6 - WHO GOES TO HELL?
CHALLENGE: Religious Muslims reject the testimony of the Gospel, which states that Christ died for our sins, because they claim that the crucifixion of Christ is a delusion and a consequence of Christians corrupting the Gospel. But they believe the Koran when it says that Christ was not killed and not crucified, and that no soul burdened with guilt can be burdened with the burden of another. Therefore Muslims invite Christians, in view of their salvation from hell, to no longer believe in the vicarious death of Christ for their sins. Instead, they call them to do the good deeds that the Koran and Islam prescribe, which alone are believed to be able to offset evil deeds on the Day of Judgment. Only this way one is supposed to get saved from hell and get into paradise. -- Can a Christian follow this invitation? Do good deeds really guarantee salvation from hell?
ANSWER: You can get an answer to this question if you investigate in the Koran as to who exactly goes to hell. In view of this question it is possible to distinguish four different types of verses in the Koran:
1. Sinners go to hell. The Koran proclaims hell as a punishment for sinners. In the Koran Allah threatens the punishment of hell for the following Islamic sins: rejecting Islamic faith (kufr – 16x, e.g. Sura 9:68), attributing a partner to Allah in his deity (shirk – 3x, e.g. Sura 17:39), denying hell (takdhib jahannam – Sura 55:43), verbally resisting and attacking Allah and Muhammad (tahaadud – Suras 9:63; 72:23), being proud and despising Muhammad or mocking him (istikbaar – 5x, e.g. Sura 39:59f), being a hypocrite (nifaaq – Sura 9:68,73), being treacherous (khubth – Sura 8:36f), committing crimes (jurm – 5 x, e.g. Sura 20:74), as a Muslim intentionally killing another Muslim (qatl – Sura 4:93), as a Muslim not performing enough good works (khaffat mawaazinuhu – Sura 23:103), as a Muslim straying from the true way of Islam by not giving enough almstaxes (al-qaasituun – Sura 72:14f), as a follower of Christ rejecting the Islamic faith (kufr atbaa' 'Isa – Sura 3:56), and finally, being a polytheist (mushrik – Sura 48:6). In most cases, these passages reflect the hatred of Muhammad toward his enemies and critics. By promising them hell, he took revenge on them.
2. Allah tortures whoever he wants to in hell. According to the Koran, it is entirely up to Allah to decide whether he shows mercy to a person or plagues and tortures him. “Your Lord knows you (Muslims) best. If he wants, he will be merciful to you, and if he wants, he will torture you. And we have not sent you (Muhammad) as guardian over them. (Sura al-Isra' 17:54, see also Suras al-'Ankabut 29:21 and al-Ma´ida 5:40) As a Muslim, no one knows how Allah will decide over him: whether he will show mercy, or will torture in hell. If you ask a Muslim if he will go to paradise, he mainly answers: In-sha-llah, that is, “If Allah wants!” There is no certainty.
3. The uncertainty over whether one can attain the mercy of Allah by practicing Islamic good deeds. In many passages of the Koran one finds, in the context of the benevolence of Allah, the expression “perhaps” (la'alla), or “it could be” ( 'asaa). Here are some examples: “O you (Muslim) believers! Believe and turn to Allah in true repentance. It could be that your Lord will wipe your sins away from you and admit you to gardens in whose low-lying areas are running streams …” (Sura al-Tahrim 66:8a) -- “And when the Koran is recited, listen to it and pay attention, perhaps you will find mercy (and not go to hell).” (Sura al-A'raf 7:204) -- “And perform the ritual prayer, and pay the alms-tax, and obey the messenger (Muhammad); perhaps you will find mercy.” (Sura al-Nur 24:56) -- “And others confessed their sins. They intermixed a good deed with an evil one. It could be that Allah will again turn to them (favorably). Allah forgives and shows mercy.” (Sura al-Tauba 9:102) -- In Islam there is no certainty that one will receive personal forgiveness for one's sins. Hovering above all the Islamic good deeds that one does in order to be saved, you will find a persistent “perhaps”.
4. Will all Muslims go to hell? Beside this double uncertainty, whether one can, as a good Muslim, escape the punishment of hell, there is a passage in the Koran that can take away the last remnant of hope from honest Muslims: “68 By your Lord! We will gather them (the humans) and the Satans. Thereupon we will bring them forward around hell kneeling. 69 Then from every party we will pull out those who have most fiercely rebelled against the Merciful One … 71 And there is none of you (Muslims) who shall not be brought into it (i.e. into Hell); this is upon your Lord an (irrevocably) pronounced inevitability. 72 Thereupon we will deliver those who were god-fearing, while we will leave (behind) the outrageous evil-doers lying in it on their knees.” (Sura Maryam 19:68-72) Verse 71 literally says that every Muslim will go to hell, because Allah was condemned by a higher power to bring them into hell. Only later will Allah (perhaps) deliver the pious from their torment. In the course of their history Muslims have had a very difficult time dealing with this verse. For that reason, everything was attempted to try and take the bite out of this verse by appealing to skilful interpretations. Appeal was made to contradictory Islamic traditions according to which Muhammad, in the best case, is supposed to have said that there is a bridge spanning the abyss of hell that leads to paradise: pious believers would be able to pass quickly over the bridge, while for the evildoers the bridge would become so narrow, that they fell into hell. The original text of the Arabic Koran, however, leaves no room for doubt: For Muslims there is no way to bypass hell.
A Christian, on the contrary, has the crystal-clear promise of God in the Gospel: Through faith in the vicarious death of Christ on the cross for his sins, he will most assuredly experience no punishment of hell whatsoever.
SAD NEWS: A Christian cannot follow the invitation of a Muslim, to save himself from hell through practicing Islamic good deeds, for the Koran not only leaves it open, whether Allah wants to save a person or not, but promises that even the way that leads to paradise passes through hell!
GOOD NEWS: There is a way to salvation that leads out of the clutches of hell, the devil, and death. This way is Christ Himself! He does not lead to the garden of paradise, but to God Himself, the source of life. Communion with God is far more precious than all the pleasures of paradise.
TESTIMONY: My name is Aziz, and I live as a former Muslim in Pakistan. On the second of April, 2007 I was underway on my motorcycle. When the stoplight turned green, I rode on. Suddenly I was rammed by a white car. When I fell to the ground the driver, as well as the front seat passenger, got out and came up to me. They began to stomp on me with their shoes, which had metal soles. They did not step on my head, face, or upper body, but aimed at my knees and legs. When they thought that my legs were broken, they left me, crying out as they went: “Allah-u-akbar” (Allah is greater). The ambulance team came and took me to the hospital. I had already had to deal with much torture from my Islamic opponents in the past. Thus this was not a new experience for me. Within thirty minutes the police came to me, along with the “beloved extremist brothers”. The Holy Spirit guided me and strengthened me to take this as an opportunity to bear witness to my Christian faith. Therefore as they came nearer to me, even before they could say anything, I told them that they are my brothers. I announced that I forgive both of them. I said to them: “This is not the result of any kind of fear I have of you. No, but it corresponds to my Christian faith. Thus I forgive you. I love you and pray for you, for that is what I learned from our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the fourth of April, the orthopaedic surgeon operated on my knee and leg. On the sixth of April the medical personnel dismissed me from the hospital. Today I am again completely whole. I am thankful to Jesus for the opportunity to proclaim His gospel in this way.
PRAYER: Righteous and Almighty God, You have the right to throw every last one of us into hell, for we have sinned against You. You are holy and righteous, but also merciful and full of love. Help me to find the way to You that you have opened to us in Christ.