An Ontological Argument for Hell (and a plea – Be saved!)

Heaven or hell. Both exist. Choose life! Choose heaven.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the ontological argument for the existence of God. If not, I’ve written about it here[1], here[2] and here[3]. But this time, I’m not speaking of the existence of God, I’m speaking of a corollary necessary truth: the ontological argument for the existence of hell.

I should dispense with a technicality up front. “Hell” is actually the holding place of torment for unbelievers until the final judgment (Luke 16.23, Rev 20.13 KJV). Unbelievers are held in hell until the final judgment at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20.11),  whereupon those who have not believed God and trusted in Christ for salvation, but instead have repeatedly rejected God’s gift of salvation, will be tossed in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20.15), there to spend eternity in torment. Since both are places of torment, for the purposes of this article, I will call both “Hell”, though technically, the final, eternal destination of the lost is the Lake of Fire.

Why, you might wonder, would you ever want to prove the existence of hell – that most feared place among those who truly understand it? There are two simple reasons:

  1. Hell is a stumbling block for many unbelievers. You’ve no doubt heard the objection “How could a good, loving God send people to hell?” They can’t believe that a good God would do that, so they conclude either there is no God, or there  is no good God – one not worth worshiping.
    The other reason:
  2. Many answers that I’ve heard as to why people are sent to hell, seem unsatisfactory. For example: one explanation: God doesn’t send people to hell, unbelievers send themselves to hell. In a sense that’s true, in that God has given everyone an opportunity to avoid hell, yet those who go there do so because they have rejected God’s salvation and all his overtures, all his offers, all his pleadings to accept it.  (And yes, God has literally pleaded with us to be saved:

    “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'” )
    Eze 33.11

And yet, with all his offers and pleadings, many (possibly most – Matt 7.13) have continued on their way alone, apart from God, which leads to hell. But at root, I find the “people send themselves” answer unsatisfactory because it doesn’t really explain what I think is the real question. And that real question is this:

Why is there a hell at all? If people don’t want to be with God, why can’t God just leave them alone to do what they want to do? That is an existential question – a question of existence, a question of ontology. Thus this ontological argument for the existence of hell. (Ontology deals with matters of, and relating to, existence.)

What has become clear to me is that hell is a necessary consequence of rejecting God. There can be no other option for those who reject God except hell. It is a logical and existential necessity. But such a truth, such a conclusion – hell must exist; it’s necessary –  flies in the face of those wishfully thinking hell does not exist. But it most surely exists. It must necessarily exist. Let me give you an example of the rock-solid reasoning behind why it exists  before I lay out the clear, irrefutable reasons why it is necessary.

What Happens if you Reject the Truth?

For those accustomed to thinking logically, the answer is obvious: If you reject the truth you will necessary accept and believe a lie. There is no other option. Given a particular matter – and it doesn’t matter what, this is a general principle – once you reject the truth concerning that matter all you’re left with is a lie. But notice – while there is only one truth, there are many ways things can be untrue. Put another way, there are many lies that can be accepted once you reject the truth. Let me give you a simple example:

There is one answer to this question:

What is 2 + 2?

The one answer is four. But notice how many ways you can be wrong. You can pick any number besides 4. There’s an infinite array of wrong answers there. Or you can pick nonsensical answers: 2 + 2 = red;  2 + 2 = the moon;  2 + 2 = Gandalf the Grey. I could go on forever like this, so there’s another set of infinite, nonsensical answers. But that should illustrate the point for you: once you have rejected the truth that 2 + 2 = 4 you are left with a lie.

But notice you are not only left with a lie, you’re left with an infinite set of lies. So many that everyone can have their own “Lie” for an answer and call it “truth.” That’s why you hear people like Oprah talking about living “your truth.” [4] That’s why so many think reality is bendable to their will: because they’ve rejected both the truth (that which is correct and accords with reality) and the Truth (John 14.6)  and have accepted a lie, and in their folly, they actually begin to believe the lie.

That’s why we’re seeing so many people spouting so many lies; lies that were once universally considered false. Things like:

  • Men can become pregnant
  • People can change sexes
  • Marriage can be between any two consenting people
  • Humans are the real problem (for overpopulation, global warming etc.) and like Mr. Smith, the agent antagonist of “The Matrix”,  the belief that people are really a virus on the earth that should be exterminated. (In contrast to God’s command to fill the earth (Gen 1.28))

The list goes on, but the point should be clear: once you reject the truth, any lie you care to embrace is not so outrageous that it is beyond belief for someone (or some people) to believe. Likewise if you reject God, what are you left with? All that is not God – all of which is evil.

