the Word and rejoice in the fellowship of other Christians,

2) study the Bible for that is where we learn of God and His plans,

3) pray to Him to strengthen your faith and increase your love toward Him, and

4) enjoy the blessings given by God in the heavenly ordained sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

All of these will work to encourage and build upon your faith.

Heaven: The Great Beyond

Randy Alcorn answers questions about heaven.

SOURCE:  Kyria/Randy Alcorn

1. When a believer dies, when does she go to heaven?

At death, the human spirit goes either to heaven or hell. Christ depicted Lazarus the beggar and the rich man conscious in heaven and hell immediately after they died (Luke 16:22-31). Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul said to die is to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

These passages clearly invalidate the notion of “soul sleep,” or a long period of unconsciousness between life on earth and life in heaven. Every reference in the Book of Revelation to humans talking and worshiping in heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates we’re conscious after death. Our spirit’s departure from the body ends our existence on earth. The physical part of us “sleeps” until we’re resurrected, while the spiritual part immediately relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Daniel 12:2-3).

2. Will I know my husband and children in heaven? Will they know me? And why can’t we be married in heaven?

Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection: when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore (John 21:1-14); when he revealed himself to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29); and when he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And at Christ’s transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33). If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

Many people misunderstand Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The Bible doesn’t teach no marriage in heaven, but onemarriage, between Christ and us, his bride. Our marriage to Christ will satisfy more than even the most wonderful earthly marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all human marriages will have served their noble purpose of foreshadowing this one great marriage.

The God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), is both the giver and the blesser of our earthly relationships. My wife, Nanci, is my best friend and closest sister in Christ. I’m convinced we’ll be closer in heaven, not more distant. Receiving a glorified body doesn’t erase history; it culminates history. According to 1 Thessalonians 4, we’ll be together with the Lord forever, so we’ll doubtless pick right up in heaven with relationships from earth.

3. If we already go to heaven or hell right after death, why does the Bible teach about another judgment?

When we die, we face the judgment of faith to determine whether we go to heaven or hell. When God judges those who’ve accepted Christ’s atoning death, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin.

But this judgment is different from the final judgment. The Bible indicates all believers will have to give an account of their life (Romans 14:10-122 Corinthians 5:10). Our works don’t affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward (2 Timothy 2:12Revelation 3:21).

Unbelievers also face a final judgment. The Bible says it will come at the Great White Throne, at the end of the old earth and before the beginning of the new (Revelation 20:11-13).

4. I lost my son in a horrible auto accident three years ago. What kind of body does he have in heaven?

My friend David O’Brien is a brilliant man trapped in a body that groans for redemption. His cerebral palsy will disappear the moment he leaves this world for heaven. And at his resurrection, he’ll have a new body forever free of disease. I picture David running through fields on the new earth. I look forward to running beside—and probablybehind—him.

I often think how paraplegics, quadriplegics, and victims of constant pain, physical trauma, violence, or catastrophe will walk, run, jump, and laugh in heaven. Believers now blind will gawk at the new earth’s wonders. The only body we’ve known is a weak, diseased remnant of the body God first designed. But free of sin’s curse, our resurrection body will be restored to its original design and purpose, even more glorious than Adam and Eve’s.

5. When a baby dies, does he remain young, grow up, or mature instantly in heaven?

Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff suggests, “Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our 20s and 30s. … If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”

This hypothesis doesn’t necessarily mean children who die won’t be children in heaven. Isaiah 11:6-9 speaks of a place, presumably the new earth, where “the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. … The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.” Is it possible that after they’re resurrected, children will be at the same developmental level as when they died?

If so, these children would likely grow up on the new earth. Such a childhood would be enviable! Although I’m speculating, I believe parents whose hearts broke at the death of their children not only might reunite with them, but might also experience the joy of seeing them grow up … in a perfect world.

6. Are our loved ones aware of what’s happening on earth?

The Bible makes evident heaven’s inhabitants see, to some extent, what’s happening on earth. When Babylon is taken down, an angel points to events occurring on earth and says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you” (Revelation 18:20). That the angel specifically addresses people living in heaven indicates they’re aware of earthly happenings.

