Osama bin Laden—reported dead last May after a United States Navy SEAL team raided his headquarters in Abbottabad, Pakistan—lived by the sword, and he died by the sword (cf. Matthew 26:52). Upon learning of his death, many in the U.S. expressed joy that the wrath bin Laden stored up in his acts of mass murder had finally been delivered back to him.
Amid the hoopla, one forceful comment stood out: "Welcome to Hell, bin Laden," wrote Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate. Is Huckabee right? Is Osama bin Laden now in Hell? After all, this is the "mainstream Christian" belief concerning the fate of unbelievers. And surely, if anyone deserves such a fate, bin Laden does, right?
But have you ever really thought about the common belief in Hell? Is it true that Osama bin Laden is now in his first months of infinite billions of years of terrifying anguish and despair, with indescribable pain, and suffering, and horrifying screams of torment, never to slow, never to end? Is it true that God, who upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), maintains what amounts to the cruelest concentration camp in the cosmos?
Furthermore, if "eternal Hell" is the home of all the "unsaved" who have died, then would we find, suffering alongside bin Laden, countless people who simply died without knowing of Jesus Christ? Would a man who claimed credit for the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001 be tortured alongside others who—regardless of how selflessly they may have lived their lives—simply happened to be born in a country never reached by Christian missionaries? Remember, God's perfect word tells us that Jesus Christ is the only name given under Heaven by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12). Should these people share the same fate as the blood-stained butcher from al-Qaeda?
The Bible tells us that the God of Heaven is not a "respecter of persons," and that He does not show partiality among peoples and nationalities (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:8–9). It reveals that God takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11), and that He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). God also says He can achieve the purposes of His heart (e.g., Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 24:14, 46:11; Ephesians 1:11) and that with Him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). So, are we to believe that the vast majority of the people He has created are now suffering indescribable torment for all eternity?
Well, if the Bible says so, then it says so. Simple as that. Right?
But what if it does not say so? Many casual Bible students are shocked to discover that the Bible nowhere teaches that people who die without having heard the true Gospel will suffer eternally in Hell. The "Hell" where bin Laden now resides is called Hades in the Greek—meaning simply "the grave." Bin Laden is now in the grave, conscious of nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5). If his mind was not opened to the true Gospel while he was alive, he will be raised at the Great White Throne Judgment and will then—if he repents—have his first and only opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and His way.
Yes, in God's time, all will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, having had a genuine opportunity to learn His truth and to repent of their evil ways (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Osama bin Laden will face God's future judgment. "'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Hebrews 10:30). Some evil people who refuse God's grace will perish forever in a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). But God is not some cruel tyrant who will condemn spiritually blinded people to Hell simply because of a blindness He did not remove (2 Corinthians 4:4)!
To learn more about this amazing and encouraging truth, please read our free booklet, Is This the Only Day of Salvation? When you do, you will also discover God's incredible plan for humanity. God's plan for all human beings is both just and merciful, far more than almost anyone today understands!