Why Christians Can Go to Hell despite Christ’s atoning for our sins

Full Question

If Jesus atoned for our sins, why then do people go to hell, even if they believe in Jesus?


As St. James makes clear, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19; emphasis added). So it’s not simply enough to believe in God’s existence. We have to respond and accept his free gift of salvation. We do this by our free-will choices, our “good works.” As the word gift implies, we don’t or can’t earn our salvation, but we must freely cooperate with God in being saved, and we do so through our everyday choices.

That’s why James added, “Some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. . . . [So] you see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:18, 24).

James concurs with Jesus, who said:

Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers” (Matt. 7:21-23).

For more on the issue of salvation and our cooperation, see CCC 846-48.

By Tom Nash



  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    You aren’t getting the full story here. In the OT, when you died, you went to Sheol – good and bad alike. Many Jews thought you were simply dead forever, while others believed at the end of time you would be wakened and judged. Those who did good (and acts mattered more than beliefs), were to be rewarded with a renewed garden paradise. Those who did bad, were to be destroyed. Along comes Jesus and now Sheol is shut down. We are judged the instant we die and if we believed, said and did what the celibate virgins dressed in robes told us, then we must give up our free will and live in the eternal boredom of heaven as zombies. If we fall short, then instead of simply being destroyed we are to be tortured for millions and billions and trillions of eternal years, though we lived here but a handful of decades. Just how evil can this god be? How has our condition improved? How much can he negate his own instructions, in his own holy book, that call for proportionate justice?
    As the author makes clear, Jesus did not save everyone – he only saves those who listen to robed, celibate virgins who also happen to be maniacally obsessed with anything having to do with sex. The story about Jesus saving us is a farce. We were much better off before he came. Jesus himself mentioned “Hell” 11 times. Do you know what the word “Hell” was for Jesus? It was “Gehenna.” Gehenna was an actual place, the Jerusalem town dump. Jesus was clearly speaking allegorically (assuming the actual existence of a historical Jesus – something becoming ever more doubtful). The ultimate insult for a Jew in those days was to be thrown in the dump rather than be afforded a decent burial. They understood his mention of the dump as an allegory, but the Church turned it into a real place. Well Gehenna has been closed for a long, long time. There is no Hell, aside from the one we create for ourselves when we let unnatural, disordered clergy use fear to control us. This fear can be found in the way the Church translated four very different words (Sheol, Gehenna, Hades & Tartarus) to the pagan word “Hell.” It’s all a con job people. Look up those words. Hades is pure paganism – the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. If Hades is real, so are they!

    1. Jacqueline Reply

      Perhaps a bit of research on your part would help you understand what this article is conveying. I must say, you sound more like Lucifer trying to discredit Jesus rather than someone seeking truth. Your ignorance of the Faith is appalling.
      God help you in your quest.

      1. Brian Reply

        He’s right in a way, but could have not used sarcasm against the church. What he said about Sheol is right but left out that it’s the purification place to enter heaven. There is belief that if you can’t be purified you are deleted only if totally evil. There is speculations of reincarnation if you’re not totally evil and can not be purified. This is where Catholics get purgatory from. Jesus did mention hell. Hell was never mentioned prior and yet many understood what he was talking about. Why? Jews never once believed in a hell. So how did they understand what he was talking about? I have heard of the local dump theory as well. However, both Christian and Jew believe in Satan and demons but not in the same sense either. So where do these polar opposites come from if it’s from the same God? Why are christians contradicting the original testament when Jesus states in Mathew he is not here to change even one mark of the word but only to fulfill the prophecy? Why would Jesus teach us how to worship God yet we worship Jesus heavily more? If father, son, Holy Spirit are one God, why are we not worshiping the Holy Spirit way more even with the other 2? Anyway I’m sure I know what the responses would be to all those questions. Most say the same things. However, answers never match the word if read the verses in entirety and the context it was actually said in. I’m not attacking God or his word, but man has let culture and their own personal theology rule over what God actually says and both God and Jesus called man out for doing that, yet continues to this day in both Judaism and Christianity sects. Why must man think God has hid clues in the word when he is so precise when talking? Why is man so proud of their culture that they have to think there is interpretation to what God is saying? Probably because God states many times that we are a hard headed people that will always try to put what they want over what God wants us to do. It’s hard to believe how many times the iserialites went against God and God would forgive or give them what they wanted. Yet if we as christians fall short, this same God would through his child in eternal damnation when he was so forgiving and to show how forgiving he sent his only son as proof? If you state we don’t understand God’s will, then you can’t state in this article that we will go to hell. That is judging and Jesus stated he who is without sin cast the first stone. Means you can’t judge, therefore don’t be saying someone is going to hell if they don’t do this or that. Just follow God and eat drink and be merry! Come to God as a child and stop all this nit picking of the word and over analyzing! Both of those are in the Bible, go search and actually read it without theology biases and read within context of situations.

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