Hebrews 12:1, in telling us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” creates the mental picture of Greek competitions that attracted throngs of engrossed fans who watched intently high up in stadiums. The “great cloud of witnesses” refers to saints whose previous accomplishments on life’s playing field are now part of our rich history. The imagery suggests those saints, the spiritual “athletes” of old, now watch and cheer us on from the great stadium of heaven that looks down on the field of earth.

“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Who’s doing this rejoicing in heaven? I believe not only God is rejoicing but also the saints in heaven, who obviously must be aware of what’s happening on earth.

7. Do pets go to heaven?

God created “the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Eden was perfect. But without animals, Eden wouldn’t have been Eden. The new earth is the new Eden—Paradise regained, where the first Adam’s curse is reversed and transformed into the last Adam’s blessing (Romans 5:14-15).

God entrusted animals to us, and our relationship with them is significant. Would God take away from us in heaven what he gave—for delight, companionship, and help—to Adam and Eve in Eden?

Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people. But God is their maker, and through them he’s touched many people’s lives. On the new earth, he easily could create brand-new animals, re-create old ones, or both. If restoring our pets in the new earth would bring us pleasure, our joy may be all the reason God needs to do so. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them.

Christ proclaims from his throne: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5, ESV). He won’t renew just people, but also the earth and “all things” in it. “All things” includes animals. The entire creation will benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection.

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Randy Alcorn is the bestselling author of  Heaven (Tyndale) and founder/director of nonprofit Eternal Perspective Ministries.

Is God A Monster?

SOURCE:  Grace To You/John MacArthur

Nearly fifty years ago, the British agnostic Bertrand Russell penned these words: “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment” (Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian).

Philosopher John Hick echoed those sentiments when he called hell “a perversion of the Christian gospel.” He believed the doctrine of hell attributed to God “an unappeasable vindictiveness and insatiable cruelty.”

We expect statements like that from fallen, unregenerate minds. But what do we do when we hear similar things from prominent, professing evangelical writers? “How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God…” (Clark H. Pinnock, “The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent”).

It’s become popular today for professing evangelicals to join the ranks of Pinnock, atheists, and agnostics in protesting the doctrine of hell. They are preaching sermons, writing articles, and publishing books, and some are wandering into the comment threads of Christian blogs. Here’s a small sampling from Grace To You’s blog in our recent series on hell:

  • “What kind of God torments people for all eternity?”
  • “…Satan loves the false doctrine of eternal torment”
  • “[eternal torment is] cruel and unusual punishment”
  • “[eternal torment] makes God out to be a cruel tyrant,” “absolutely cruel and malevolent”
  • “How can you in your right minds even consider this to be justice?”

If the doctrine of hell as eternal, conscious torment hadn’t been the position of the Christian church for two millennia, it might be easy to think we’re seriously out of step—a bunch of mindless minions who worship a monster-god! But when you examine the biblical evidence, without an agenda, you’ll find we sound a lot like Jesus and the apostles.

So, how could someone who claims to be faithful to Scripture ridicule the idea of eternal punishment? What is at the heart of their rejection of a never-ending hell? It’s simple, really—they minimize the seriousness of human sin and guilt, and they distort the perfection of divine justice. That’s the crime of Protestant Liberalism and every false religion.

Minimizing the Sinfulness of Sin

To one degree or another, we’re all guilty of minimizing sin. I remember the first time I read the account of Lot’s wife. God turned her into a pillar of salt as she was leaving Sodom. Her crime? A backward glance (Gen. 19:26). Reading that story as an unbeliever provoked me to ask the question: “Was that really an offense worthy of death—turning your neck to take one final look at your home?” As I explored more of the Bible, other accounts of God’s judgment appeared equally capricious and severe to me.

  • Nadab and Abihu deviated from the priestly procedures. God consumed them with fire (Lev. 10:1-2).
  • One man gathered wood on the Sabbath. God commanded Moses to stone him (Num. 15:35).
  • Achan took a few forbidden items from the spoils of Jericho. God commanded Joshua to stone and then burn Achan along with his entire family (Josh. 7:24-25).
  • Uzzah kept the ark of God from falling into the mud by reaching out his hand and taking hold of it. God immediately struck him dead (2 Sam. 6:6-7).
  • Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles. God killed them both in front of the entire church. (Acts 5:1-10).