The Necessity of Hell : Three approaches

So once you reject the truth, all you’re left with is a lie. What happens when you reject God? You’re left with a reality, an existence without God. You’re left with people who believe Satan’s lie that, like him, they think can be their own God (Is 14.14), or do whatever they want, however much it opposes the will of God, and can do so without consequence or punishment. Such people are sadly and thoroughly deceived (Gal 6.7-8). You’re left with only evil since all that is good has been rejected with God. The necessary existence of hell can be proved from three different approaches:

1. The nature of God – and the necessary conclusion if his presence is hidden
2. Corollary to the ontological argument for the existence of God
3. Direct statements from scripture

All three of these approaches, followed to their logical end, lead to the inescapable conclusion that not only is hell real and exists, it must necessarily exist. Let’s look at them in turn:

1. The First way:
The Nature of God – and the necessary conclusion if his presence is hidden.

First, it should be noted that God exists everywhere. That is a necessary conclusion of the ontological argument for the existence of God, as well as the proclamation of scripture:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Ps 139.8 KJV

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?
Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.
Jer 23.23 NIV

First let’s observe that as in Gen 1.1, “heaven and earth” is a merism to convey the idea of everything – every place in existence. That includes hell.  Another observation: These verses clearly states that God is omnipresent – he exists in all places at all times. (In passing, that is also a conclusion from a proper understanding of the ontological argument’s proposition of a “maximally great being.”) So, ironically, God exists even in hell. The difference is, in hell, God has hidden himself, while in heaven he is gloriously visible to all heavenly inhabitants providing the very light they see by.

I don’t need to prove that God can hide himself from people. That is the argument of every atheist: that they can’t see God and there’s no evidence of him. But there is plenty of evidence of God (as this site proclaims), so the better argument is the scriptural one that clearly proclaims God can and will hide his face from the wicked – he makes it so they are totally unaware of him though he is present:

On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?’
(Deut 31:17)

And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
(Deut 31:18)

But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he is over man and nation alike,
(Job 34:29)

When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
(Psa 104:29)

But for those who dwell with him in heaven, his presence is clear by the shining brightness of his glory, visible to all heavenly dwellers:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
(Rev 21:23)

The necessary conclusion:
Existence without the goodness of God

Now that the proper ground work has been laid, let’s look at what existence without God entails. Notice I used the word “existence,” not “life.” That’s because “life” implies a goodness to it, a wellness about it. But people who are separated from God are in no way “alive.” The clear proclamation of scripture is that such people are “dead” (Ep 2.1, Col 2.13). Notice the death in view here has nothing to do with whether the physical body is alive or dead. Whether the physical body lives or not, those separated from God are “dead.” Those separated from God and whose physical body has also died face judgment and a certain destination: hell.  In hell, not only is God hidden, but any goodness that is a result of God’s goodness is also hidden. (Remember those in hell have rejected all that.) Thus hell is existence totally apart from both God, and any of the goodness of God. This is a glimpse of what such a hell will look like:

    • Nothing good will ever happen to you or for you again
      That’s because every good and every perfect gift is from God (James 1.17). And you have rejected that. That means:

