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Every time I hear someone say that 'If God were a loving God he would not send people to Hell', It makes me wonder Why does God, who is such a loving God send unbelievers to Hell.

Since Jesus said that the Lake of fire was created for the Devil and his angels, and not for unbelievers;

Matthew 25:41 KJV

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

I have heard that there are some Christians who do not believe that God will so punish unbelievers.

Are there any mainstream Churches who endorse this position?

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Answering this one now :). Good question Cecil! –  Jeremy Nov 27 '13 at 15:21
    
Most Christian faiths which don't believe in Hell still don't believe that sin goes unpunished: there's a difference in not believing in Hell and not believing in punishment. One common belief along these lines is that death itself is the punishment for sin, and that it is punishment enough by itself. –  The Spooniest Nov 27 '13 at 16:48
    
@TheSpooniest funny you should say that, as I just posted something along those lines! –  Jeremy Nov 27 '13 at 16:58
    
Here the title question is different and the concluding question in the body is different. –  Seek forgiveness Nov 28 '13 at 16:04
    
I believe Revelation may help you more in this specific regard. –  r3s3arch3r777 Nov 29 '13 at 4:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 0 down vote accepted

Jehovah's Witness take that stance. We believe that the references to furnaces and everlasting fire just mean complete everlasting destruction. In Revelation it says that Satan, his angels, the false prophets, and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire. In other words they will be destroyed. We believe that Hell, Hades, and Sheol just mean the common grave of mankind or death.

We already have punishment from the original sin through Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:16-19

To the woman he said: “I will greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in pain you will give birth to children, and your longing will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” 17 And to Adam he said: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.

God has punished us for the original sin that we still inherit today. In addition to the others, God also took away Eternal life. We die because we have all sinned through Adam. Romans 5:12:

"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned"

That is the punishment for our sins. Then comes Jesus to save us from death. Jesus's purpose was to bring about a new covenant between man and God because the old covenant with the Jews had failed. Second Jesus gave himself to torture and death, a perfect life in exchange for many imperfect ones. That provides the basis for God being able to forgive us if we ask it of him. Without Jesus's ransom sacrifice, we would have no means to be saved and restored to perfection. This is the result of Jesus's sacrifice. Matthew 24:22:

"In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short."

Matthew 24:13

"But the one who has endured to the end will be saved."

The lake of fire or destruction, is also for unbelievers. We see this from Matthew 25:32-46

"He will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left."

The goats are the ones that have been given the opportunity to accept Jesus and salvation and declined. It is also the ones whom accepted Jesus, but did not live according to the way he told them to. The goats punishment is everlasting death, they will be "Cut-off" from God. Matthew 25:46

These will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”

To answer your question, if there was no punishment for sin then all of us would be perfect. There would be no need for Jesus's sacrifice and salvation from it. However, since Jesus came and provided salvation, then we know there is punishment to be saved from.

As to "why does a loving God send people to hell?", I think that Satan may have painted that picture of God. The thought of God torturing people for all eternity throws many people off. In fact I have family that believes that God is wrathful, has no mercy, doesn't really care about us, etc...because of the teaching of hell. Because of their perception of hell they don't want anything to do with God.

God will punish unbelievers, but not like that. When you die your sins are paid for in full, that is your punishment. Romans 6:7

"For the one who has died has been acquitted from his sin."

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@ Jeremy if you think my question is worth an answer why is it not worth a vote either up or down? –  BYE Nov 27 '13 at 18:23
    
I forgot sorry! I always ask other people that, but then I neglect it also :/ –  Jeremy Nov 27 '13 at 18:36
    
If people are going to downvote an answer, they should leave some positive criticism to help the writer develop their reasoning skills. I don't see why this article is downvoted... –  Jeremy Nov 29 '13 at 2:53
    
I didn't vote up or down on this one but my guess is the perspective your post comes from is part of it. For instance the mistranslation and out of context interpretation of Romans 6:7 is a bit misleading. biblehub.com/romans/6.htm –  Mike Walsh Nov 29 '13 at 16:12
    
And I fist didn't vote up or down because I'm not sure I fully understand the point of this site. That said, after re-reading and thinking about it after seeing your comment, I've downvoted - and primarily the thought that I had was on the Romans 6:7 driven conclusion when I feel the context in the Bible doesn't support it. –  Mike Walsh Nov 29 '13 at 16:13

At one time, the belief in universal salvation was the defining characteristic of a Christian denomination known as the "Universalists" or the "Christian Universalists."