We often struggle to understand how something seemingly so trivial could enact such a severe judgment. Our flesh wants to cry out in protest, “That’s not fair!” But responses like that reveal our failure to grasp the depth of sin. We see only actions—a devoted father gathering firewood to keep his family warm; a zealous Israelite anxious to keep the Ark of God off the ground—but God sees things differently, more clearly, than we do. He sees our sin as insurrection, rebellion against His holiness (Ex. 31:14Num. 4:15). What’s more, He sees the hidden motives and intentions at the core of our actions (Mt. 5:28Heb. 4:12).

One of the most basic tenets of justice is that the punishment must fit the crime. So, if the ultimate punishment for those who die without Christ is hell, then what is the crime? What do men do to merit the eternal sentence of hell? Put plainly, they sin.

You may think that’s a small thing, but the way John MacArthur explains sin, it puts it in its proper perspective. Essentially, sin is “an act of treason against the Sovereign lawgiver and judge of the universe.” The Bible describes our sin as “rebellion,” “ungodliness,” “lawlessness,” “wickedness,” and an “abomination” (Lev. 26:27Is. 32:61 Jn. 3:4Ezek. 18:27Pr. 15:9). Sinners then, are traitors, refusing to love, thank, serve, and obey the God who gave them life, breath, and every good thing.

Sinners spurn God’s love, despise His sovereignty, mock His justice, and view His commands with contempt. They are thieves and murderers, stealing God’s glory and assaulting His holiness. In fact, as Martin Luther once remarked, if sinners had their way, they would dethrone and murder God, which is exactly what they did at Calvary (Acts 2:23). Viewed through the lens of Scripture, sin appears exceedingly sinful (Rom. 7:13).

I find it ironic that those who protest the idea of eternal, conscious torment deride the doctrine with words like, “cruel,” “morally revolting,” “monstrous,” and “repugnant.” Why don’t they employ the same terms of outrage to describe sin? Simple: they fail to see as God sees. God finds our sin “cruel,” “morally revolting,” “monstrous,” and “repugnant,” and He’s absolutely right. If we can’t see our sin as God sees it, it stands to reason that we don’t see the just judgment of hell like He sees it either. We’re just going to have to trust Him.

Divine Justice

People who reject the doctrine of eternal hell also stumble over the justice of God. It seems unjust of God to cast someone into a lake of eternal fire for thirty years of sin. Is sin reallythat bad?

Yes, it is. In fact, you readily accept that there are escalating levels in the seriousness of offenses. For example, if you punch your neighbor, he may punch you back, slash your tires, or even report you to the police. If you assault your boss, he’ll fire you. If you strike a policeman, you’re in danger of getting tased, pepper-sprayed (or worse), and you’re definitely going to jail. Take it up a notch: if you even attempt to assault the President of the United States, you’re going to prison for a long, long time. And if you try those shenanigans with any other head of state, you’ll probably be executed.

Clearly, we live by an established principle—the seriousness of a crime is measured not only by its inherent nature, but also by the one offended. Furthermore, we readily accept the escalation of punishment, based on the status and position of the one offended. If that makes sense on a human level, why are we tempted to ignore the status and position of God? If we live by that principle on a horizontal level, why not on a vertical level?

Our sins have offended an infinitely glorious and holy Being, and punishment must correspond to that offense. God will by no means acquit the wicked (Ex. 34:6-7). He will give the unbeliever exactly what he deserves. Isaiah said “Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him” (Is. 3:11). God warned the children of Israel: “If you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:27-28).

The righteous Judge of all the earth will one day rise up and call every creature into account (Gen. 18:25Heb. 9:271 Pet. 4:5). He will open the books and mete out a just sentence for every sinful thought, word, and deed (Rom. 2:5Rev. 20:13).

We’ve all assaulted God (Rom. 3:23), and we all deserve hell. Reject Christ, and hell is exactly what you’ll get. God will rise up in judgment and cast all unbelievers into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), and all creation will praise His justice. To accuse God of injustice for sentencing sinners to hell is the height of arrogance and audacity.

Yes, God’s judgment is unbearable, but it is never unjust (Gen. 4:13). And that is why “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

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