      • No fun (You will be in torment, not having fun: 2 Thess 1.9; Rev 14.11)
      • No laughter (You will have nothing to laugh about)
      • No friends (You will feel loneliness all the time)
      • No comfort (likely the “torment” of flames part of hell refers to this: Luke 16.23-24)
  • You will be in Darkness – alone, unable to see others
    That is because “God is light” (1 John 1.5), but that light will be hidden from you. You’ll be cast into “darkness.” (Matt 22.13) So all those supposing they’ll be partying with friends can dispense with that notion. You’ll neither be able to see them or find them, much less have anything to be happy about. (see above.) If anything, the only beings you’ll be aware of are demonic tormentors. (1 Sam 16.14, Acts 5.16) And there will be no messiah to come cast out or cast away the demons as he did when he first came. (Mark 1.39) You’ve already told him you don’t want him, or anything to do with him.
  • You will feel unloved
    That is because you will be unloved. The temporary object lesson that Hosea made of God calling his people not his people and not loved (Hos 2.23) will be a permanent one. That will be your permanent state: not God’s and not loved. Because you have rejected God, who is love (1 John 4.8), and the ultimate sacrifice of his son Jesus (John 3.16), a sacrifice made to save you from this eternal, loneliness, torment and pain.  But since you have rejected it, you will have consigned yourself to a loveless, miserable eternity.
  • You will have a physical body (it will be resurrected (Dan 12.2)), but it will feel as though it is decaying, and be without healing.
    Because you have rejected the God of all healing (Ps 147.3), the healing leaves of the Tree of Life, will be abundant for those in heaven (Rev 22.2) but will not be available for those in the torment of hell. Though you’ll have a resurrected body, it will still feel pain. And you’ll feel every jab of every tormentor, every burn of every flame, with no balm to heal any of it, and no hope of any end to the pain.
  • All Splendor, Majesty and Joy will be gone
    No more will you see beautiful things, gaze upon beautiful people or mountains or seascapes.  No more will you take joy in the wonders and pleasures of God’s creation since you have rejected the creator. All splendor, majesty and any joy that could have been derived from it will be denied you. Because all splendor, majesty and joy are reflections of, or emanate from, God (1 Chr 16.27) whom you have rejected.
  • You will be in a place prepared for Satan and rebellious angels
    Humans were not the first to rebel. Satan and his angels were. So hell was actually prepared for them. (Matt 25.41). But for those who follow the rebellion, sin and arrogance of Satan, such will receive the same punishment.
  • In short, you will be in eternal, never-ending torment, with no hope of it ever changing.
    Dante was correct: “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here.”
    The scriptures are clear on the eternal nature of the punishment, with no hope of change:


    They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
    2 Thess 1.8-9

And perhaps the most telling verse of all: Those who reject the truth of God and the Life Jesus offers, even when Jesus proves the truth of what he is offering by rising from the dead, have nothing to expect but eternal torment:

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
Luke 16.28-31

How true this verse is. Jesus has already risen from the dead, and given testimony to it, yet still many refuse to believe.

The Second way:
Corollary to the Ontological argument for the existence of God

The ontological argument for the existence of God begins by stating what qualities God, a perfect being, must have:

God is the maximum being in every aspect. He’s maximally great in knowledge, power, perfection, existence, etc.

So God is the maximum in every respect. This would include justice. So God’s justice is maximum. This is perhaps better understood as God is perfect in justice. How could a God, or any person, be perfect in justice if he allows sin or evil to go unpunished? He cannot – those are contradictory. That is why God must judge all sin. How then can a God perfect in justice allow any sinner into heaven? That is the miracle of the gospel, that God can both be just and justify those who have accepted his provision for salvation:

“he (God) did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
(Rom 3:26)

In the gospel we see God truly can do all that he pleases (Is 46.10) – even when those things appear contradictory. The final question that remains then, is one of time – temporality. Time, as even Big Bang scientists will tell, is a created thing. It did not always exist. Since God created time, he exists outside of time, and thus we know he is eternal. Ultimately all that God does, he does for an eternal purpose and effect. God lives forever, and those who would live with him will also live forever, humbly and with purity (Is 57.15). God will allow no sin to enter in his holy eternal city. Speaking of his eternal city God says:

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(Rev 21.27)

What then to do with those who insist on living in deceitful lies and practice shameful conduct? They of course will remain outside his perfect, eternal dwelling in “outer darkness”. For how long? God is eternal. At the resurrection, people are raised either to eternal life or to eternal condemnation (Dan 12.2). Thus the answer is obvious – they will remain outside for an eternity. What we do now, in this life is preparing for an eternal state – either one of glory (2 Cor 4.17) or one of condemnation and torment (Dan 12.2).  It makes sense that the God of eternity prepares things for eternity – either with him, or apart from him. Amazingly enough, he has left the choice of whether to be with him or apart from him for an eternity – to us. (Here are the echoes of the argument that we send ourselves to hell. This, I hope, explains better why it is both our choice and why the destination eternal. It can be no other way since God is eternal and will allow neither sin, nor unforgiven sinners into his perfect, sinless eternal dwelling place.)

At this juncture of temporality is a good place to also the answer the question, how can God send people to an eternity of hell, for the temporary, temporal sins they’ve committed? Two responses: First: what makes you believe the sins are temporary? Consider the people during the tribulation who never stop sinning, though they know the punishments are from God:

The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood–idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
Rev 9:20

It is entirely likely the people in hell likewise never stop sinning either – even if it’s to blame (wrongfully) God for their destiny, when it was their choice to continue to disobey and disbelieve God.

