Pain, Suffering, Heaven, Hell

The Nature of Adam’s Sin and Why We Suffer for It:

“Since we all want to believe in something, our secularized culture has tended to adopt an idealistic view of man as innately rational and good… this vision is a false dream.”[1] Langdon Gilkey, a survivor of a World War II Japanese internment camp penned these words while witnessing firsthand what the true nature of man really is. It’s important to understand that we are all born sinful by nature and that sinful nature comes from the fall of Adam. While we aren’t responsible for Adam’s sin we’re all affected by it. 

 Before the fall, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden without sin. That is, they were inherently good.[2] God told them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”[3] In choosing to go against God’s command and eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam became aware of his own sin, changing his nature from good to bad.[4] Because we are all sons and daughters of Adam, his sin-nature is inherited by us all, and in a very real sense we all suffer due to that one choice made by our first parents.[5] This is called original sin and it’s vital to understand that every part of us has been touched by it. Our soul, body and mind have been corrupted by sin.[6]

All of creation is affected by sin, not just man. Adam was charged with caring for everything in the garden.[7] When Adam rebelled, death entered the world and with it came natural disasters, pestilence, etc. These things are rooted in the fall. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, never to return.[8]

The consequences of original sin and the subsequent corruption of man shouldn’t be placed wholly on the shoulders of Adam and Eve. In fact, there was a fall prior to man’s first rebellion against God. Evil entered the world when God’s most prized angel desired to be His equal and rebelled against God.[9]

“You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone… all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold… I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. Your rich commerce led you to violence and you sinned. So I banished you in disgrace from the mountain of God. I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire.”[10]

 Satan’s desire to “raise [his] throne above the stars of God,” and make himself “like the Most High”[11] led to an awesome event; war in heaven. “And there was war in heaven, but he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven… [T]he devil, or Satan… who leads the whole world astray… was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”[12]

  What’s important to understand here is that Satan’s fall directly effects our sinfulness. Eve wasn’t alone when she fatally tasted the fruit of the forbidden tree, Satan was with her. Satan coaxed Eve by appealing to the very desire which led to his own fall from heaven. The desire to know what God knows, to be His equal. Satan told her that “the day you eat from [the tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”[13] Eve tasted the fruit and shared it with Adam in the hopes that it would make them happier than they were just being with God.[14] In doing so they chose to rebel against God, breaking their covenant with God entering into a sinful state.

  To understand our own sinful nature it’s key to understand that Adam’s choice to sin was representative of us all, even though we weren’t in the garden. The entire human race was in Adam’s loins therefore we’re all part of his rebellion.[15] In John we see that “flesh gives birth to flesh.”[16] Adam was our representative before God and he chose sin. Because he chose sin we are all born sinners. We have all inherited the sinful nature acquired by Adam. “[T]hrough one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”[17]

How Human Corruption Relates to God’s Judgment in this Life and the Life to Come:

 We’re all sinners. We all lie, cheat, steal and lust. It’s a hard fact for some to hear but it’s true. So why then does God allow us to keep sinning and how do our sins affect our eternal being and God’s judgment? God wants us to choose to endure suffering while staying focused on him. In an unpublished article Dr. Clay Jones explores what purpose our earthly struggles have,

Our struggle isn’t against humans, the Lord’s ultimate goal for us isn’t that we conquer them or their institutions. His ultimate goal for us isn’t for victory in boardrooms or on battlefields (although, on occasion, that is part of it). The victory He’s interested in isn’t measured with financial statements, in batting or earned run averages, in salaries, in sales, or in medals. Our victory is different. We resist and overcome evil—the evil that deceives nations and kills everyone; the evil that fools angels and humans into rebellion against God. We overcome the evil that leads all who surrender to hell. God has called us to conquer evil and that is what we do right now. This is exceedingly more than the simple accumulation of knowledge—we learn to “overcome evil with good.”[18]

Dr. Jones’ point is very important. While we are all corrupted by sin, and because of our sin we face difficult times, it’s our perseverance through those difficult times where we not only please God but also defeat Satan. You see, in the Garden of Eden Satan defeated man and in effect he defeated us. Our goal here and now is to shame Satan. The best way to shame and defeat Satan is to persevere through our difficulties and praise God in the process, staying focused on Him and our heavenly rewards.[19]

In the Bible we read about Job who exemplifies how we should respond to life’s hardships. Job was rich, had a great family, was liked by all. Satan approached God with a challenge. He suggested that Job, a servant of God who had no earthly equal, only lived a life honoring of God because God blessed Job with everything he wanted.[20] In response to Satan, God allowed Job’s life to be turned upside down. Satan took Job’s wealth and family. He turned his wife and friends against him. Satan inflicted Job with disease. In the face of all of this Job continued to honor God, never turning his back. “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”[21] By continually honoring God, Job thwarted and humiliated Satan![22] Similarly, by allowing corruption and sin into our lives God is preparing us for our work in heaven.

