What about hell?

Hell is one of those places everyone wishes never to visit. Even those who don't believe in it!
It's such a "negative" and politically incorrect term that it is rarely spoken of, even within the Church. When is it the last time you've heard your pastor preach on it, or even name it?

The pathos the word HELL creates is not easily dismissed or forgotten. People make jokes to exorcise the fear out of it, but the word lingers on and so does the uneasiness to deal with it. The Bible has a lot to say about HELL and generations upon generations of Christians and unbelievers alike have tried to offer various explanations about what such a word may mean. Today, few are those who care to deal with its real meaning and implications.

A few weeks ago, an interesting article was posted on the U.S.News & World Report website. The article was very objective in delineating the current religious thought about HELL, notwithstanding a few inaccuracies here and there. But again, it is a report from a worldly point of view.

 

Hell Hath No Fury

by, Jeffery L. Sheler

Since long before the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards struck fear into the hearts of 18th-century New Englanders, the threat of hell has served as a potent incentive to refrain from evil and cling to faith. For preachers like Edwards and his spiritual heirs, the eternal stakes were frightfully clear: There was a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. Hell and its flaming torments were real.

Edwards would scarcely recognize the hell of today. After decades of near obscurity, the netherworld has taken on a new image: more of a deep funk than a pit of fire. While the traditional infernal imagery still attracts a following, modern visions of eternal perdition as a particularly unpleasant solitary confinement are beginning to emerge, suggesting that hell may not be so hot after all.

The latest round of revisionism was touched off last summer by a surprising editorial in La Civiltà Cattolica, an influential Jesuit magazine with close ties to the Vatican. Hell, the magazine declared, "is not a 'place' but a 'state,' a person's 'state of being,' in which a person suffers from the deprivation of God." A few days later, Pope John Paul II told an audience at the Vatican that "rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God." To describe this Godforsaken condition, the pontiff said, the Bible "uses a symbolical language" that "figuratively portrays in a 'pool of fire' those who exclude themselves from the book of life, thus meeting with a 'second death.' "

The pope's more conservative critics complained that by dousing hell's flames, the pontiff had undermined a historic biblical doctrine and surrendered a potent theological weapon in the church's struggle against evil. "Scripture clearly speaks of hell as a physical place of fiery torment and warns us we should fear," says R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. For unrepentant sinners, adds Prof. Douglas Groothuis of the evangelical Denver Seminary, "separation from God may seem like freedom from a domineering spouse or parent. Why fear that?"

But taking the sting out of hell was hardly what the pope had in mind. At a time when hell's imagery is invoked more often in the nation's comics pages than from its pulpits, the pope's remarks are better understood as an attempt to retrieve and update a long-neglected doctrine of the church and to make it available once again as a prod to piety and virtue. "In a sense," explains the Rev. Stephen Happel, interim dean of religious studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., "the pope is telling us that we can recover some measured intelligent understanding of hell that makes sense for the 21st century."

 

Whether or not it proves effective, this more figurative view of hell fits neatly with a recent shift in public opinion. A new U.S. News poll shows that more Americans believe in hell today than did in the 1950s or even 10 years ago. But like the pope, most now think of hell as "an anguished state of existence" rather than as a real place.

It should come as little surprise, say some scholars, that modern educated Americans would reject notions of a blazing underworld where anguished souls writhe in endless torment. A literal hell is "part of an understanding of the cosmos that just doesn't exist anymore," says Prof. Stephen J. Patterson of the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Were the pope to invoke images of hell with "flames and a red-suited devil with a pitchfork," says church historian Martin Marty, a professor emeritus of the University of Chicago Divinity School, "he knows people wouldn't take it seriously. It's cartoonish." Many modern Christians are simply ashamed of hell, explains Groothuis of the Denver Seminary. Even some evangelicals, who generally take a more literal approach to biblical teachings, he says, view hell as "a blemish to be covered up by the cosmetic of divine love." In increasingly secular American culture, adds Mohler, "hell has become about as politically incorrect a concept as one can find."

Yet few religious ideas have proved to be as riveting or resilient. Hell's roots run deep in Judeo-Christian teachings, although its lineage is sometimes difficult to discern. In the earliest biblical times, views of the afterlife were murky, to say the least. The ancient Hebrew texts of Genesis, 1 Kings, Psalms, and Job, for example, suggest that all the dead–both righteous and wicked–were dispatched to a gloomy underworld realm called sheol, a morally neutral place akin to the hades of ancient Greek mythology. In the book of Genesis, for example, the Hebrew patriarch Jacob, believing his son Joseph to be dead, moans: "I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning" (37:35).

By the second century B.C., when the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, hades replaced sheol in the Greek Bible, and the two concepts became firmly melded in popular thinking. Later, when belief in a final resurrection of the dead emerged in some parts of Judaism and in Christianity, hades became a temporary abode of the souls of the wicked only–the righteous went to heavenly blessedness to await the bodily resurrection.