That denomination, however, merged with the Unitarians, and is no longer considered a Christian denomination by people inside or outside that church. There remain some Christian Universalists, but not with sufficient numbers or organization to be considered a mainstream Christian denomination.

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I suppose it depends on your definition of "Mainstream" - within Christian orthodoxy? No I don't think that any hold to a doctrine of Hell not also being a place for those who commit sin and stand naked before God at judgment condemned by their sin. I may be wrong here but I can't think of any mainline Protestant denominations that teach this and I'm fairly certain the Catholic church doesn't teach this.

I don't want to argue with all of the verses mentioned in Jeremy's thoughtful answer because I don't believe that is the proper purpose here, but I come to different conclusions with the verses in context of the larger passages or the whole of the Bible.

I look to verses like:

Matthew 13:41-42:

The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NASB)

Matthew 18:8-9:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

Revelation 20:15

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

These are just a few places of many. Hell is described in various terms throughout the Bible as Eternal, A Place of Consciousness for those within it, A Place of punishment - both described physically (fire, pain) and spiritually (separation from God)

I think Jesus' words in Luke 16:19–31 of the Rich Man and Lazarus is an accurate depiction in the context of all of the passages that speak of Hell.

The Question In Your Title, Though - "If there were no punishment for sin, would salvation be necessary" is an interesting one. I don't believe this is the case and everything I read in the Bible backs that up. But some thoughts on the question anyway -

That question has a lot of "It depends" answers surrounding it also. So if there were no punishment for sin, would sin still be sin? Would this world still have a holy standard and a just and holy God over it?

It's a cliche example but take a Judge on the earth as we know them in our criminal justice system. If you went before this judge and faced an accused murderer of a family member of yours.. There was incontrovertible evidence. There was an iron-clad confession. The defendant even said "yes.. I killed your family member".. You would expect, demand even, that this judge punish the murderer. If this judge picked up their gavel and proclaimed "Meh Yeah, he broke a bunch of rules, sorry for the murder, but sir you are to be declared innocent of this crime forever from this point on." There would be quite the outrage, I'd imagine. Because justice was not served.

If God is Holy (Is 43:15) and God is just(Ps 25:8-14) - He cannot just accept sin and look the other way. He is truth. So the sin problem is there. And the Bible minces no words about this. Read the book of Romans, or any book in the Bible. So if we find ourselves as sinners and unable to enter His presence as sinners, something has to be done. Either we have to be perfect and sin free - too late - or salvation was necessary. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of Christ and says that if Christ was not raised, then He is dead in vain. You could read this chapter, and also pull from it - that if salvation is not necessary than Christ is dead in vain.

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good answer I am giving it much closer look, but on the surface it seems to answer the question quite sufficiently. –  BYE Nov 28 '13 at 3:06
    
@ Mike Walsh After a lot of thought and I must admit little research (just my memory from my study) I have come to several conclusions, First of all I have inadvertently asked two questions. To the first one the premise was that the lake of fire was intended for Satan and his Angels, that is separate from God holding us guilty of sin. The second question was if any Churches held that conviction for that Jeremy's answer seems to be the best. Since I can choose only one answer I have decided to accept his, even though it is a toss up. –  BYE Nov 29 '13 at 14:30
    
Cecil - No worries at all. I didn't answer in hopes of getting a green check mark and 15 reputation points :-) –  Mike Walsh Nov 29 '13 at 16:15
    
And yes that was the original purpose of the lake of fire. Its purpose had "scope creep" after we sinned and also deserved entrance there. So that was the purpose, but it is now for us, and there are certainly Churches that hold that view, but like I said in my answer it depends on what you mean by "mainstream" and even how you define "Christian" church, apparently. :-) Great question either way, though :-) –  Mike Walsh Nov 29 '13 at 16:37
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@ Jeremy If Satan and the rebellious Angels did not fall until the time of Noah how did Satan tempt Eve in Genesis 3? –  BYE Nov 29 '13 at 20:37

If there were no punishment for sin would salvation be necessary?

