# Reason Demands that Hell be Real and Everlasting

I wish to consider here the nature of hell from another standpoint. If universalism doesn’t want to take Scripture’s teaching on the everlasting nature of hell let’s consider logic and rational thinking. On the basis of the reasoning of universalism hell is necessary and must be permanent.

According to universalism, hell is not permanent because its fires are therapeutic not punitive, and all people and the devil and his angels will repent and will escape it. Yet wait a minute. If the fires of hell are only therapeutic, and limited in their length, would not the unrighteous and the devil in particular only have to wait long enough and the fires would cease? Yet the universalist would say: “The devil doesn’t know this.” But the devil would know this. He knows biblical teaching. If universalism is correct he knows that the torments in hell are limited in their duration. Yet, the universalist would answer: “Well, the fires go on as long as anyone or any angel refuses to repent.” But the devil could reason: “God is so loving that he could not ‘correct’ me with the ultimate fires of hell; he could not destroy me if I hold out. Eventually God’s love will overwhelm his sense of doing justice, and he will relent. Mercy will triumph over justice because of love.” The universalist might reply: “But this is not so with the devil and the most wicked.”

Yet this is precisely the logic of what universalism argues. If God’s love trumps his justice at the end, why may it not trump justice along the way before the end? Why wait till the very end of the fires and allow them to get so intense?

The devil could appeal to the incident of the rebellion at the giving of the Ten Commandments when God relented out of faithfulness to keep his promise to Abraham and out of his compassion for the people. He did not destroy them all, only a few.

So the only thing that makes hell’s fires threatening enough is to know that they are unending. It is only the weight of this reality that is strong enough to bring the unrighteous and the devil to repentance. For they would know and understand the Bible’s teaching to this effect. But if it takes the teaching that the fires are eternal to cause repentance, then it is necessary that the unrighteous and the devil must be there permanently. For why should there be everlasting fires if there is no one there everlastingly?

This argument also means that there cannot be a reversal of destinies for any one after one dies. If the destiny of one can be changed then the destiny of all (in light of God’s love *and *justice) can and must be changed.

There is another difficulty with the idea that the wicked, the devil, and fallen angels may one day repent (“change their minds”), get out of hell, and go to heaven. The fallen angels and the devil in a future heaven may rebel again against God. Universal reconciliation may reply that once repentant they are confirmed in their choice. But universalism cannot affirm this view. For universalism already rejects the existing evangelical belief that fallen angels are already confirmed in their choice, and cannot repent. Rather universalism affirms that they can repent. And if this is so they cannot be confirmed in their choice. Thus by the doctrine of universalism they can and will repent; and they may make the choice again to rebel at some future time in a future heaven; and repeat this process over and over.[1] The cycle of repentance, rebellion, repentance goes on ad infinitum.

The implications of this point are staggering. Ultimately they deconstruct the universalist view of hell. Consider the following consequences of such a belief.

  1. Heaven is not a place or state of final peace, rest, and security. The possibility of fallen-then-repentant angels rebelling again makes heaven a scary, insecure place. Strife and war may break out—will break out—again.
  2. Should fallen angels rebel again their rebellion will be far more devastating in its effects than the first rebellion. Why? Because the fallen angels will have gained experience from their first rebellion to make their second more effective.
  3. Jesus’ work at the cross becomes impotent and incomplete. Jesus’ first coming was meant to undo the rebellion of the angels (including the devil) and to end the effects of their fall as expressed in the temptation and fall of humanity. The potential of a future rebellion again becomes an assault on the omnipotence and omniscience of God.
  4. Jesus’ work at his second coming ends up being incomplete and impotent—for a final disposal of the evil, fallen angels has not taken place if they can repent and then rebel again.
  5. The potential of a second rebellion holds God and all the inhabitants of heaven hostage.
  6. It means that people also are not confirmed in their choice. They are susceptible to the deceit of a rebellious devil and may be persuaded to follow him again.
  7. A second rebellion means that God is not finally “all in all” and glorified.

A second rebellion is a horrendous thought. It is also impossible for several reasons. These same reasons make impossible an initial repentance of the devil and his angels.

  1. A second rebellion means also the potential of a third, a fourth, indeed, an unlimited number of rebellions. But this potential means that heaven and repentance and forgiveness really have no meaning. But this cannot be since God has declared that such do have meaning. Thus there can be only one rebellion of the angels and the devil and they cannot change their position.
  2. A second rebellion also leads to the idea of a second fall of humanity, and the need for a Redeemer to die again. But this is impossible. Hebrews 9 and 10 assert that Jesus died once for all for all time.
  3. A second rebellion allows for the idea of an earlier rebellion of which we are unaware. That is, the rebellion in Scripture may have been preceded by an earlier rebellion and subsequent history that goes unrecorded in Scripture. If there can be a cycle in the future of rebellion-repentance-rebellion there is nothing to prohibit a past cycle that happened prior to the present one, or even several of them. Yet Christ entered only our time to die once for all (Heb 9:12; 10:26–8).
  4. A second rebellion means that universal reconciliation itself is in conflict with itself. It is inherently contradictory. Why? If the fallen angels and evil people are not confirmed in their choice, and may repent and then may rebel again, then there is no such thing as “universal reconciliation.” These terms assume a final, good disposition of everything and everyone that, by this scenario, never occurs. The preceding shows that the reconciliation is only potential, even unlikely. There is no final reconciliation and it is not universal. Universal reconciliation is a neither universal nor reconciliation.

