Theoretically speaking, let's say that you die and go to Heaven. God introduces you to Samantha who did not believe when she was on Earth, so by the declaration of God, she is going to Hell. God gives you a choice to either remain in Heaven as a reward for your faith or trade places with Samantha so that she does not experience eternal suffering in Hell.

I see two possibilities:

  1. God is testing you and will not send you to Hell if you decide to trade.
  2. God is serious and will send you to Hell if you trade

From a Christian perspective, is it morally commendable to volunteer your life in place of Samantha's?

Note: I know that there might exist interpretations where Jesus goes to Hell during the three-days in which he is dead. I intended this question to be from the perspective of someone other than Jesus, but answers referencing this interpretation would be acceptable.

From the current comments, I realize that I was not clear enough. I am NOT asking if you think this is possible or if God would ever do this. I am ONLY asking that if he DID give you this dilemma, would your action be morally good, morally bad, or morally neutral?

  • from which denomination do you want your answer from?
    – depperm
    Nov 26, 2020 at 4:17
  • 1
    There are good sound theological and logical reasons why such a bargain is never going to happen. So any answer is going to be speculation, and hence off topic. Nov 26, 2020 at 4:26
  • 3
    They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches [whether material wealth or 'moral' wealth] ... None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: Psalm 49:7 KJV.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 26, 2020 at 7:38
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    From all these answers it appears to be a commendable emotion, a practical impossibility, and a faithless choice. Nov 26, 2020 at 13:40
  • 1
    I was the last vote cast to close this question. It falls squarely outside the rules as a general philosophical question. The closest Christianity-based expression of this question is to ask about the belief in "sin eaters." But since no Christian tradition or denomination believes the situation as described can happen (because of our belief in individual judgement), it's a closed question. (I'll note, though, that @NigelJ's answer is excellent.)
    – JBH
    Nov 29, 2020 at 23:14

7 Answers 7


It is pride for any human to think that they can redeem another fellow human being.

They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; [whether material wealth or 'moral wealth'] ... None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: [Psalm 49:7 KJV.]

It is not even morally or spiritually commendable to desire to perish in the lake of fire in order to alleviate Jesus Christ himself of the necessity of suffering on our behalf for our sins. That is to say, to 'save' Him, as it were.

It is unbelief and it is a rejection of the salvation of God that is given freely.

God alone can save any soul. And the glory is all to God alone, and to none other.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:37.


When we sin, we sin against an infinitely Holy God. Therefore our sins incur an infinite debt. Our lives are not of infinite value, therefore were we to offer our life for the life of another, the payment would be inadequate. Therefore such an offer is foolish. You would be like the foolish builder who started to build but had to quit halfway because he could not afford to finish the job.

To save someone from Hell is something only God can do. To attempt to save a person from Hell on your own merits would be to make yourself equal to God. That is pride, which is wicked. Therefore the offer is sinful, not commendable.

Proverbs 11 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives." However, that wisdom that saves is not from us, but from God. It is not of our own that we give when we offer that which can save another.

Finally, Hebrews 9 says,

"27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

The decisions we make and actions we take in this life determine our fate in the next. Once we have entered either Heaven or Hell, there is no possibility of change.

Romans 8 says,

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

If you make it to Heaven, nothing will separate you from Christ. You can't go to Hell.

The Apostle Paul raised this as a hypothetical in Romans 9:

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. "

He knows this is impossible because of all he has just said about Jesus, love and sovereignty.

Also, consider this. If someone saves me for all eternity, they are my savior and I owe them infinite gratitude. I should never be separate from them but serve them always. If you save someone from Hell, you are their savior and they will desire to be with you always. But if you are now in Hell, that means that they must spend all eternity in Hell with you, which very thing you sought to spare them from. It is a logical impossibility.


Can any impossible thing ever be considered morally commendable? What we are considering is moral commendation of impossible desires.