In early Christian teaching, after the final judgment, the wicked will be condemned to a hell of fire called gehenna, a Greek word derived from the Hebrew Gehinnom and referring to the desolate Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where trash fires burned incessantly and where ancient human sacrifices had been offered to Canaanite gods. The fiery imagery grew even hotter in the book of Revelation, written late in the first century A.D., which declares that any who are judged unworthy will be "thrown into the lake of fire" (20:15) along with Satan and his minions.

Words and deeds. But the nuanced differences and gradual shifts in the biblical concepts of post-mortem punishment often are obscured in English Bibles, which frequently translate all three terms–sheol, hades, and gehenna–simply as "hell." Greek texts of the gospel of Matthew, for example, use gehenna when quoting Jesus as warning: "Anyone who says, 'You fool,' will be in danger of the fire of hell" (5:22). But they use hades where Jesus vows that "the gates of hell shall not prevail" against his church (16:18). Rather than talking about a place of eternal punishment in this instance, some modern Bible scholars interpret Jesus's words as a dramatic affirmation of his power over death demonstrated by his own Resurrection.

Other New Testament passages offer frightening glimpses of hell as a place of "outer darkness" and of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" where the "worm never dies and the fire is never quenched." But the portraiture is far from complete. Many of the early church fathers, including the fourth-century Latin theologian Jerome, assumed that hell was a place of sensory torment. "We should indeed mourn for the dead," Jerome wrote, "but only for him whom Gehenna receives . . . and for whose punishment the eternal fire burns."

The view was far from unanimous. Both the third-century father Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa, a theologian of the fourth century, thought hell was more a place of spiritual suffering–of remorse and separation from God. In the fifth century, the great Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo staked out a middle ground by suggesting that suffering in hell was both spiritual and sensory–a view that continues to hold considerable sway.

Uses and abuses. While most of the early church fathers taught that hell's purpose was to punish impenitent sinners, however, Origen suggested it was remedial–that in hell, even the worst of sinners could be rehabilitated and ultimately find their way to paradise. But his "universalist" view was rejected by church leaders at the Council of Constantinople in 543. And while a few theologians of the day believed that sinners ultimately would be annihilated, most held the belief that the torments of hell were unending.

In the early 14th century, the graphic imagery of a multileveled subterranean chamber of horrors became fixed in the popular imagination with Dante's fictional descriptions of the Inferno in The Divine Comedy. Two hundred years later, leaders of the Protestant Reformation rejected the terrifying depictions of hell in art and literature. While Martin Luther and John Calvin regarded hell as a real place, they believed its fiery torments were figurative. Hell's worst agonies, they said, were the terror and utter despair of spending eternity cut off from God.

Nonetheless, old notions of hell as a place of both physical and spiritual suffering experienced a resurgence in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Westminster Larger Catechism declared hell's agonies to include "grievous torments in soul and body," in addition to "everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God." But Origen's premise that all would be saved also began to draw a new following. And the rise of liberal Protestantism in the 19th and early 20th centuries spawned renewed objections to the thought of eternal retribution in a material hell. Rather than becoming more uniform, the Christian doctrine of hell grew more fragmented than ever.

Indeed, the 20th century was nearly the death of hell. Lampooned by modern intellectuals and increasingly sidelined by preachers preferring to dwell on more uplifting themes, the threat of post-mortem punishment of the impenitent in an eternal lake of fire all but disappeared from the religious mainstream by the 1960s. Theological discourse on the subject at the nation's divinity schools almost evaporated. And while polls showed that the majority of Americans professed to believe in hell's existence, almost no one thought he would go there. Observing the dearth of fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, Marty of the University of Chicago was moved to remark a few years back that "hell has disappeared and no one noticed."

Image and reality. In outlining his view of hell last summer, John Paul II articulated a long-standing, if little emphasized, Roman Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was updated and revised in 1992, proclaims that "the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God." To die in "mortal sin" without repenting, says the catechism, "means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.' " And while the catechism cites without comment New Testament passages that refer to the punishment of hell as "eternal fire," the pontiff described these as "images" that are used "figuratively" and that must be "correctly interpreted."

Moreover, the pope declared that hell is "not a punishment imposed externally by God" but is the natural consequence of the unrepentant sinner's choice to live apart from God. "The thought of hell," said the pope, "must not create anxiety or despair" but is a "necessary and healthy reminder of freedom." This modern and more benign view of hell, scholars say, reflects a shift in much of Christian theology during the past 150 years away from literalism and physical imagery toward more psychological metaphors and symbols. In his own lectures and homilies, Happel of Catholic University says he speaks of hell in terms of "the reality of self-isolation and being so completely turned in on yourself that you have no relationships at all." It is an image that the noted Christian apologist C. S. Lewis applied with dramatic effect in his 1946 novella The Great Divorce. "To me, that's a pretty powerful metaphor for separation from God," says Happel. "As a preacher, I find it much more effective than talking about physical fires."

