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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?

Answer

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













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1 comment

  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?
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    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!

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