By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Can a person send (or cause) someone else to go to hell? What about an unsaved person who was murdered? Would the murderer be responsible for the murdered person’s lost condition?
Reply: It seems that this question can be answered in a few words. The one who is lost is responsible for his condition. It is true that an individual may be lost because he has influenced someone else to be lost; but the fact remains that each person is responsible for his own sins. The law was specific in the day of Moses that “the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut.24:16). Thus the proverb in Ezekiel 18:2, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” never was acceptable. When the prophet stated that Israel would no longer have occasion to use it, he was not saying that it had been acceptable before. Children were not to be put to death for the sins of their fathers. In contrast to the delusion of this proverb, Ezekiel is plainly asserting that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (see also Ezek.18:20). Each individual is accountable to God for his own sins and will answer for himself in the day of judgment (Rom. 14:12).
Man is lost because he is in sin. An unsaved man is not lost per se because he did not have, or take the opportunity to be saved. He is lost because he is in sin. A man, therefore, who murders one who is unsaved is not the cause of the murdered person being lost. That person was lost already because he was in sin. He was already spiritually dead (Rom.6:23), being separated from God by sin (Isa.59:1,2). Also, the man who is unsaved and then commits murder is not lost because he committed murder. He too is already lost because he is in sin.
Men go to hell because of their own sins, and not those of someone else. It is not God’s desire that anyone be lost (see Tim.2:3,4; 2 Pet.3:9), but men choose (exercise their own free will) when they sin and refuse to repent. Actually, men send themselves to hell when they sin, violate God’s law (I Jn.3:4); God, the judge, will utter the final sentence: “Depart from me. . .” (Matt.25:41).
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 20, p. 613
October 18, 1984