Is Ariel Castro Burning in Hell?
Has the man who imprisoned and tortured three women for over 10 years been condemned to burning in hell for all eternity—or is there more to the story?
Last week, Ariel Castro—the man convicted of holding three young women captive for over a decade in his Cleveland, Ohio, home—committed suicide in his prison cell. According to reports, Castro used his bedsheet to hang himself during the 30-minute interval between checks of his cell. He served just over four weeks of his sentence of life plus 1,000 years in prison.
Reactions to Castro’s suicide have been varied. Some expressed relief that his premature death will save the state of Ohio thousands of dollars. Others have expressed anger that he was allowed to escape justice—only serving a month of imprisonment after forcing the three women to live as his prisoners for over 10 years.
Though there is disagreement on the question of justice and Castro’s suicide, many religious commentators in the U.S. agree on one thing: Ariel Castro is now in hell, facing punishment for the rest of eternity.
Asking the uncomfortable questions
Strangely, however, this belief that Ariel Castro will be eternally tortured in hell contradicts another belief that the majority of Christians hold—the belief that one has to merely accept Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and ask His forgiveness to receive His grace and be accepted into heaven after death.
All you have to do is visit religious websites, watch evangelical telecasts or attend an altar call, and you will hear that message proclaimed—the message that, no matter how bad you have been, you can receive God’s grace by accepting Jesus Christ and asking for His forgiveness.
But does that message, preached loudly by Christianity, apply to Ariel Castro? Did his crimes make him an exception?
In his final statement after his sentencing on Aug. 1, 2013, Ariel Castro said, “I asked God to forgive me. … I’ve been reading the Bible. I’ve been asking for forgiveness.”
So, here’s the dilemma: According to the doctrine of many mainstream Christian churches, Ariel Castro did what is required to be saved. Churches teach that Christ’s blood can save anyone, no matter what the sin. But can God forgive Ariel Castro?
Many religious people avoid these specific questions. It’s much more comfortable to not deal with the above cognitive dissonance and just deal with criminals like Ariel Castro by condemning them to hell for eternity.
It gives us a sense of justice and, perhaps, makes us more comfortable with ourselves. Hell is for people who are really evil—the Ariel Castros, Jeffrey Dahmers or Adolf Hitlers.
The wages of sin
So, what does the Bible reveal about the fate of people like Ariel Castro? Is it as simple as “he was evil; therefore he is burning in hell for the rest of eternity”?
First, we must note that what Ariel Castro did for the last 10 years of his life was an abominable evil and sin. There is no glossing over his actions. The Bible defines sin as “the transgression [breaking] of the law” (1 John 3:4, King James Version).
Many are surprised to learn that the place where millions of people believe Ariel Castro now resides—an ever-burning hell of eternal torture for sinners—is a myth. This doctrine ignores the plainest scripture in the entire Bible about the ultimate fate of human beings: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
This scripture teaches us that ultimately there are only two results for the decisions we make: life or death.
Ariel Castro is dead. The Bible teaches that the “dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). The man is simply dead, unconscious. He has no thoughts. He is not awake, being tortured in some alternate dimension, as you read this.
But is that the end of the story for Ariel Castro and for all the other human beings who are considered evil and have died throughout history?
Hope for Ariel Castro
What I am about to write may shock you. It may contradict everything you have ever been taught about the fate of evil human beings.
The Bible shows there is hope for Ariel Castro.
That statement takes nothing away from the gravity of the evil, selfish and disgusting acts he committed throughout his lifetime.
It fulfills one of the most quoted (yet misunderstood) verses in the Bible: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The truth is that God desires all human beings to be saved from death (2 Peter 3:9)—including even the most evil human beings in this life.
An overlooked resurrection
The Bible reveals that the majority of the world is now blinded to the truth of God (Matthew 13:13; Romans 11:7; Revelation 12:9). But there is a future time when all who were not called to know the truth now—who were blinded to God’s truth throughout their lives—will be resurrected again to physical life (Ezekiel 37:5-6). The assumption of many, including many of the very people who will be resurrected, is that their “hope is lost” and that they are “cut off” from God for all eternity (verse 11).
But God says their hope is not lost. They are not eternally cut off.
God will resurrect them and perform a great miracle. Speaking to the ancient Israelites (and all mankind by example), God promises that in the future, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live” (verse 14). The Holy Spirit of God will be offered to these billions of human beings who never had the opportunity to have it before. As well, “the books” (of the Bible) will be “opened” to these people (Revelation 20:12)—allowing them to understand God’s truth, which they had been blind to before. At this time, God’s mercy and forgiveness will be extended to those who repent of their sins and accept the sacrifice of Christ—people who never had access to this understanding in this life (Romans 11:32).
At that time, evil, twisted and sick human beings will have the opportunity to be healed through the combined effects of God’s mercy, Holy Spirit and Word!
This is the hope for Ariel Castro—and the rest of humanity that has lived in opposition to and ignorance of God. God did not create mankind to send the majority to hell for all eternity. He created mankind with the potential to be in His family, and He has a systematic plan to give that opportunity to all—the small, the great, the good and the bad. Some, hopefully few, will refuse to repent and will be destroyed in a lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15; Malachi 4:1, 3).
God’s plan is incredibly merciful and ultimately just. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
This blog post just scratched the surface of God’s great plan for all humanity. To learn more about this hope, read “The Last Great Day: The Final Harvest.”