Dear Theophilus: On Heaven and Hell

sun shining in the sky By Joe Stanley Posted on November 28, 2017  in  [ Theology & Ministry ]

If Jesus forgives us from all of our sins, then why do some people go to hell?

Sincerely,

Theophilus

Dear Theophilus,

This is a great question! While I will not be able to thoroughly discuss this with you since my answer would be way too long, I can certainly briefly answer your question.

Yes, Jesus does forgive all of us that believe in Him. But not everyone chooses to believe in Jesus or ask for His forgiveness. While it is true that Jesus came to Earth for the whole world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), the mistake that most people make is that they stop reading after they have read that one verse and they focus only on the love that God has for all of us.

Yet, in that same verse, Jesus said: “Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” So, we must actually believe in Jesus and accept His gracious gift to us. In that passage, Jesus went on to emphasize that we must believe: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Although Jesus died for everyone, it is up to us to believe in Him and accept His gift of eternal life.

It is also important to realize that we can do nothing to earn eternal life. We can never be good enough, do enough good deeds, give enough money, attend church services often enough, knock on enough doors, go on enough mission trips or anything else to earn God’s favor and eternal life. We can only experience eternal life by accepting the gift of God’s only son Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by dying on the cross, and our response is to believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness of our sin. This is all that is required to experience God’s forgiveness. However, in response to what God and Jesus have done for us, we then obey God’s Word and do good works. But we do not do good works to earn God’s favor; we do good works because we have already experienced God’s favor. If we choose to believe in Jesus, then we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

Since the majority of the world are not Christians and therefore do not know Jesus, and they have never accepted what Jesus has done for us, they have not experienced God’s favor and do not have eternal life. Instead, as John 3:18 tells us, they are condemned simply because they have not believed in “the name of the only Son of God.”

Hell is for those who have not accepted Jesus. According to Scripture and the Christian worldview, our choice is clear. Accept Jesus Christ and spend eternity in heaven or do not accept Jesus and go to hell (Revelation 20:11-15). This is why Christians have spent huge sums of money and traveled the world over to tell others about Jesus Christ.

Do you have a question you want answered by our Dear Theophilus writers? Send your questions to cotblog@gcu.edu with the subject line “Dear Theophilus.” To learn more about GCU’s College of Theology, visit our website or click the Request More Information button.

Joe Stanley, M.Div.

Faculty, College of Theology
Joe Stanley is a proud Texan from San Antonio. He has 25 years of experience in small church pastoral ministry. He has a degree in Christian Education, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, a Master of Divinity and is currently working on his Doctor of Ministry.
Learn more about Joe Stanley, M.Div.

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