By the same token, scholars say, to people living in early Christian centuries, infernal images of hell no doubt conveyed quite effectively the horrific consequences of rejecting God. "One thing people feared most then was the burning and pillaging of their towns," says the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit journal America. "If you had described hell to them in terms of relationships and psychological experiences like loneliness, they wouldn't have known what you were talking about."

Old and new. To re imagine hell in a modern idiom, say Reese and others, is not as freewheeling a process as it may seem. "It's not as if we are simply saying, 'We don't believe in the fires of hell anymore, so let's make up something new,' " says Happel. Rather, it reflects the same careful process of doctrinal development that has been part of church tradition from the beginning. "In every generation," Happel says, "the church must interpret and apply the Scriptures in the context of contemporary culture if we are to be faithful to the text as it is meant."

That is not to say that no one thinks of hell as a place of literal fire and agony anymore. This is still, after all, the predominant view in evangelical Protestantism and in some conservative corners of Catholicism. "Hell isn't something we celebrate," says Mohler of the Southern Baptist seminary. "It's simply a fact of Scripture to which we must speak." To play down hell and other harsh doctrines of the Christian faith, adds the Rev. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, "does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts–our understanding of God's grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. To preach the good news, we must [also] preach the bad."

At the same time, not all who believe in the reality of the fires of hell accept the view that hell's agonies are everlasting. A small but growing number of conservative theologians are promoting a third position: that the end of the wicked is destruction, not eternal suffering. Evangelical scholars such as Clark H. Pinnock, theology professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario; John R. W. Stott, founder of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; and Philip E. Hughes, a noted Anglican clergyman and author, contend that those who ultimately reject God will simply be put out of existence in the "consuming fire" of hell.

Dead and gone. Proponents of this theory, called "annihilationism," argue that the traditional belief in unending torment is based more on pagan philosophy than on a correct understanding of Scripture. They base their belief on New Testament passages that warn of "eternal destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and "the second death" (Revelation 20:14) for those who reject God, and on the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel's admonition that "the soul that sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). They also raise ethical arguments. "How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness" as to inflict "everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been?" asks Pinnock in the Criswell Theological Review. A God who would do such a thing, Pinnock argues, is "more nearly like Satan than like God." Stott observes that in biblical imagery, fire's main function is to destroy and that while the fire of hell may be eternal and unquenchable, "it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible." And Hughes argues that the traditional belief in unending punishment is linked to the Greek notion of the innate immortality of the soul–a belief he says is based more on Plato than on the Bible. "The immortality of which the Christian is assured is not inherent in himself or in his soul but is bestowed by God," says Hughes. He notes Jesus's admonition in Matthew 10:28 not to fear men, who can kill only the body, but rather God, "who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Defenders of the traditional view disagree, citing biblical passages that refer to hell as a place of "everlasting punishment" where there will be be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Those descriptions, says Prof. Robert A. Peterson of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, in his book Hell on Trial, signify "extreme suffering and remorse. . . . It is not possible for those annihilated to cry and grind their teeth."

Meanwhile, despite the efforts of the pope and others to revitalize the doctrine for the 21st century, many theological thinkers continue to reject any notion of hell that smacks of the supernatural. For them, hell's frightful imagery is paled by the flames of Hiroshima and the Holocaust. The only real hell, they say, is in the here and now. "Once we discovered we could create hell on Earth," says John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus at DePaul University in Chicago, "it became silly to talk about it in a literal sense." Rather than looking to a hellish inferno in the afterlife, says Barry Kogan, professor of philosophy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, "the main concern is retribution in this life. The hottest fires of hell probably burn in the human heart, in the harmful ways we treat each other." And while some modern thinkers, like Alice K. Turner, author of The History of Hell, expect the traditional doctrine to keep fading from religious teaching, "as a flexible metaphor" for human evil, says Turner, hell "is far too valuable to lose."

