Originally published March 2, 2011
Osama Bin Laden is dead. Across the globe, people are celebrating. There’s a general sentiment, even among non-Christians, that he is in hell, because that’s what he deserves.
I’m guessing that, some of those people, if you had shared the Gospel with them two days ago, would have said they didn’t believe in hell. Or that a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell. Or that God just forgives everybody when they die, and everybody goes to heaven.
If you hold any of those beliefs, the law of non-contradiction requires that they be applied across the board to everybody. In other words, you can’t say you don’t believe in hell and at the same time believe that Bin Laden is in hell. If it doesn’t exist, he can’t be there.
So I’d like to pose two questions to people who hold the aforementioned beliefs:
1. If God decided not to send Bin Laden to hell, but rather allowed him into heaven, has justice been done?
2. Do you think it’s fair that you will have to spend your own eternity in heaven with Bin Laden? And Hitler, and Nero, and Mussolini, and Caligula, and Jack the Ripper?
As broken and messed up as we are, even we humans demand that there be justice –punishment– for people who have committed such heinous crimes. If God doesn’t punish these awful people, what does that make Him? How could He be perfect in every way and let such people off scot free?
I can tell you how. Because I used to be Bin Laden. And Hitler, and all of those other people rolled into one. Me. A good little Sunday School girl. Guilty. James 2:10 tells us:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
In God’s eyes, when I broke curfew to stay at Bible study just a little bit longer, I was as guilty as a serial murderer. When I said, “Oh my G-d!” I was on par with a child molester. When I refused to forgive someone, I might as well have flown one of those planes into the Twin Towers myself. And I deserved the same punishment as all of those horrible people. Hell.
God is perfect. He’s perfectly holy and perfectly just. And that’s why He can’t let any sin slide, no matter how small. But He’s also perfectly loving and compassionate. He knew none of us would measure up to his standard for us –perfection, no sin whatsoever– so He made a way for us to escape punishment, yet still serve justice: Jesus.
God Himself came here and lived out His perfection as a human being. And when it was time, on the cross, He took the punishment for our crimes against God. He got our sin and our punishment, and because of His death and resurrection, we can get His sinless perfection.
We can get it, but it’s not an automatic thing that just happens to everybody when they die. As I said in a previous post, you can’t have it both ways. If you decide to get married, you give up the single life. If you decide to become a star athlete, you give up being a couch potato. And when God enables you to turn from your sin to faith in Christ, He empowers you to give up a life of embracing sin, and, instead, embrace Christ and the new life He has for you. Here. Now.
Is Bin Laden in hell? I can tell you with certainty that if he did not, in the last moments of his life, sorrowfully turn from his sin and bow his knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, yes, he is indeed in hell.
And there, but for the grace of God, go I. And you.