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You ask a very thought provoking question.  This is a question I’m sure many believers have wondered about.  In your question, you mention that eternal Hell is such a harsh punishment.  It is harsh, indeed.  It is what the Apostle Paul calls, “the terror of the Lord” in 2 Corinthians 5:11.  The word ‘terror’ is often translated ‘fear’ in the Bible and is translated ‘fearful thing’ in Hebrews 10:31 where it says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  To face the Lord in your sins is such a thing to be feared.  We read in Luke 12:4-5 – “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”  What a sobering warning.  To the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, there should be no fear of death, but to the one who rejects God’s salvation, I would say, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”

What does the Lord think about those who reject His grace?  Is he anxiously waiting for the day that He will cast them into everlasting Hell?  Not at all.  In fact, while the Lord takes great pleasure in the death of his saints, as we read in Psalms 116:15 which says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”, we find that the Lord takes absolutely no pleasure in the death of the unsaved.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”  Notice the words that started that verse, “Say unto them.”  Considering this awful and eternal punishment, the Lord has given us the responsibility to warn others of the judgment that will come upon all those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior.  We are to tell others that although God will punish those who reject His grace, He has no pleasure in doing so.  His desire is that the wicked turn away from His sin and live, by coming to the Lord in faith for salvation.  We also read of the Lord’s desire in 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  His desire is that none should perish, but that all should be saved.

So, if the Lord desires that all men should be saved and that none enter into a lost eternity of Hell, what has He done to prevent men from going to Hell?  He sacrificed His own Son, judged Him for the sins that we have committed, and poured out His wrath on the Holy head of His blessed Son.  This very act of incredible grace shows that the Lord has done all He can do to prevent anyone from going to an eternal Hell.  Let’s let the Word of God speak for itself as we think of this wonderful sacrifice that was made for our benefit.  Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  God did not spare His son, but completely exhausted His wrath on His dear son because He was our sin bearer, as we read in 1 Peter 2:24 – “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”  Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”  So, bearing our sins on the cross, the Lord Jesus endured God’s wrath.  God is righteous and must judge sin.  Even though the Lord Jesus was willing to take our place, God did not take it easy on His Son.  He poured out His wrath completely as we read in Psalms 88:6-7 – “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.”  What a sacrifice!  What love!  The Lord loves us so much that He punished His son so that we would not have to endure an eternity in Hell.

For the believer, we understand that the Lord Jesus was on the cross and paid our sin debt in six hours, so why does the unrepentant sinner spend eternity in Hell?  Well, why is the unrepentant sinner in Hell?  Is it to pay the debt he owes, or is he there as a consequence of the debt he owes and can never repay?  I think we can agree that he is there as a consequence of the debt he owes and can never repay.

We might wonder then how could the Lord Jesus Christ satisfy God’s righteous demands for the debt of sin in six hours on the cross, but man can never pay the debt he owes, not even by suffering forever in Hell?  Let’s look at Hebrews 7:25-27 for the answer – “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.  For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”  The Lord Jesus, the Holy Son of God, was and is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.  Because of who He is, the Lord Jesus is the only one that could ever put away the sins of others by the sacrifice of Himself.  Man could never be an acceptable sacrifice to God for the putting away of sin.  We are unworthy and incapable of being a sacrifice for sin, and even though punished forever, the unrepentant sinner will never be absolved of his sins and be worthy of God’s presence.  Can you imagine the dishonoring scene in Heaven where some are there because the Lord Jesus paid their sin debt, and some are there because they paid their own sin debt?  In effect, they would never be required to bow the knee to the Lord Jesus, because the death of the Lord Jesus did not save them.

I hope this helps to answer your question.  I would like to take just a minute to take your question and turn it around.  You stated in your question, “It just seems to me that eternal Hell is such a harsh punishment, when you have so little time to figure it out.”  I’d like to pose this question: “How could a just God eternally reward someone who has only served him for just a little while during his earthly existence?”  Only by His eternal grace!