In 2 Timothy Paul writes, “For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains  faithful, for he cannot deny Himself.”[23] Here Paul is giving us hope that our suffering will result in heavenly rewards, ultimately in us reigning with Christ in heaven and proving us worthy![24]

In Hebrews we see that the suffering we endure also reveals God’s love for us and is purifying in nature.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not Disciplined, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and life! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplined us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”[25]

As our earthly parents discipline us to prepare us for life, so too does God in preparation for eternity. When our parents punished us for lying or cheating they did so out of love. No one enjoys being spanked or having a privilege taken away when being punished but when grown we all recognize those punishments were done to correct a behavior and help us learn from that experience. God is doing the same thing in allowing sin. In the end our suffering is for our own benefit. In enduring we are proven worthy and prepared to reign in heaven for ever and ever.

Is Hell Fair and What About the Unevangelized?

We’ve seen that all people are sinful and that we are all subject to suffering. We’ve also seen that God has a plan for that suffering. But still people reject God, enduring the same suffering but left without a heavenly role. When speaking to non-Christians about our moral nature and the need to turn to Jesus inevitably the objection of hell arises. Many times in the form of the question, “If God’s all good and loving why would He send anyone to hell for eternity?”

In order to answer this we must first explore what hell is. Many have the idea that in hell dammed souls are tormented by fire and constant pain and unbearable torture when that is not completely accurate. The most punishing aspect of hell is going to be the eternal separation from “the Lord’s Presence.”[26] In Revelation we’re told that we are to have an intimate union with God however in hell this is severed.[27] In Luke we read of the rich man and Lazarus and find an accurate portrayal of what hell is like.[28] The rich man is not in so much pain that he can’t think logically. If he were being consumed by eternal flames he wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation with Abraham as he did.[29] Instead the rich man, while he was “in torment”[30] desperately asked for “Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool [his] tongue.”[31] While hell’s not a place we want to experience it’s important to accurately portray what hell is like.

So, is it fair for a just God to punish people for eternity for their earthly sins? People condemned to hell have been sentenced because they have committed the ultimate sin, rejecting Jesus Christ and denying His work on the cross. In choosing to live life apart from God it should follow that they will spend eternity away from Him as well. Hell is not a punishment for our multiple earthy sins, if it were we would all be destined to go there. Hell’s saved for the unrepentant and those who reject Jesus Christ. In life those who choose not to live with God are given that exact circumstance in eternity, life without God. It’s clear that the punishment of hell fits the crime perfectly. In the end the problem is that we are all sinful beings who, if we consciously choose to deny the righteous God and continue living in our sin, we deserve the eternal punishment of hell. An example of this would be a sick man. If a man goes to the doctor and is told that he has a deadly disease. The doctor says that there’s only one treatment that will save his life. If the man doesn’t get the treatment he’ll surely die. The man weighs his options and against the cure. He dies! The sick man knowingly condemned himself to death. This is similar to a man rejecting the cure for sin, Jesus Christ. He knowingly rejects it and there are consequences for that choice.

So, if we are all sinful by nature and the only way to ensure eternity in the presence of the all loving, everlasting Father we must accept Jesus into our hearts and walk away from our sins. But, what about those innocent aborigines in Africa who have never even heard of Jesus Christ? Are these people going to hell and is that fair? This question comes up constantly and the truth is that yes, they are going to hell and yes it’s fair. We’ve seen that the Bible teaches that we’re all imperfect, selfish, sinful, and spiritually dead in our sins therefore we’re deserving of God’s judgment.

“What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we became conscious of sin.”[32]

What’s also clear is that we as humans are all religious to some extent. We all have a drive within us to answer questions about the world around us, both spiritual and physical. It’s also clear that through God’s general revelation of nature and conscience we all have some knowledge of right and wrong and God. We all know that we’re accountable for our own actions. The Psalmist writes, “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,”[33] meaning we can all see that God exist and ignoring this caries serious consequences, even for those who have never formally heard of Jesus Christ. So ultimately there are very few people who could be considered “unevangelized”. In Romans, Paul clearly tells us that we will all be judged by the light we have all been shown.[34]

It’s in that general revelation of conscience we see that even the most primitive cultures have concepts of what right and wrong are. Going further, these people when they do wrong know that they have done so even without reading the Bible or hearing about Jesus. People do not go to hell on the basis of their knowledge of Jesus Christ! People are sentenced to hell because they’re sinners and fall short of God’s standard and reject God knowingly and unashamedly.

