I have always felt that hell is a temporary place. I don’t understand a separation from God for eternity especially in an eternity of pain. I don’t understand how God who knows everything would justify a person being born if that person were to ultimately reject God and go to hell. Wouldn’t God have known from the beginning that this person would be going to hell, what would be the point in creating this person in the first place? I know people have free will, But this person was still doomed from their creation since God already knew that the person would reject him. I have been contemplating this for awhile and would appreciate any help.


Of course, this is one of the most significant and difficult questions which is raised by Christian teaching and theology. You are making what I believe is a very common but incorrect assumption. You are assuming that foreknowledge equals foreordination. In other words, you are making an assumption which seems only natural to we humans–trapped as we are in a time which experiences time as a linear thing. To us, if we know ahead what will happen, then we hold the key to determining what will happen. To us, God must be the cause of both. For us, time is divided into the past, the present and the future. However, God does not experience things this way. He is not affected by time, nor is he limited by time. I see this from passages such as in Peter when he says that for God a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years.

So, for God, what seems like a logical quandry is not a problem. The way I understand this is that God foreknows what we will do without foreordaining what we will do. In other words, God has given us a choice. We have "free will." I believe that this doctrine is well established by multiple Bible passages. My favorite is in Deuteronomy chapter 30 in which God says, "today I put before you life and death, blessings and curses…. Now choose life!" The reason God created us, as I see it, is because he wants to love us and he wants us to love him. God is very much like an earthly father or mother in this. However, we cannot love God unless we have the choice to love him or to reject him. Love requires a choice. It is hard for us humans, limited to a linear view of time, to understand how it is that God can "foreknow" what we will do without predetermining it. However, I cannot understand biblical theology any other way. God knows what we will do, but he does not decide what we will do. It is US who choose to either love him, respond to him, obey him and have a relationship with God or to reject him, disobey him and NOT love him. If we choose separation from God, he accepts our decision.

Your assumption that we are "doomed" from our creation to either go to heaven or hell is the result, not of biblical theology, but of a natural human difficulty to see how God can know what we will do without predetermining what we will do. God so loved us, that he gave us a choice of whether or not to have a relationship with him. He determines the parameters for whether or not this will happen, but we decide whether or not we will return his love as he sees fit for us to do that.

You also hint at another difficult question, which is the eternal nature of the suffering in hell. The Bible describes hell as a final state for those who reject God’s love. Is the suffering in hell eternal, or is the suffering for some limited time, followed by nothing? I am not sure. The language of eternal life in heaven is identical to the language for eternal separation in hell. We have about as much biblical warrant for infinite time in heaven as for infinite time in hell. I will simply say I do not know, but what I do know is that, biblically, when one is sent to hell, there is no hint at all that this is a transitional situation out of which we will later be rescued. So, even if hell is "temporary" (an assumption that I do not accept, but am open to), it is not a prelude to something better. That is how I see the biblical passages. Daniel 12 and Revelation (many passages) as well as the sayings of Jesus (their worm will never die) clearly implies this. I cannot let my sentimentality affect my belief on this topic.

John Oakes

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