Here’s what I did mention:
Reasons that it’s reasonable to believe in hell…
1. Hell is an answer to our longing for justice
2. Hell is God giving people what they want
3. Hell exists not in spite of God’s love but because of God’s love
4. Hell can actually foster a more non-violent world
5. The One who loves most and knows best believed in hell
You can listen to the message online to hear an explanation. These reasons don’t answer all of my questions, but they help.
One reason that many people struggle with hell is the idea that God inflicts infinite punishment for finite sins. One CVCer wrote to me, “It’s cool with me if Satan gets tortured forever and ever, but it’s very unsettling that a malnourished 3rd world child dies from disease and has to go to hell because he never knew Jesus.” Some people say that it’s not right for God to inflict the same punishment on a chain-saw murderer and someone who was basically a nice person – comparatively-speaking – but who never heard about Jesus.
But here’s a response to that objection and a 6th reason that it’s reasonable to believe in hell:
6. Hell is not the same for everyone.
The severity of punishment will vary with the amount of truth known, and the nature and number of the sins committed (see Luke 20:45–47; Romans 2:3–6).
Jesus said the Day of Judgment would be more bearable for some than for others (see Matthew 11:20–24). Some will be “beaten with many blows” and others “beaten with few blows” (Luke 12:47–48). That means that hell is not one-size-fits-all. Revelation 20 explicitly says that God records all human works so that all punishment will be commensurate to the evil committed (verses 12–13, see also Matthew 5:21–28; 12:36; 1 John 3:15). No one will bear in hell and infinite number of offenses. They will suffer only for the sins that they have committed (Revelation 20:12-13). Some people will incur a more severe experience in hell. In God’s sense of justice, hell won’t be same for everybody.
WHAT WILL DETERMINE THE DEGREE OF PUNISHMENT?
The degree of light they were exposed to.
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.
Matthew 11: 23-24
A just God will take into account the degree of light you’ve been exposed to. But remember: Americans may be the most accountable group of people who have ever lived. We’ve heard it over and over. And some have rejected over and over. We will be held to a very high account.
The nature of the sin.
Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
Jesus says that the religious leaders who enriched themselves at the expense of the poor and pray long prayers pretending to be more spiritual than they really are will receive greater condemnation – greater wrath. God can’t stand to see strong people take advantage of weaker people. It’s highly offensive to God. So, religious hypocrites… watch out!
This teaches us that there are some types of sins that get greater wrath. Not all sins are equal to God. And that’s good news! Chain saw murderers and people who have never heard will be judged differently.
The amount of sin.
Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
People who know better but who continue to reject Christ and pursue sin are storing up more and more wrath for themselves on the day of judgment.
God will not inflict the same punishment on a chain-saw murderer and someone who was basically a nice person – comparatively-speaking – but who never heard about Jesus. This fact does not answer my questions fully, but it helps me. Maybe this knowledge will help you, too.