God would never ask a human being to "save" Samantha in any sense other than to plead with her to be reconciled to God through His only begotten Son, crucified for her sin and raised for her justification. To do so would be for God to deny His Son.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. - Acts 4:12

The question actually places an addendum at the end of this verse and others like it which might read; "until the very end when you might get a chance to trade with someone". A sort of a "hail Mary" strategy (apology to Catholics) which denies the most fundamental tenets of Christianity.

The question is in the same category as "Can God create a rock so big He is unable to lift it?"


It is meaningless to offer your life as a substitute for others. Christ has already done so, and anyone else offering their life for the sake of others is implying that Christ's perfect sacrifice is not sufficient.

However, it is commendable to have those feelings which would tempt you to volunteer your life for the sake of others. And there is scriptural warrant for believing so. All Christians should aspire to have such feelings. And until we have such feelings we fall short of the love that God wishes us to have for others.

Another answer, of Paul Chernoch, quotes the passage:

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.. (Romans 9:3)

It is obviously true that the Apostle Paul is speaking only hypothetically, but nevertheless, he means with total sincerity every word he is saying (Romans 9:1-2).

And then, of course, he is speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

And then, he is speaking as one full of the Holy Spirit. I doubt such feelings are genuinely possible apart from the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Are we going to say that Paul's language, and heart-felt desire is not commendable? That would be absurd.

Everything Paul writes and does from the time of his conversion was commendable.

Paul is our pattern Christian: Paul is the exemplar that every Christian should be aspiring to imitate. One might argue that Christ himself is our pattern which is obviously true. The excuse we have for not being the same as Christ is that our Lord Jesus Christ is "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3:16): how can a sinner like me possibly hope to be like him? I have a perfect excuse for not being like Christ.

But Paul is different; Paul is a sinner like you and me. We have much less of an excuse if we fail to be like him. And so the Holy Spirit has given us an example of how holy a sinner can become, and that example is the Apostle Paul.

And so in Paul's writings the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write such words as

Wherefore I beseech you be ye followers of me. (1 Cor 4:16)

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (Phil 3:17)

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Phil 4:9)

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord... (1 Thess 1:6)

For you yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you... to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. (2 Thess 3:7..9).

In other English translations the word "imitate"/ "imitator" is used instead of "follow"/ "follower".

There are too many verses urging the reader to imitate Paul to ignore: the inescapable conclusion is that the Apostle Paul is our model Christian, our Exemplar Christian precisely because he is our Exemplar with a sinful nature.

And so it is a commendable thing to follow all the things revealed in Scripture concerning the Apostle Paul subsequent to his conversion.

So it is a commendable thing to wish I myself were cut off/accursed for the sake of others.


Is it morally commendable to volunteer your own life to go to Hell in place of someone else?

The short answer is no.

Why would God allow someone to substitute his life for another and go to hell in his place?

We are created with the hope of going to heaven!

Why would we voluntarily go to hell and separate ourselves from God and the Beatific Vision.

Separation from God is the greater sorrow the evil doers in hell have to suffer eternally.

The words of St. Paul come to mind here. “You must remove the evil person from among you.” Why take their place in hell when the great Apostles calls on us to expel the evil one from our mist and not to take their place in suffering due to their proper lack of merit before God.

Expel the Immoral Brother

…12What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” - 1 Corinthians 5:13


Who says you can trade? God certainly has not.

There's no need to trade. That's why Jesus died. Nobody is going to hell except that they reject Christ and don't want to be subject to His authority. You can't make people live in the Kingdom any more than you can make them follow Jesus today.

There are not a pre allocated number of slots. If that person wants in they can be in. There's no need for anybody else to be their substitute. It's quite arrogant and heretical to think you can be a substitutionary atonement when it's clear in scripture only Jesus could do that.


We see Jesus teaching as to how one chooses one's own destiny of salvation, which cannot be changed once chosen :

Luke 16: 22-26 (NRSVCE) :

" The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ "

It is not for us believers to decide on who will go to heaven and who, to hell. James 4: 12 is clear about that : ""There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? "" That is exactly why the Chaplet of Divine Mercy has this prayer: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion,have mercy on us and on the whole world.

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