Anyone who rebels against God is rightly subjected to His judgment.[35] Those who continually reject Him are rightly cast into hell for eternity.[36] But we’re also taught that Jesus Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”[37] What’s more, anyone who seeks God with an earnest heart will find him. If “you seek the Lord your God… you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”[38] God’s not only fair but He is just. For example, we can be confident that the patriarchs from the Old Testament who lived before Jesus are in heaven. From this we can be sure that some people are already in heaven without ever hearing of Jesus. In the end only God’s able to judge us and we can be sure that He knows our hearts so we must believe that there is hope for the aborigines who haven’t heard of Jesus, those who have only heard lies about God or those who are too young or unable to understand the message of Christ might be accepted by God into heaven.

The Bible is clear in teaching that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”[39] and that name is Jesus! That said we can be sure that anyone who has heard of Jesus’ saving grace and rejects it would be rejecting God and his own personal salvation.[40] Resulting not in being condemned to hell but condemning himself to hell.

“Jesus doesn’t even hint that those who died didn’t deserve it. Rather, that Jesus says ‘repent’ or you too will die. For Jesus all death is one way or another the result of sin and therefore deserved.”[41]

The Nature of Free Will and it’s Value:

“The moment you have a self at all, there is the possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the center—wanting to be God, in fact.”[42] Our salvation is ultimately in our hands. We are given the ability to choose whether to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord or follow selfish pursuits, as C.S. Lewis expressed. In fact, the gift of free will is one of the most valuable given to us by God. God gave us the opportunity to make choices and, in regards to our acceptance of Jesus Christ, gave us the opportunity to make choices that effect our own destiny. Choices which have eternal consequences. Our world’s sinfulness is directly related to the freewill choice made by Adam and Eve. When we were created we were so in God’s image, this includes being given the ability to choose.

It’s important to note that although we have free will, we can not chose to do anything we want. Our choices have been limited by logic and nature. For example I have the choice to get married or stay a bachelor but I cannot get married and stay a bachelor. It would be logically impossible to be a married bachelor. Another example would be, I can drive in my car to work but I cannot step out my front door, spread my arms and fly to work. Humans are restricted by nature and cannot fly.[43] Similarly man cannot consciously choose to become self-righteous. Our nature of sin prevents it, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[44]

Free will being limited by logic and nature doesn’t mitigate our accountability. We are taught in the Bible that we are not only given the ability to choose but we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. Looking at the Old Testament, we see that God chose Israel but the people of Israel still had to choose to obey God. We also see that people outside of God’s chosen land were able to freely chose God as did Ruth and Rehab.

In the New Testament we’re commanded to repent and believe, “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”[45] Every time we are told to repent we are effectively given a choice. We can walk the path we have been or follow Christ, leaving our sinful ways. In the end it’s our choice. Likewise we are commanded to believe and in this very commandment we can assume that there is a choice to obey or not.

John addresses how we can use free will to accept Jesus. When speaking to unbelievers Jesus told them, “You refuse to come to me to have life.”[46] It’s clear that Jesus is inferring that the unbelievers had the option to choose. “A man reaps what he sows”[47] , and those who are outside of salvation are “without excuse.”[48]

So, how can a sinful man ever choose what is good? Only through the grace and power of God does our free will shine. For it’s only here were we can choose salvation. Through the workings of the Holy Spirit in our will we become regenerate with a new nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”[49] One’s salvation is up to God however our desires, actions and motives are done by our choosing and we are rightly held responsible for them.

“If God is to allow us to acquire knowledge by learning from experience and above all to allow us to choose whether to acquire knowledge at all or even to allow us to have a very well-justified knowledge of the consequences of our actions—knowledge which we need if we are to have a free and efficacious choice between good and bad—he needs to provide natural evils occurring in regular ways in consequence of natural process. Or rather, he needs to do this if he is not to give us too evident an awareness of his presence”[50]

We are given the freedom to choose God, effectively we choose heaven or hell. Light’s also shed on something very interesting; we’re given the opportunity to choose in order to learn what’s good and bad. As a result of be gifted free will we also endure many trials and tribulations with the purpose that when we’re in heaven we’re able to distinguish good and evil, learning from our earthly experiences as preparation for heaven.[51]

Despite our sinfulness there is hope,

“For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the while creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”[52]     

 Our Suffering on Earth and Our Role In Heaven:

Paul tells us that we are going to endure suffering. However, Paul is also very clear that by claiming the name of Christ and looking to Him during these times of despair, what awaits us is even greater than we can imagine. Our heavenly lives will obscure our worldly trials into oblivion.[53] Our pain and suffering here prepares us to reign in heaven alongside Christ.[54] Ultimately, as Christians, we are accepting of suffering with the specific purpose of conquering Satan which in turn prepares us to reign in heaven, with Jesus, forever.[55]

Firstly, is heaven even a place we would want to be? In Revelation we’re given a glimpse of this glorious place,

“And he… showed me the Holy City… coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and it’s brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel… He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.”[56]

This sounds like a place I want to be. We’re then told that “[We] will not need light of a lamp or the light or the sun, for the Lord God will give [us] light. And [we] will reign for ever and ever.”[57]

Pay close attention to the last five words here, “reign for ever and ever.” We see the same wording in Daniel, “the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, forever and ever.” We are going to be given the kingdom, we are going to reign for ever.”[58] This means we’re not only going to dwell in this wondrous place, where the buildings are made of gold and adorned with “every kind of precious stone”, but we’re going to literally rule for ever and ever.  

In order to receive this wonderful gift we must endure suffering. In his article Clay Jones rightly points out that in “Revelation Jesus… tells us that the one ‘who overcomes’ will receive ‘authority over the nations… just as I received authority from my Father.'” Jones goes on to explain that by enduring the pains of the world we are being groomed for and ultimately given the opportunity to be seated with Jesus, on His throne.[59]

By telling us that we’re to have “authority over the nations” Jesus is saying that we’re going to have responsibilities in heaven. When God created man, He charged him with caring for the earth and it’s creatures.[60] Similarly, we’ve seen that we are going to inherit God’s Kingdom and we’ll be charged with caring for it.

In Romans Paul queries,

“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called…?”[61]

In order to learn how to care for His Kingdom we must go through pains and trials.

Paul says, “…do not lose heart … For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”[62]

            When explored to the max we see that our suffering here is but a minute blot on an eternally large canvas. With a heavenly focused mind, centered on Jesus and our eternal rewards our pains disappear into darkness and so too out of the darkness a thrown is revealed. Upon which we sit with Christ for ever.

            “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I say the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”[63]

[1] Langdon Gilkey, Shantung Compound (New York: Harper One, 1966), 96

[2] Genesis 1:31

[3] Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)

[4] Genesis 3:7

[5] Romans 5:12

[6] Genesis 3:17-19

[7] Genesis 2:15

[8] Genesis 3:22

[9] Genesis 3:1-5

[10] Ezekiel 28:12-16 (NLT)

[11] Isaiah 14:13-14

[12] Revelation 12:7-9(NIV)

[13] Genesis 3:5

[14] Genesis 3:6

[15] Clay Jones, Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, October 22, 2009).

[16] John 3:6

[17] Romans 5:12 (NASB)

[18] Unpublished Article by Dr. Clay Jones, pg. 7

[19] Unpublished Article by Dr. Clay Jones, pg. 4-8

[20] Job 1:6-9

[21] Job 1:22

[22] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA).

[23] 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NASB)

[24] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, December 3, 2009).

[25] Hebrews 12:7-11

[26] 2 Thessalonians 1:9

[27] Revelations 21:3, 22:4

[28] Luke 16:19-31

[29] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA).

[30] Luke 16:23

[31] Luke 16:24

[32] Romans 3: 9-20 (NIV)

[33] Psalms 19:1 (NIV)

[34] Romans 1:18-2:16

[35] Psalm 90:7-8

[36] Romans 1:18-32, John3:36; 8:24; Matthew 12:31-32

[37] 1 John 2:2 (NIV)

[38] Deuteronomy 4:29 (NASB)

[39] Acts 4:12 (ESV)

[40] John 3:36

[41] D.A. Carson quote from Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, November 5, 2009).

[42] C.S. Lewis from Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, November 12, 2009).

[43] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, November 19, 2009).

[44] Romans 3:23

[45] Romans 3:19-20 (NIV)

[46] John 5:40 (NIV)

[47] Galatians 6:7

[48] Romans 1:20-21

[49] Ephesians 4:24 (NIV)

[50] Richard Swinburne quote from Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, November 19, 2009).

[51] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, November 19, 2009).

[52] Romans 8:18-22 (NASB)

[53] Ibid

[54] “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

[55] Clay Jones, “Class Notes: Why God Allows Evil” (Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, CA, December 11, 2009).

[56] Revelation 21:10-19

[57] Revelation 22:5

[58] Daniel 7:18 (NIV)

[59] Unpublished article by Dr. Clay Jones, pg 12.

[60] Genesis 2:15, 18-20

[61] Romans 9:22-24 (NIV)

[62] 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (RSV)

[63] Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV)


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