That is a really difficult question, because it references deep theological topics in a fictitious parallel universe, a la C.S. Lewis' Narnia. As the Bible makes clear, sin is punished, and therefore, this question is an irrelevant one (in the practical, real world). However, it is a question that deserves to be answered (have you been reading Plato's Euthyphro, perhaps?) because it uncovers what sin is, and, why salvation is necessary (in that imaginary universe as well as this one). Making a logical inquiry into cause-and-effect relationships is always a good move.

First of all, what is the definition of "punishment"? There is certainly more than one kind. I'll outline them as natural consequences, social incentives, and relational implications.

Natural consequences are the logical consequences of an action, either positive or negative. Normally, when we make our day-to-day decisions about how to live, how to do this-and-that, we mostly take natural consequences into account. Irresponsible behavior can lead to adverse effects on us, such as physical disease/ailment, financial distress, or the risk of injury or premature death. So, as homo sapiens sapiens, most of us (hopefully) can avoid doing things like, say, drunk driving, even without any consideration of the legal, much less spiritual consequences.

Social incentives are the scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours gentlemen's agreements that exist between social beings, and the carrot-and-stick dichotomy set up by an authority figure. Lawbreaking leads to arrest and incarceration, excellence in one's career leads to promotion, negligence leads to termination, etc. The various warnings about the wrath of G-d, fire and brimstone, etc. are a higher-stakes version of this, I suppose. Get back to work, the boss is watching.

This raises a somewhat unsavory question: what if there weren't consequences and incentives? Would sin still be sin? What is sin? And who cares, really? Why shouldn't we sin without restraint?

Paul himself raised this point, Romans 6:1. "What shall we say then? Shall we sin all the more, that grace may abound?"

One of the paradoxes of the Christian faith (or, indeed, any henotheistic/monotheistic faith featuring an authoritative and merciful deity) is that G-d is both demands righteousness and forgives sin. It is difficult to emphasize the forgiveness of G-d (much greater than any human can comprehend, much less practice) without seeming to give people a license to sin. And it is likewise difficult to emphasize the importance of G-d's laws, the severity of sin and its rightful punishment, without making G-d seem vicious and sociopathic, which obviously brings problems of another sort. This balancing act (and other seeming contradictions in the Christian faith) is the reason why there are so many sects in the Christian religion, and so many competing religions (as most of the other big-name religions resemble Christianity or have borrowed from Christianity to an extent). Christianity a great religion, so good that, I believe, people of all other faiths would have converted by now if we had our own house in order.

Back to the Unsavory Question: what is sin? And, without punishment, why should we avoid it?

To understand this question, we need to understand the third form of punishment for sin: relational implications, namely alienation. This is where I start throwing around squishy, liberal-Christian platitudes about separation from G-d. But first, let me hang out a hypothetical:


Would you cheat on your spouse?

Would you cheat if you were sure that you would never get caught? If you knew that you wouldn't lose a bunch of money in a divorce? If you knew that your spouse was inclined to look the other way?

If you knew that there would be no adverse consequences for you personally?

If your spouse finds out, but is willing to tolerate it/unwilling to confront you in any way, that doesn't mean he or she is happy about it. There is still emotional distance, emotional separation. And if your spouse never finds out, well, that emotional distance still exists--but only inside of you. The spouse never knows about it.

You can't bond like you should. You can't share funny anecdotes about how your day went, or take your spouse's phone calls at random times. You can't allow your spouse to speak freely with your friends/acquaintances (what if they say something?). You can't have your spouse planning a surprise date, or night out, as you might have prior commitments and be unable to attend. Even having intimacy would be not-as-enjoyable as it should be, if you're thinking about your paramour and fantasizing about having him/her instead.

And here's the thing: if you feel you're treating yourself to an illicit affair, then you won't know what you're missing at home. It's like the Dunning-Kruger effect. You simply won't know what you don't have with your spouse, that you could have had. You think you're having the best of both worlds. You can say "I love you" to your spouse, who believes you, and it makes you feel good. Being able to say "I love you" feels good. But, unbeknownst to you, being able to say "I love you" and actually mean it feels a lot better.

