This is a common response: “I don’t like that–it makes me sad that people who [X] burn in the lake of fire forever, but unfortunately that’s where people go.”
It’s like when you cause a car accident, and you don’t say, “I’m sorry I hit you” or “I’m sorry, I was drunk and negligent.” Instead, you say “I’m sorry that happened to you, but unfortunately that’s the risk you take when you get in a car.” That’s how politicians talk. They remove themselves from the equation.
And that’s what the guy does here. “I’m sorry it happens, but that’s the way it is.”
No, no you don’t. If you believe that God is the creator of the universe from the start, you know very well that everything is God’s Will. If it happens that people who don’t believe, or people who are gay or the wrong religion burn in the lake of fire for all eternity, it’s God who set it up that way. It’s no accident. Even if, somehow, in your skewed version of the rules of reality where the stuff in Revelation is going to happen, then God intended for hell to be a place for those “sinners.” It says it right there in that very book. Jesus is on his throne, he asks Michael or whatever angel to open the book of life. If the name does not appear, the angel picks you up and throws you in. It’s right in there.
You think, if God felt the same way you do, “sad,” or “crying” about it, he would say, “Michael, stop. This is not justice. Please take this terrible human who does not believe in me and give him another chance” Of course he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want to. Could he violate his rule about free will and make the person a believer so he doesn’t have to suffer so cruelly? The believers say no, never. Yet the bible is full of instances where God violates free will and makes someone think something they would not have otherwise. (If he didn’t violate free will, He couldn’t have killed all those babies in Egypt, and that wouldn’t have been fun for God.) So no, not only does God Will it, and Want it, He knows it’s Good that people suffer forever. So if it’s good and what God wants, who are you (I refer to the Christian) to cry or feel bad or say it’s too bad? It’s not too bad. Sinner! You’ll have to repent for feeling compassion towards other human beings.
And what kind of religion is that, which makes it a sin to feel compassion? A good one? I think not. You are free to argue, but that’s how it is for this ex-christian.
But just take the low road and dismiss me as someone who was the “wrong kind of Christian.” Of course I’ll pay for betraying God in this way.
Below is a video of John taken when I met him at Union Square. Next is his email trying to explain how the population of Heaven can enjoy paradise while everyone else burns in hell forever. A question I posed to him before we parted ways... forever.
“if your best friend died, I think you’d have to admit that there’s an appropriate mourning period but it can’t last forever.”
Subject: John from Union Square on 8/6
I was talking to you a couple times on the steps of Union Square two Fridays ago, my name is John and you asked me to confront the question, and respond if able, "How can a christian be happy in heaven when they have loved ones, and even strangers burning in hell?" (or something like that)
Well first of all I want to say that I think it's great that you love people so much, but if you do love people and you love truth then you must be open minded, which includes reexamining what you believe now and again, reaffirming it and not just trusting that because you may have followers means you are correct in your thinking. So although I have my doubts to whether or not my answer will be what you want to hear, I’ll just share with you what the Lord laid on my heart when I was praying about how to respond to you, and trust Him with the rest. I also want to say quickly I have been praying for you, and the Lord brought me across a verse where the author Paul wrote that God didn’t reveal Himself to Paul immediately so that Paul could be an example that ANYONE can be saved. So that’s my prayer for you. But anyways…
Revelations 21:1-8 (ESV) “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”
First, I want to say that my heart breaks at the end of those verses, I have no desire to see anyone go into the lake of fire. Honestly. But I didn’t want to hide those verses like they didn’t exist, because God said them and so they are. I want to be clear though, what Hells physical attributes are like are meaningless to me personally, because Hell was created for Satan and unfortunately is where people who rejected Christ go. But what makes Hell so terrible is it’s the complete absence of God for those who rejected God and therefore commit treason against their creator. God is Love, Mercy, Kindness, Forgiveness, Light, Life, Joy, Peace, Righteousness, He is Power and Knowledge, He is Truth and Meaning, and without His presence none of those amazing things exist, and that’s the tragedy of Hell.
But I digress, these verses describe after the millennial reign of Christ with His people when God will establish a new heaven and earth and also when the unrepentant enter the lake of fire. And the Lord truly led me here because before you asked the question that you did, I had never, as I recollect, thought of these verses in this manner. I always thought it was more like “there will be no tears” not “He will wipe away every tear”. But THERE WILL be mourning over those lost to hell, God’s children will weep, will mourn and will hurt. And I don’t think you’d call a human father evil or wrong for comforting a son or daughter that lost something dear to his/herself, likewise God as our Father comforts us, He makes things new, He revitalizes, He heals us from the pain so we don’t have to look back for all eternity but can look forward. And it seems harsh, I know, but if your best friend died, I think you’d have to admit that there’s an appropriate mourning period but it can’t last forever. When something is lost and cannot be returned one has to let go eventually, and God being a loving Father will heal us of that pain so that His beloved children wont have to live in mourning forever. That’s my answer and I’m sorry if it is insufficient or possibly offensive, that’s not my desire, but I do believe it to be the truth. Feel free to respond to this, I’m not easily offended and often times need to be humbled. But as a parting word, I hope you know that the fanatics in religion are not the rule. Those who follow Jesus words truthfully are commanded to love, live in peace, give to the poor, needy and broken, to die for a brother, to support ones family, to not lead children to wrath, to love children, to love others as much as one loves oneself, to avoid quarrel, to flee violence and injustice, to forgive, to never repay hurt with hurt, to turn the other cheek, to sacrifice, to serve others, to give generously to all, and I could go on. But that is how true worshipers and followers of Christ are called to live. And we fail often, but that’s because salvation is not just a one-moment thing and “poof” we are made perfect. Not at all. We need Jesus to continually save us from ourselves as we mature until the day we meet Him and He makes us new. If you reached this far—thank you for your time. It was nice meeting you.
And this is what scares me about your response. I believe it's psychologically unhealthy to rectify this problem as you've done here. To convince yourself that one day after you die you'll be able to rid yourself of the feelings you have for your loved ones thus allowing you to focus entirely on your own personal bliss sounds like the dream of only a villain.
The difference between a friend dying and mourning him for awhile then getting on with your life and heaven is the difference between temporary suffering and suffering without end. No one deserves eternal paradise or eternal suffering. Neither fate is deserved for the mere act of believing a story which sounds fake. Yet you'll have utter gratification of every desire for eternity while your brother burns forever. What exactly is the sort of "peace" you've been guaranteed? Does it resemble that of a king whose carried on a thrown by his slaves and he has "let go" of his concern for them? Is it similar to a billionaire in his solid gold mansion on a hill of flowers surrounded by an endless moat of screaming corpses of your charred brethren from planet earth? After a while you just have to let them go and get on with your paradise? That's the heaven you're looking forward to?
To me it sounds like the worst, most undesirable place you could ever nightmare about. Being surrounded by paradise while others suffer excruciating pain. Then being told to get over it.
Looking around at the people you see on the street, or in the grocery, or delivering your mail to you, thinking they deserve eternal punishment isn't a healthy way to think. It doesn't encourage relationships between you and everyone else. It encourages separation between you and anyone who thinks differently. And this to me is some of the strongest evidence that heaven and hell are fake and the bible wasn't written by a loving god, but instead immature people.
I understand that you have ways of solving this horror, but in doing so you create a greater horror. Excusing it only adds to the ugliness of it. And worshipping it is unthinkable.
But I have to admit, what shocks me more about any of this is how obvious it is that it's written by childish men, and yet you still believe, if only for the hope of living forever in paradise at any cost.