“In reality, along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn.” (C.S. Lewis)
Stephen Paddock, the maniac who slaughtered 58 people and wounded over 500 more in Las Vegas on October 1, ended his own life before he could be arrested by authorities. He, thereby, successfully escaped human judgment.
But is there no divine judgment? Perhaps he thought that suicide would end his pain or exorcise whatever demons were inspiring his hateful rampage. It may be that he had given up on any view of an afterlife or judgment before God. However, his beliefs do not equal reality.
We wish no one to be in hell. However, our wishes also do not make reality. Whether one is a universalist (who says God will save every person, perhaps even the devil) or an annihilationist (who says God will put out of existence those who die in their sins) or a post-mortem conversionist (one who says numerous opportunities will be given in the after-death state for people to believe in Jesus), the rock-bottom fact for Evangelicals is — What saith the Word of God?
We long for justice. And Paddock’s ending his own life, without trial, does not strike us as justice. That’s why the Psalmist takes the long view when he thinks about the prosperity of the wicked. They live long lives, without care, and die in comfortable beds. But there is the judgment of God awaiting them (Ps. 37).
One need only read through the gospel of Matthew to see that Jesus Christ clearly taught the doctrine of eternal lostness. We learn the following from that first gospel: Jesus speaks of “the fire of hell” (5:22) and says that ripping out one’s eye or hacking off one’s hand is better than being “thrown into hell” (5:29-30; 18:8-9).
Jesus speaks of a wide gate and a broad road that lead to “destruction” (7:13-14). Despite some claiming to do works in Jesus’ name, He will say to some at the end of history, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (7:23).
Hell is a real place (not just a state), for Jesus says, “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (8:12; 22:13). The demons recognize that they will be “tortured” at the end of time (8:29) and thought Jesus had jumped the eschatological gun.
Apparently there will be levels of judgment in hell, for Jesus says of certain unbelieving cities: “It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for [you].” (10:15; 11:21-24). The Lord warns us not to be “afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (10:28). He is not referring to Satan as some kind of king in hell, but to God.
Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Spirit as a sin which will never be forgiven (12:32). He says that acquittal or condemnation are the only two options “on the day of judgment.” (12:36-37).
The angels (sent by the Son of Man) will weed out of His kingdom everything causing sin and all who do evil. “They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13:42, 49-50). We read in Matthew 16:26 that the soul is of infinite value — “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” The Mount of Transfiguration event in Matthew 17 certainly shows that there is life after death.
Jesus accuses the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, in their winning of converts, of making them “twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (23:15). In Matthew 24, we read that the evil servant will be cut to pieces and assigned “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (vv. 50-51). In the parable of the bags of gold, we read of the worthless servant who will be “cast outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (vv. 28-30).
Finally, in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25), we read that the sheep are invited to receive their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for [them] since the creation of the world (v. 34). The goats, however, are told, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (v. 42). Then, in summary, we read, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (v. 46).
Is Stephen Paddock in hell? Unless one wishes to ignore the biblical teaching on eternal lostness, there can be only one answer. If he died without Jesus Christ as his Savior, that is precisely where he is. Apart from the saving work of Christ, that’s where I should be as well.
 See my The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Christian Focus, 2003).
October 8, 2017 at 10:24 am
Do you know the difference between evil and insanity? Your words start with “Stephan Paddock, the maniac”. Do you know the meaning of “mania”? The word ‘mania’ derives from Greek, literally meaning ‘madness’. Do you have any doubt that a person who committed this horrible deed was not insane? Insanity is an illness, that is not the fault of the person afflicted by it, no more than a person afflicted by a weak heart.
Save your religious comments to better subjects and stay away from being a judge on who should be in hell and who not.
Dr. Larry Dixon
November 9, 2017 at 6:40 am
It is always good to hear from you. I’m sure we could agree on a lot regarding the Las Vegas tragedy, but it sounds like you are saying Paddock was not responsible for the actions he took. He meticulously planned his attack.
But all of us deserve God’s eternal wrath in hell, John. Including myself. I’m certainly not the judge of who goes to hell and who doesn’t. Jesus makes that call. And those not responding positively to His salvation work remain under God’s wrath (John 3).
I don’t know your heart, John, but it seems you’re not at a place to admit that you deserve eternal separation from God. And, therefore, you are not yet a candidate for His grace. Just my opinion. But that can change. And I pray it does. Blessings. Larry