Second: As already noted, God is ultimately interested in preparing things for eternity. This is no surprise to anyone because scripture tells us that God has placed “eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccl 3.11). In other words everyone know eternity waits each individual. It is foolish to claim you didn’t know either about eternity or a moral, eternal God who will judge sin. God has placed both in the heart (Rom 2.15, Eccl 3.11). So for those claiming, “this was a temporal sin, how can you pronounce judgment for all eternity?” It seems reasonable that God will look at them and say words to the effect, I placed both eternity and the law in your heart. I am the eternal God, my acts are for eternity. You elected to pretend neither exist, and even now are unrepentant, so you are without excuse. Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The Third way:
Direct Statements from scripture

Already in this article, I have listed a number of scriptures that clearly teach the reality of an eternal hell for those who refuse God’s gift of salvation. But that list bears repeating (for those scriptures already given) and augmenting (for key scriptures that have not been yet listed.) This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the teaching of hell in scripture, just thorough enough so there can be no doubt that hell, eternal condemnation and separation, is clearly taught in scripture.

The Clear Teaching of Eternal Separation from God (Hell) in Scripture:

Daniel

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Dan 12.2-3

Matthew

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matt 25.41,46

Mark

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Mark 9.47-48

Luke

In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
Luke 16:23

John

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
John 5.24-25, 28-29 

Romans

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
Rom 11.22

1 Corinthians

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Cor 6.9

2 Thessalonians

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.
2 Th 1:9 

Hebrews

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Heb 10.26-27

Revelations

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
Rev 14.9-10

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Rev 20.14-15

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Rev 21.8

In Closing

Scripture predicts many will scoff (as they have) at both Jesus’ return (1 Pe 3.4) just as they scoff at the idea that God judged the world through a global flood (1 Pe 3.6). But the apostle Peter makes an apt analogy: Just as God judged all people through the flood of Noah’s day; there remains a second judgment that awaits the wicked. This time it will be destruction by fire, not water:

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
2 Pe 3.5-7

As sure as God judged the world in Noah’s day, he will both judge it again, and each of  us individually – either for rewards or punishment. I make the same appeal to you now that the apostle Paul made below: Don’t put off having your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. For tomorrow is not promised to you. Today is the day of salvation:

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Cor 6.2

Make yours a judgement for rewards (2 Cor 5.10), not punishment (Rev 20.11-15). Do you want to be saved from the judgment of those going to eternal destruction? If so, here’s how:

Repent from your unbelief.  Jesus said:

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
(Mark 1:15)

Even now, through this message, God is reaching out to all who still do not believe. Stop holding back. Believe in what Jesus has done for you: that he died for your sins, and rose again:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11.25-26

And make this your lifelong confession:

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Rom 10.9-10

Start asking God how you can begin living a life to please him. (Finding a Bible-believing church to attend would be a good place to start.) Because for those who do not know God, and continue to refuse his gracious gift of life, it is not without reason that God is called a “consuming fire.” (Is 33.14, Heb 12.29)


Duane Caldwell | August 23, 2021 | Printer friendly version

Related article: Hell is for Liars 


Notes

1. D. Caldwell,  “Should Christians Believe in a multiverse? 7 Reasons Against”, Rational Faith, 9/5/2016
https://rationalfaith.com/2016/09/should-christians-believe-in-a-multiverse-7-reasons-against/#ontological
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2. D. Caldwell, “Multiverse thinking: though magical doesn’t exclude God’s existence – it proves it”, Rational Faith, 8/28/2017 https://rationalfaith.com/2017/08/multiverse-thinking-though-magical-doesnt-exclude-gods-existence-it-proves-it/#ontological
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3. D. Calwell, “Atheist Meme Mistake – We take atheism one god further”, Rational Faith, 1/14/2019
https://rationalfaith.com/2019/01/atheist-meme-mistake-atheism-one-god-further/#ontological
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4. Here’s an example of Oprah pushing “Your Truth”:
Ryan Saavedra “Oprah says Having ‘Your Truth’ Is The Most Powerful Tool, Ben Shapiro Dismantles Her Statement”, Daily Wire, Jan 8, 2018,
https://www.dailywire.com/news/oprah-says-having-your-truth-most-powerful-tool-ryan-saavedra
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© Nonneljohnvilbar | Dreamstime.com, used by permission

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