This question contains at least three important aspects: Jesus, being saved, and Hell. The subject of Jesus being able to save us through his sacrifice warrants its own inquiry, along the lines of: was his sacrifice enough, and was it valid? It is a separate issue that will be taken up in another question concerning the Vicarious Atonement (Q:9 Did a Blood Sacrifice Pay for our Sins?)
The second and third subjects, however, concerns the concept of being saved, which is much like asking “If you’re not saved, what happens; and if you are saved, saved from what?” Well, that “from what” question is supposedly Hell. And it is from this context the opening question is asked.
So let’s jump to it. Does Jesus really save us from an eternal Hell?
The critical mind first wants to ask, is there a Hell in the first place? If not, then the first part of the question, (does Jesus save us from it), is moot.
At this point it should probably be pointed out that the cognitive dissonance between an actual Hell and a loving God has been gnawing at the social conscious for quite some time. So, the typical fire and brimstone type of hell has been rapidly losing acceptance, and is not accepted as such among the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
But suffice it to say, Hell is supposedly a place (or state of existence) one goes after one is dead; and is a place of eternal suffering, if a person is not saved from that fate.
And so, in asking the question, “Does Jesus save us from Hell?” the critical mind first asks, is there a Hell, to begin with? Is there any fact that can verify the existence of a Hell? If a Hell cannot be factually or objectively determined as true, any claim made about Hell cannot be verified as true and is speculation, at best.
And since that is the case, where did the concept of Hell come from? Throughout history, Hell has mutated from a place where dead bodies were burned outside the city[i], to a dungeon of torture for non-believers.[ii]
But I already know that the superstitious mind is thinking in a wholly different arena than a historical perspective, so I must approach the concept of Hell from a “spiritual” context. And this leads us to a greater philosophical and moral question.
Can there be a Hell, if God is love, just, and moral?
And now we get to the nitty-gritty of why there cannot be a Hell. Never mind if a soul exists, or if an actual place exists where souls go to be tortured for not believing – the deeper question is whether or not a loving and moral God can justify this act of eternal torture.
And that answer must be “No.” Here’s why.
Forget the fact that eternal punishments can never be justified for finite crimes. Too easy. Case dismissed (supposing God is “just”). But on a much deeper level…
The attributes of God, the very qualities that make such a being a god by force of what he is, are omnipotence, omniscience, and the omni-pervasiveness of being. Some like to tack-on that God is all-Loving, but I can’t vouch for that given the efficacy of the universe, so I’ll let that slide for now.
Now, either God is in fact all-knowing, or by definition, he isn’t God. Thus, given a priori “God exists,” God must also be all-knowing. That fact alone, among others, disqualifies the existence of an eternal torture chamber called Hell.
Here is why.
If God is all knowing, did he not know exactly who would be going to hell before he made them? Yet, for that person to go anywhere else (like heaven) would make God wrong, regardless of what Jesus died for or suffered for.
Let us make sure this is perfectly clear. Before you existed; before you were able to perform a single act, think a single thought, or occupy space in the realm of existence, God knew if you would go to heaven or Hell. YOU therefore had nothing to do with where you would end up! And only God could change it.
There is nothing you could ever do during your existence to change what God already knows about your predestination. Nor is there anything anyone else could do, including Jesus. For there to be any other outcome would make God wrong. And that’s not possible.
This being the case, it doesn’t matter what you do, say, think, believe, or otherwise exist, you cannot end up anywhere else, because it is impossible for God to be wrong. And that knowledge existed even before you did! Therefore you had no say in the matter.
So now God, upon designing the existence of a soul, has a moral problem. Does he make a soul in such a way that it is impossible for that soul to do anything but suffer an eternity in pain? What kind of a Creator God would do this?
Assume for the moment that a loving-creator-being would not. How then could there be a Hell?
Now; assume that a creator being would do this. Does this not fit the perfect description of a Devil, instead of a loving, moral, and just being?
Either our description of God as Love is wrong, or the highest creator of all existence is inherently evil, and cares for no such moral justification that would create a soul damned to eternal suffering, but for the sake of its own divine pleasure.
Is this the description of the God you worship? Could you, in the image of God, create your own child for the sole purpose of its eternal torture? What would have to be wrong with you? And what would have to be wrong with you to worship such a being, except out of terror?
What would have to be wrong with you to not only allow it, but to design it, both the soul and the dungeon? To believe that God would design a soul whose only outcome must be an eternity of Hell, through no fault of the soul, would make you… a Calvinist!
Some Christians believe in the doctrine of predestination. But that would make a God indistinguishable from a Devil. And morality, justness, right and wrong, become the meaningless whim of a capricious tyrant. We are in the 21st century, now. Can’t we think better of a god than that?
If you believe the bible is the word of God, you cannot believe in a Hell, unless you also believe the word of God is false, for 1 John 4:8 states, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Or, He that does not know love, does not know God; for God is love.
The New International Version (NIV) describes this passage as follows: 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Long story short: If God is love, he is moral and just; how, then, could there possibly be a Hell?
And so, if there is no Hell, what is Jesus saving us from?
On the other hand, if there is a Hell (and everything 1 John claimed about who and what God is, is rubbish), not even Jesus can save us from it. For what, then, was the need for his sacrifice?