In no small measure, hell's future and form in modern religious life are likely to hinge on its efficacy in influencing moral behavior. Can the threat of hell prod people toward piety and virtue? In seeking to retrieve the doctrine from the trash heap of modern skepticism, both the pope and his more conservative Protestant co-religionists seem convinced that it can. "If there is no God, no heaven, no hell," says Prof. Jerry L. Walls of Asbury Theological Seminary, writing in Christianity Today, "there simply is no persuasive reason to be moral." Modern theories of moral development and classical Greek philosophy, however, would seem to argue in another direction. At a primitive level of development–with children, for example–punishment and reward can elicit good moral choices, observes Reese. "The threat of hell basically appeals to people at that level." With teenagers and mature adults, however, says Reese, it is seldom effective. Nonetheless, he says, "there are times when we fall back into primitive behavior, when we want to kill somebody. If hell keeps us from doing it, I say, 'Bless hell.' "

Yet whether it is a help or a hindrance, and whether it has a ZIP code or is merely an ephemeral state of mind, hell undeniably has left a lasting imprint on the religious imagination. And whether one clings to frightful visions of fire and brimstone, searches for new, more-cerebral interpretations, or dismisses it all as imaginative folklore, hell's powerful images will no doubt continue to loom over humanity, as they have for more than 2,000 years, as a grim and ominous reminder of the reality of evil and its consequences.

Whatever one may believe, the fact remains that HELL, in any of its imagined or theorized forms, means separation from God and therefore, the most terrible event that can happen to a human being. HELL was not prepared for man, but as a punishment place for Satan and his rebel angels and so it is most unfortunate that many men will share that place with them.

God has also prepared another place for those who accept His Salvation: HEAVEN . If it is difficult to describe hell, it is impossible to render justice to HEAVEN in descriptive terms. It will have to be experienced.

As always, the choice of our destination is in our hands.

Now, let's examine what the Word has to say about it. I will list some of the most important references to it, just to "get the picture." The following is extracted from an article by John Cooper.

 

The Fire of Hell is literal:

"He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked [one]; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." Matthew 13:37-43 

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 13:47-50 

Jesus never interpreted his own parables by telling another parable. When he interpreted them, he always interpreted them into plain speech. However, even if the Fire of Hell were pictorial, it must be remembered that Jesus prepared his illustrations carefully. He described by means of earthly, easily-understandable pictures spiritual otherwise-incomprehensible realities. If he had used the picture of eternal torment in fire, then the spiritual reality would at least resemble, and possibly even go beyond the picture used to describe it. 

It is not death:

"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which [sword] proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." Revelation 19:20-21 

It is worse than death:

"And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." Luke 12:4-5 

"And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Mark 9:42 

"He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:28-29 

It is a place of torment:

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." Revelation 14:9-11 

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Revelation 20:10 

It is the fate of the damned: "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:" Matthew 25:41 

It is feared by the demons: "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:29 

"When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, [thou] Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep." Luke 8:28 

It is a destruction that never ends, (remember the Burning Bush): "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;" 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:43-48 

It is a dying that never ends: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Revelation 21:8 

Annihilationalists often use this last verse, and also Revelation 20:14 to support their theory of annihilation. They contend that 'the second death' is literal, whereas 'hell-fire' is pictorial. However, the evidence suggests that it is 'Hell-fire' that should be taken literally, and 'the second death' pictorially. It is, after all, not eternal life. 

For those who contend that eternal punishment is not eternal, we just ask, is eternal life eternal? 
Other expressions for the same condition include "outer darkness" - Mt 8:12 22:13 25:30, "the mist of darkness" - 2 Peter 2:17, and "the blackness of darkness" - Jude 13. 

Is eternal punishment just? 

Annihilationalists quote Rom 6:23 to argue that death is the end of all sinners. But consider the implications of this theory. According to them, all sins, great and small, deserve the same punishment. But Jesus taught that some sins were greater than others: "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power [at all] against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." John 19:11 

These sins would be punished more severely than others: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." Matthew 23:14 

"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." Matthew 11:23-24 

"The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for [him], and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not [himselfl, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Luke 12:46-48 

There are evidently degrees of punishment.

How this works out in practice, we do not yet know, but God is not more unjust than earthly judges. 

Annihilationalists tend to forget that man was not originally intended to be mortal. He was created for eternity. One day, all the dead will be raised to life again, and some will then be damned:

"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2 

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." John 5:28-29 

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:11-15 

Eternal beings (humans) who commit sins against an Eternal Being commit eternal sins which therefore require eternal punishment. Incidentally, this is why Jesus had to be God to save us. His punishment, on our behalf, is effective eternally. 

No human being can appreciate the seriousness with which God views sin. He has been witness to all the suffering caused by sin throughout the whole world for thousands of years, and he is a God of love. Imagine a just judge who is a loving grandfather to a little granddaughter. One day he judges that case of a man who stands accused of abducting, brutally assaulting and murdering a little girl about the same age as his little granddaughter. The judge knows the suffering that has been caused to the parents, grandparents, relatives and friends, and not least, to the little girl herself. The loving grandfather, who is also the just judge, will no doubt hand down to the criminal the maximum penalty he is allowed to give. There is no contradiction between his harshness and his love. The one springs from the other. Similarly, God will avenge those who have been wronged. But he has made a way of escape for sinners who repent and who flee to Christ for refuge. 

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Pietro Arnese, Jeffery L. Sheler, John Cooper