“If Hell is real and if good people go to heaven and bad people go to Hell, why does EVERYONE, good or bad, go to the same place in the Old Testament? They ALL go to Sheol which the King James Version translated “Hell” thirty-0ne times, “grave” thirty-one times and “pit” three times? Are we all destined to go to Hell or did the King’s translators make some gross translation errors?” (The Hell Test)
We’ve seen that the Hebrew word translated “hell” in the King James Version is sheol. We’ve also seen that the souls of the righteous and unrighteous dead in Old Testament times went to sheol. So, is it correct to say that they all went to “hell?” No, it’s correct to say that they all went to sheol. So, does that mean, as so-called “Christian universalists” believe, that God will eventually open Heaven and the gift of eternal life to all souls in sheol – righteous and unrighteous? I think not – and here’s why.
A – Attributes
C – Character
A – Attitude
B – Behavior
I know what God’s “behavior” will be based on His “attitude.” I know what His “attitude” will be based on His “character.” I know what His “character” will be based on His “attributes.”
I am fascinated by the attributes and character of God because I once did not believe He even existed. One of the men who God used to answer my many atheistic questions gave me a book about God’s essence and attributes soon after I was saved. Here’s some of what I learned and why it helps us answer questions from The Hell Test.
God’s essence (substance) is not material; it is Spirit – “God is Spirit.” (John 4:24)
God’s essence is immaterial and incorporeal – “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)
God is invisible – “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” (Romans 1:20) Paul wrote this about Jesus Christ – “He is the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15)
God is alive – “By this you shall know that the living God is among you …” (Joshua 3:10)
God is a Person and is Self-Existent and Self-Sufficient – “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
God is immense – “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.” (1 Kings 8:27)
God is eternal – “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to verlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
Non-Moral Attributes of God
What are God’s attributes? We understand them in two general categories: non-moral and moral. By non-moral we do not mean “immoral,” since there is no immorality in God. The term non-moral simply means those attributes of God that do not involve qualities of morality.
Omnipotence – God is all-powerful. He can do whatever He wills to do.
Omniscience – God is all-knowing. He knows Himself and all things perfectly from everlasting to everlasting.
Omnipresence – God is everywhere-present at the same time, yet not limited by time and space.
Immutability – God is unchangeable. He does not vary in His essence and attributes. He is eternally consistent.
Moral Attributes of God
Loving – God is love and demonstrates His love to His creation.
Good – God is good and demonstrates His goodness to His creation.
Merciful – God is merciful and demonstrates His mercy to His creation.
Forgiving – God is forgiving and demonstrates His forgiveness to His creation.
Gracious – God is gracious and demonstrates His grace to His creation.
Patient – God is patient and demonstrates His patience to His creation.
Longsuffering – God is longsuffering and demonstrates His longsuffering to His creation.
Holy – God is gracious and demonstrates His holiness to His creation.
Righteous – God is righteous and demonstrates His righteousness to His creation.
Just – God is just and demonstrates His justice to His creation.
Truth – God is truth and demonstrates His truthfulness to His creation.
We could add many more, but for the purpose of answering The Hell Test’s questions I’d like to focus on these moral attributes. God is a perfectly balanced blend of all of these. God cannot be anything less than perfect and balanced. His Love is perfectly balanced with His Holiness and His Graciousness and His Righteousness and His Patience and His Justice and His Mercy and His Longsuffering and His Truthfulness and His Forgiveness.
We cannot and should not try to determine God’s behavior in dealing with the unrighteous dead without understanding that God is not like us. We are like Him in many ways because He created us in His image, but He is not like us. Even though many people try, we cannot create God in our image. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. The Bible tells us to walk in God’s ways, not the other way around. If we try to understand God based on the way we think and feel, we will miss the glory that is our Eternal God. God will be consistent in all these things.
Here’s the problem as I see it – “Christian” universalism believes God’s Love trumps every other moral attribute. Here is the fifth declaration of the Christian Universalist Association from their Statement of Faith:
“We believe every person is the divine offspring of God, created in the image of the Heavenly Parent of all; and that every person is destined to be raised up from imperfection to maturity according to the pattern of the archetypal Christ, the Son of God, the Perfect Human in whose image all humanity shall be transformed.”
We’ll learn more about “Christian” universalism’s beliefs in future articles, but it’s important to note here that they depend on God’s Love to bring about the primary belief that every person who has ever lived or will ever live will be spiritually transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
I disagree. Why? Because of what God says about the unrighteous in the Bible and how He says it. Here are some examples, starting with one we can all understand. In the context of having differing measures in order to cheat your neighbor, God said this –
“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 25:13-16
If you’ve ever been cheated by someone, you know what it feels like. I covered hundreds of stories as a journalist about people being cheated and I don’t remember one victim who liked what was done to them. They all wanted justice and they wanted it to be quick and complete.
It was a practice in ancient times (even as it is today) for merchants to falsify weights so they could charge more and give less. Moses wrote that people who do that, who behave unrighteously, are an “abomination” to the Lord your God. The Hebrew word is (to’ebah) and was used for sins that were an “abomination of the highest degree” (1906 Jewish Encyclopedia). It came from the word ta’ab, which means “to abhor.” It carries the idea of “loathing” and “detesting.” Many English versions of the Old Testament use the word “detest” when translating to’ebah.
To’ebah is used more than 100 times in the Old Testament. It’s interesting that the first use of the word was in the context of what Egyptians thought of Hebrews during the time of Jospeh – “So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.” Hebrews were to’ebah to the Egyptians. We learn a little later in Genesis that shepherds were also to’ebah to the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34).
The list of what was an “abomination” to God in the Old Testament is long. It includes all types of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and beastiality (read Leviticus 18 to see what God calls to’ebah). Idolatry is also called to’ebah in the Old Testament (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:25-26; 13:12-16; 17:2-7). Giving your child to be burned as an offering to a false God is to’ebah (e.g. Deuteronomy 12:31). Sacrificing a blemished animal to God is to’ebah (Deuteronomy 17:1) Practicing witchcraft, being a soothsayer or sorcerer, conjuring a spell, being a medium, or spiritist, or one who calls up the dead is to’ebah (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
These are just some of the many things God views as an abomination. What I want you to see is that God views using a false measure in the same way. Justice and fairness are extremely important to God. The lack of justice and fairness is an abomination (to’ebah) to Him.
What does that have to do with The Hell Test? We’ll see in the next part of our series as we put The Hell Test to the test.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”