This is a response to part of Yuriy Stasyuk’s blog post about the atheist view of death in which he details “six reasons eternal life would inevitably become hell.” It’s a thoughtful post, and I would encourage everyone to take the time to read it before you read my response here.
1. It would get boring.
“How would you feel a trillion-trillion-trillion-trillion-trillion years down the road, repeating the same exact thing over and over again until you know it so well there could not possibly be anything new or exciting about it? That is the curse of eternal life.”
2. Hell is unfair (his #3)
“No one is wicked enough to deserve eternal punishment, and no one is righteous enough to deserve eternal bliss.”
Eternal conscious torment in hell is one of those staggering doctrines taught by our Lord that should bring us to awe that our God should be so unfathomably holy and so inconceivably righteous that he would decree such a thing. We know that God is wiser and holier and more hateful of evil and more loving of good and kinder and more patient and more just and more merciful than we can even imagine. On the judgment day when every injustice throughout all history is brought into account, God will issue the verdicts and everyone will see and know that his judgments are fair. In the light of his glory, all arguments about the injustice of hell will be silenced and no one will answer him a word. Of course we can’t really understand how that could be fair right now – how could we? We with our sinful human minds are less fit to judge the rightness of hell than a golden retriever is to decide cases at the Supreme Court.
3. We can’t enjoy heaven knowing people are in hell (his #2)
“How could anyone live with joy knowing their loved ones are being tortured and suffer the worst agony imaginable?”
It feels that way now because our experience of love with fellow humans seems closer and more real than our experience of love with God. In truth, for Christians, our greatest, truest and dearest love is God himself. In the light of heaven, this will be wonderfully clear and sweet to us, and the sad fate of those who have rejected and spurned our God, our one true love, will not be able to make us more unhappy than we are happy to drink the sweet delight of his indescribable love each and every new day. Rather, we will be joyfully passionate about the glory of God, including the glory of his righteous judgments against sinners (knowing that we did nothing to deserve anything better, but that Jesus mercifully bought us by his blood and renewed us in his image).
4. It makes this life meaningless
“It doesn’t matter how much good you do, because the infinite reward you get so vastly outweighs the good that it drowns out your nobility and sacrifice. No sacrifice or struggle can have any meaning, for it is infinitely swamped by an infinite reward. No great act of heroism, courage, or nobility can have any meaning for it is engulfed by the infinite chasm of eternity.”
No, it makes this life more meaningful, because this is the incredibly brief period of time in which the Story is happening. The happy ending of a story is only interesting after having read the story – and the happily-ever-after of the story of God’s creation does not obliterate the frightening, monumental, glorious events that brought us there. Rather it brings them to a happy conclusion in which the glories of what God did in, with and through his people will be remembered and celebrated for all the endless eons.
5. Eternity is the end of curiosity
“‘Eternity is the end of curiosity.’ In an eternal life there is nothing left to ponder, wonder, investigate, or explore for there are no more distant lands or mysterious horizons.
In every single narrative of heaven it is said that we finally receive ‘all of the answers.’ Consider the intellectual who has devoted his life studying and seeking answers, and now compare her to a lazy man who has comfortably coasted through life without ever struggling to achieve anything. In the eternal Paradise, both instantly get ‘all of the answers.’”
It is nowhere written that when we get to heaven, we will suddenly “know all the answers.” I am sure that as soon as we reach the perspective granted by heaven, there are a great many things that we will see which we did not see before. But as for knowing all the answers, there is only one who does, and we will never share that attribute of his. Rather we will continue to grow in knowledge and to ask ever new, ever deeper questions forever. If that seems incredible, of course it is! We well know that the human mind has no real way to grasp any infinite concept.
6. There won’t be enough for us to do
“Even if we imagine that there will be some things to do in an eternal after, how long until those things become mindless, repetitive, routines? If you have an eternity of time, eventually everything that can be done, will be done. Eventually the last enemy will be vanquished, and what then? Eventually every last goal will have been achieved, and what then? Eventually every possible song will have been written, sung, remixed, and resung, so what then? Eventually every possible invention will have been invented, so what then?”
Really? The real answer to this objection is in part 1, but as was suggested we will continue to occupy ourselves with creative endeavors in our eternal life. It may seem sound to say that given an infinite amount of time, all of the infinite number of possible (good) songs will be written, and then what? But, it’s obvious to see that the moment of “then what?” never actually comes. You only run out of songs to write after you’ve used the infinite amount of time it takes to write them all. In order to actually reach the moment where all these songs are written, you would have had to get there in a finite amount of time, and of course it’s impossible to write an infinite number of songs in a finite amount of time.
No, we will not have enough time in all of eternity to think, speak, sing, and celebrate all of the infinite glory of God. The joy of growing in knowledge and appreciation and love will be ours for every day of all of eternity.