Theologian D.A. Carson: Hell Is Not Filled With People Who Repent of Sin

People who end up in hell do not repent, from what the Bible tells us, said respected New Testament scholar Don Arthur (D.A.) Carson on Sunday at The Gospel Coalition National Women's Conference in Orlando.

Carson, who is co-founder of The Gospel Coalition along with Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, said that as far as he can see in the Bible, "there is no hint anywhere that people in hell genuinely repent."

Pointing to the well-known parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, Carson, who is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., noted that in the story the rich man dies and from hell he looks up and sees Lazarus and Abraham. But instead of admitting that he was wrong to treat Lazarus poorly while they were alive, the rich man continues to boss him around.

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"Wouldn't you expect him (rich man) to say, 'Oh Lazarus, did I get that one wrong. I am so sorry. Would you please forgive me?'" Carson posed. "But he doesn't even address him. He was a nobody in the days of his flesh. The rich man doesn't deal with nobodies, he goes straight to the top."

Paraphrasing verse 24, the theologian recalls the rich man saying, "'Father Abraham, tell Lazarus to go dip his finger into water and bring something to cool my tongue. It's pretty hot here.'

"Where is the repentance in that? He still thinks he is the center of the universe! He is still going to order Lazarus around! There is no brokenness, there is no contrition, there is no shame!"

Moreover, the rich man argues theologically with Abraham, "'No Father Abraham you got that one wrong. If someone rose from the dead that would really make a difference, don't you see?'

"Hell is not filled with people who are deeply sorry for their sins," Carson stated. "It is filled with people who for all eternity still shake their puny fist in the face of God almighty in an endless existence of evil, and corruption, and shame, and the wrath of God."

The Reformed Evangelical theologian's explanation of hell was part of a wider message based on Revelation 21-22, titled "Home at Last: The Spectacular God at the Center." In that message, the final one of the three-day Gospel Coalition women's conference, Carson spoke at length about the symbolism behind the descriptive vision of the new heaven and new earth, noting that there are not sufficient categories and understanding for the writer and people presently to grasp what kind of world will come about. He compared our inability to understand the new heaven and new earth to a people group living in a pre-Stone Age culture trying to understand how electricity works.

Nonetheless, Carson explained some of the symbolisms in Revelation 21-22, including Revelation 21:1 where it says "there was no longer any sea." He said that the Bible doesn't mean there will literally be no more sea as in a body of water, but sea in the Old Testament is connected to the wicked. Isaiah 57: 20 reads, "But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud." Therefore, the verse in Revelation saying there will be no more sea means that there will be no more chaos and evil in the new heaven and earth, said Carson.

He also explained Revelation 21:22, which says there will be no temple in New Jerusalem. There is no temple in the city because no mediating structure is needed because the entire city is the most holy place and God dwells in the whole city.

Carson was not the only male speaker at The Gospel Coalition National Women's Conference. Notably, while the conference is for women, it did not only focus on women. Instead, organizers stated that the conference's purpose was to help women dive deeper into the Gospel and understand more clearly God's character and purpose for His people.

Other people who spoke during the conference included Lauren Chandler, wife of Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Dallas; Carolyn Mahaney, wife of Pastor C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries, John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and Tim Keller.


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