Asking the Wrong Question about Hell (Psalm 73:16-20)

Psalm 73:16-20 (ESV)

16 But when I thought how to understand this,

it seemed to me a wearisome task,

17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.

19 How they are destroyed in a moment,

swept away utterly by terrors!

20 Like a dream when one awakes,

O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

 

            One of the popular questions floating around the Internet right now involves the question of God’s goodness and hell. You’ve heard something like it before, I’m sure. How, indeed, can a loving God send anyone to hell? Would such a God be good?

 

            You know, people have been thinking about heaven and hell for a long time. In fact, throughout all of the time of the Scriptures, man’s eternal destiny has been a topic in play. What is interesting, however, is that every time the discussion of man’s eternal destiny arises, the question is not about how could a loving God send people to hell. No, the question that the writers of Scripture always seem to be asking is how a good God, a just God, a righteous God, could possibly not destroy the wicked right here and now.

 

            Take a peek at Psalm 73 sometime today, and you will see this question addressed. The psalmist tells us in verses 2 to 12 how he almost lost faith in God’s goodness. He struggled, not because God was punishing the wicked, but on the contrary, God seemed not to punish the evil. In verses 13-14, the psalmist says that he really almost lost it, wondering why he bothered to obey and follow God if the wicked were going to get everything they wanted. But then the tone starts to change. The psalmist knows that he needs to be very careful about accusing a Holy God (cf. verse 15). Then, from verses 16to20, the psalmist repents. He realizes that God is right and just. He recognizes that God will judge the wicked. It will be a sudden, terrifying, unstoppable end that God puts the wicked to if they refuse to turn from their evil and fall upon his mercy.

 

            For the rest of the psalm, the psalmist repents, declaring himself to have been beastly to dare to question God’s goodness or justice. But in the end, the psalmist worships God, finding God to be his treasure, because God is ultimately perfect. And a major part of the perfection that the psalmist loves is the truth that God will do justice in all things.

 

            You could look from place to place in the Scriptures, but the same justice of God abounds. God will judge those who oppose him. God, to be just, will judge every human sin. Thankfully, Jesus died on the cross and received in his death the due penalty for all of the sins of all who will ever become God’s children. So, the justice of God is complete. Either you will suffer for your own sins in hell forever, or you will ask that Jesus’ mercy cover your sins. Either you will receive the wrath of God, or you will have Jesus take it in your place. God’s justice and his mercy are perfect.

 

            How can a loving God send people to hell? That is never the Bible’s question. How can a just God forgive sinners? God tells us that he forgives sinners by his grace through their faith in Jesus Christ. Turn to Jesus and find mercy. Ignore Jesus, and receive God’s justice. I urge you to find grace in Christ today.

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