I recently received an anonymous document in which an individual consigned a man, who had passed away in recent months, to hell. The writer of the document seemed to be very jubilant about it, celebrating and loving the thought that this man would be condemned for all eternity. As I have contemplated this, I have a number of observations.
Anyone who chooses to consign another human being to hell is stepping over into an area where no man has any right to tread. Such is God’s business, and it is not only arrogant, but it is quite dangerous, to stick our noses into areas that concern God, and Him alone. None of us should dare to judge someone else’s salvation. Do we really know who has or has not come to Christ by faith? Of course not. We can see their fruit, but being a “fruit inspector” does not make us God, and it most certainly does not qualify us to discern who really is and is not one of His own.
We know there are those who will end up in the lake of fire. The Bible tells us that the devil, his angels (the demons), the beast, and the false prophet will be there. We also know that those whose names are not in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. There are, however, no names attached to these people. We do not know who they are. There is one man we know has been in hell since the time of Christ – the rich man of Luke 16. Obviously there are others, but to take upon ourselves the position of being able to consign specific individuals to hell is extremely self-righteous and is to invite God’s judgment.
The individual who wrote the document determined that the man is in hell based on a specific sin he allegedly committed. Of course, the writer has no proof other than the belated word of someone who may well have had an agenda. An assumption is being made that cannot be verified, and a complete lack of understanding of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and of the grace of God is being demonstrated.
What do I mean by that? We must sometimes be reminded that all sin, no matter how “small” or “minor,” is evil in the sight of God. ANY sin is sufficient to condemn a human to an eternity in the lake of fire, because sin is an offense against a holy God whose standard is perfection. God does not put up with sin. He does not arbitrarily overlook some sins because those sins are not sufficiently “bad” to result in condemnation. We step over a line which we ought not to even approach when we overlook our own sin but consign others to eternal condemnation because of their sins.
On the other hand, true believers in Christ are capable of any sin in the book, and any sin committed by a believer is already taken care of by the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. That is the grace of God. We don’t deserve His grace, because if we did, it would not be grace. Is God’s grace only for me and for those of whom I approve, or is it even for those of whom I do not approve? It does us well not to presume on the grace of God only for ourselves.
Just look at David, a “man after God’s own heart.” While shirking his duty as head of his army, he lusted after another man’s wife, committed adultery with her, tried to make it look as if her husband was the father of the resultant offspring, had the husband murdered, and tried to cover the whole thing up. That is all a pretty “bad” sin, yet David did not lose his salvation and suffer the pangs of hell because of it. Note that he did not ask to have his salvation restored, but instead prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12, NASB). He did not lose his salvation. Instead, he lost the JOY of God’s salvation. None of what David did was minor. None of it was acceptable to God. David certainly suffered a number of consequences because of it. However, no one has authority to consign him to hell because of it.
Such a view of who goes to hell and who does not based on behavior is nothing other than a very faulty view of salvation that says we are saved by our works. Clearly, the Bible teaches that we are saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that we could never be saved by being good, since the Law of God, itself a good thing, is unable to save us. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3, NASB).
Taking pleasure in the condemnation of the lost is most certainly not what should be done by a true believer in Christ. If the man really did go to hell, where we all actually deserve to go, should we rejoice in that? How arrogant would that be? Even God Himself does not do that. “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11).
I did not know the man who passed away and who was accused of horrible behavior by someone else. I do not know what he did or did not do. Even if I had known him, and even if I had some way to know if he did this thing, I would certainly not be so arrogant or presumptuous as to consign him to hell. Whenever any of us goes about to condemn someone else, we need to remember that we would all, except for the grace of God, be under His condemnation. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, NASB).
It would do us all well to heed the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5, NASB).