Why is “free choice” important in relation to hell
By: The John Ankerberg Show
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|If God exists, why is there evil in the world? What is evil? Where did evil come from? Why doesn’t God intervene and stop all evil? How can physical evils such as earthquakes, tornadoes and cancer be explained? Is there a good reason for the existence of hell on which even some atheists would agree? What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
Copyright: 2003, Number of Programs: 8, Cat. No. EVL
Keywords: Hell, Free choice, Free will, Universalism, 2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 25:41, John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, Matthew 23:1-39
- Ankerberg: Yeah, this free choice thing that we’ve been talking about in every program is so important. Let’s make a biblical statement and show how important this is in relationship to hell. God says in Scripture, pointblank, He wants, He is willing, that all people should repent, none should perish. [2 Pet. 3:9] So, God wants everybody to go to Heaven, but He won’t force everybody to go there.
- Geisler: Second Peter 3:9. He has given them free minds.
- Ankerberg: Right.
- Geisler: Exactly. And the word “repent” is used, which means “change their mind.” They would not change their mind.
- Ankerberg: Now, you make a statement in a book, “It’s not that there is a hell that makes it an evil in the universe; it’s that there are more people in hell than there should be there.” What does that mean?
- Geisler: It means that it would be an evil if there were more people in hell than necessary. And how do we know how many are necessary? It’s necessary that everyone who does not freely will not to be there and freely wills to be there – it’s necessary that every one of them be in hell.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Will God save people at any cost?
- Geisler: Absolutely not. He won’t save people at the cost of taking their God-like nature, which is called “the image of God.” He won’t save people at the cost of their freedom which He gave to them. He doesn’t renege. He’s not a divine reneger. God is someone who gives someone freedom and then He allows them to live with the consequences of their freedom.
- Ankerberg: Go the opposite way. There’s a book from two pastors that said just the opposite: “God must or will save everyone. He won’t send anybody to hell.” You’ve got “universalism.” What’s wrong with that?
- Geisler: That’s a God who really isn’t loving. He doesn’t respect people’s decisions. He’s like the parent who, the child grows up and chooses what they want to do, and the parent disowns them. That’s not a loving parent. A loving parent will finally accept what the child freely chooses to do.
- Ankerberg: It’s also not a biblical view. Why?
- Geisler: It’s not a biblical view because the Bible says God – as Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “I would have gathered you together as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing.”
- Ankerberg: Also, it says Satan has not chosen to go to heaven.
- Geisler: Satan is going to hell; his fallen angels (Matt. 25:41) are going to hell; Judas is going to hell. He is called “the son of perdition.” The beast and the false prophet are there still after a thousand years in torment, in conscious punishment, and “everyone whose name is not written in the book of life.”
- Ankerberg: You have a tremendous illustration in your lectures that shows God loves everyone and He wants them to be saved but He won’t force them. It’s the farmer who put a fence around a pond. Please tell us that story.
- Geisler: Well, you had a pond and the neighborhood kids wanted to swim there. And he didn’t want them to drown so he put a fence around and put a sign up, “Danger. Don’t swim.” He came by one day and the three neighborhood kids were in the pond and they were all drowning. One of the reasons he had the sign up. Now, if this farmer in the illustration is God and they are human beings and we’re trying to illustrate whether God loves everyone or whether everyone is going to be in Heaven, we can see two extremes here.
- Number one, we can see the extreme of extreme Calvinism which says: Well, the farmer looked at the three people drowning and he says, “You all deserve to drown because you disobeyed the sign and you’re suffering the consequences of your own free decision.” The farmer folds up his arms and lets them all drown. Now, according to extreme Calvinists, God could have done that with the human race. But the farmer says, “Hey, you in the blue trunks,” and throws him a rope and rescues him and watching the other two perish. That’s exactly, according to the extreme Calvinists, what God did. He only loves “some.” It’s called Limited Atonement. And He only tries to save some and the rest He allows to go to hell.
- Now, what we say the biblical position is, “God so loved the world” [John 3:16]; “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, not ours only but the whole world.” [1 John 2:2] So, the farmer comes by. He sees the boys. He says, “Look, you disobeyed the sign and you deserve to perish, but I love all of you and I want to try to rescue all of you.” And he throws a rope to every one of them, and one accepts it and the others say, “No, thank you. We’ll do it ourselves.” And they try and swim and they drown. God tried to save everyone. Now, that’s an all-loving God, and I commend to you that that’s the God of the Bible, who loves everyone, tries to save everyone. Everyone won’t accept it. Some want to do it themselves and drown. But He tries to save everyone, but some perish because of their own stubborn rebellion.
- Ankerberg: And eternity, Heaven and Hell, are just making permanent the decisions that we make here. Talk about that.
- Geisler: “Whatever you bind on earth is going to be bound in Heaven” [Matt. 16:19], and so the decisions we make here are going to be more permanent there. You can see why. If you’re here and you’ve got light and light bothers you, as it does evil people, then if you take the light away, you’re going to have even less propensity to turn to God.
- So, if hell is the place where God withdraws His persuasive influence, the Hound of Heaven stops barking, as it were. You know, He pursues them to a certain point and He says, just as anyone must do in a romance – if you pursue somebody and say, “I love you. I love you. I love you,” and they finally say, “Look, knock it off. I don’t want to get married.” Then if you really respect them, you’re going to knock it off. You’re not going to be obnoxious and force yourself on them.” God does the same thing. And the “knocking it off” part is, He says to them, “Have it your way. You’ve got it.” That’s called “hell.”