Thus universal reconciliation implodes upon itself. It never happens.

The permanency of hell also demands that heaven be everlasting (this is a more precise word than “eternal,” since “eternal” leads some to think both backwards and forwards, but only God is “eternal”). If the believer is in Christ and he can never be severed from this standing (so Rom 8:28–39), as even universalists would claim, then there must be a permanent place to accommodate the righteous whose standing, their essential reality, can never be altered. Also this observation argues that, in parallel to heaven, hell must abide permanently. There must exist a place for the unrighteous. If heaven is permanent, then hell is (so Matt 25:46).

That an evil realm may exist forever in the future state is a serious concern, and I suggest below a way to deal with this. One does not have to take the path of universalism or annihilation.

The permanency of hell also gives strength to the argument that “all” is limited in meaning. The permanency of hell argues that the statements that God has reconciled all (Col 1:19–20), redeemed and forgiven and atoned for all (1 John 2:2), mean that these great accomplishments of the cross are only potential for all but never realized for all. For if hell is indeed everlasting, as I have just argued, then some must be there permanently, and the expressions that say that all are reconciled, redeemed, forgiven, and more, are not meant to mean that these matters are actual or realized for all. As long as there is a single individual being (including the devil by the reckoning of universalism) still undergoing suffering, then hell continues to exist and not everyone is reconciled, redeemed, forgiven, and atoned for. The “all” is not “all.”

The above process of thinking reveals why universal reconciliation is impossible. The most significant consequence of universalism, already pointed out in the pages above, is that God ceases to be God. He is a being who is neither almighty, nor loving, nor just. And significantly, universalism makes the death of Christ on the cross for the sins of all a great sham.

*There is no final reconciliation and it is not universal. *

The above logic also means that there cannot be a reversal of destinies for any one after one dies. If the destiny of one can be changed then the destiny of all (in light of God’s love *and *justice) can and must be changed. And if there is a single being whose destiny cannot be changed, then no one’s destiny can be changed. It’s all or nothing (no one).

The consequences of all of the above considerations are clear.

  1. There is no possibility of repentance for either evil humanity or the fallen angels (and the devil) when once they arrive in hell/the lake of fire.
  2. There is no change of destiny for these.
  3. Hell is a reality.
  4. Hell must exist for all eternity.
  5. Heaven must exist for all eternity.

Any other view than the evangelical view destroys the meaning of the gospel and doctrinal truth. God is not so loving that he will not allow people to make a final choice to reject him

In the end, if the universalism view is correct, that God is so loving that he can have none existing apart from him, then the work of the cross is ultimately unnecessary and meaningless. If God is so loving, why not rescue all apart from the cross? If God is so loving, why does he allow suffering in this life? If God is so loving, why did he allow his Son to die in judgment for the sin of all? The truth is that the cross is the great definer of the nature of God, where justice demanded a sacrifice for sin and love provided the Son (as Rom 3:26 affirms). The suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross explains why there is any suffering for anyone. It is because of sin.

Universal reconciliation not only fails to persuade from the position of the clear teaching of Scripture but it fails to persuade from the viewpoint of logic and reason. By its own logic universal reconciliation is neither universal nor reconciling.

[1] Some universalists have anticipated my argument here. Reitan, “Human Freedom,” 137–8, writes that those who “finally accept God’s offer of salvation” are confirmed in bliss. Why, we may ask? He answers that there “simply is no possible world” in which people “could fall away and become unsaved.” He goes on to assert that once people are united to God in love “libertarian freedom has served its purpose.” It is no longer needed. Yet I may ask: Were not Adam and Eve in such a world and united to God in love, and they exercised freedom to choose contrary to God? There is simply no biblical nor rational argument that counters the recurring cycle of repentance-rebellion-repentance-rebellion once one denies the evangelical belief that the devil and his angels are already confirmed in their evil choice and cannot change. Reitan acknowledges that if his view is wrong, so that freedom to choose after death is possible, then the whole notion of salvation itself is threatened and one is never truly saved (138). This is just what I have concluded above. It is a scenario beyond all revelation and reason. Origen also discovered this problem; see the chapter on church history.