(none of the above applies to an honest, mutually-supportive open-marriage situation, which I am told exists somewhere)


This brings us to the question of what sin really is. Suppose our good friend Bob is a habitual drunk driver. He never wrecks his car, never injures himself, never gets stopped by a law officer (and therefore, never arrested and never charged with a crime). He never loses his job from it. He thinks he is a good driver. With his good job, good car and lack of criminal record, he thinks he is a respectable and successful member of the American middle class. He isn't bothered. Nobody else is bothered, either. His parents, his siblings, his wife, and grown children, all think, "oh, that's just Bob being Bob. He does that sometimes, it's just his thing."

Is Bob sinning?

Well, how does G-d feel each time Bob does that particular action? Does it fill His Father's Heart with paternal pride? Does it make him pat himself on the back and say, "That's exactly what I made Bob for. Well done." Or does he instead sigh exhaustedly to himself and say, "Well he did it again. I guess I have to love him anyway."

See, it is possible to observe that sin sometimes has no natural consequences. We might even imagine that sinners face no divine recompense, if we play with Scripture enough and invoke the grace and forgiveness of G-d very, very generously. But even under the luckiest circumstances, with the most imaginative (perhaps even hallucinogenic) viewpoint, we cannot hypothesize a world in which sin does not hurt our relationship with G-d (and other meaningful relationships as well). This means that sin is still sin, even in a parallel universe where there is no punishment. There is still punishment... even when there is no punishment.

But I've only proven thus far that "sinning is terrible, even if we are sure that it will go unpunished." I haven't even touched the subject of what it means to be "saved", and why it is necessary.

Too many amateur Christians think that being saved means "not going to hell when you die". That's all it means. First, feel really bad about being born human, then say a five-second prayer (and really really mean it!) and then you won't go to hell when you die, thus sparing the you from enduring the use of torture devices the medieval church used to threaten people with, like in Dante's Inferno.

Jesus' name means "savior". When the angel prophesied of Jesus' birth (Matthew 1), he said, "You shall call his name Jesus, and he shall save his people from their sins." It doesn't say, "He shall save people from hell" or "He shall save people from punishment and torture"; it says "He shall save his people from their sins." My own personal paraphrase says, "And you shall call him 'The Saving I AM', and he's gonna help messed-up people deal with their problems." Why can I get away with saying that? Because that's exactly what he did.

Let's look at an example of what salvation really means (Mark chapter 5): naked dude used to hurt himself and break things; naked dude has awkward conversation with Jesus; naked dude puts some clothes on, stops hurting himself and breaking things. That's a great example of what salvation is, don't you think?

Another example (Luke 19): sleazy bureaucrat steals poor people's money. Sleazy bureaucrat has lunch with Jesus. Sleazy bureaucrat thinks about his life, gives everybody a tax refund. Must have been a pretty good lunch.

In both of these examples stories, there is no mention of either party being threatened with hellfire, or any form of divine punishment. However, both needed to be saved, and both got saved. Saved from themselves.

I think I've said enough; I'll stop now.

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+1 for dealing with why Jesus had to save us, and for the good examples. –  Steve Mar 20 at 2:10

Cain would agree, "My punishment is more than I can bear" (Gen 4:13).

But going back, Do you agree with God punishing Satan/Sin?
If NO! You are right. No punishment for sin/satan = no need for salvation.
So Satan/Sin would still be in heaven. Stop reading.

If YES. I know. We want Satan to be punished but not Us. Never mind read on.
Since Satan/Sin "entered the world" (Rom 5:12), ANYONE taking part with him WOULD ALSO be punished or let alone exempted from salvation.

Remember what Isaiah said in 59:2, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God". God can't have SIN/SATAN in heaven. So anyone would have to be SAVED or FREED or CLEANSED or FORGIVEN from SIN to be in heaven. Second-hand sin at least. First-hand sin cannot be forgiven - like blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mat 12:31).

thanks for reading

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@ AaronKorn so if you think my question is worth answering why is it not worth voting on either up or down? –  BYE Nov 30 '13 at 17:10
    
it didnt answer my question. i was thinkin who invented sin. but your question needs to be defined to get there –  WelcomeNewUsers Nov 30 '13 at 20:48

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