Q: #211. How can a loving God send someone to Hell?
A: As I write this today, there is a growing movement (mainly by what are called “seeker friendly” churches) to deny that Hell even exists at all. It isn’t just about “How could a loving God send someone to Hell,” but rather, “I don’t think a loving God could even create a place like Hell.” Others are teaching that Hell does exist but it is more like the “Purgatory” of Catholic teaching, i.e. a “temporary” holding place for those who have done wrong (with no pain). Some believe Hell simply means a person ceases to exist any longer.
All of these “theories” have abounded because people cannot reconcile a loving God and the literal, terrible Hell that has been taught for centuries. Let’s examine this.
First off, the Bible is clear that God is indeed “love” and He loves everyone (see: 1 Jn 4). However, the Bible is also clear that God is EQUALLY “justice.” Half love, half justice. We see quite a bit more of this side of God in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God caused or ordered the killing of numerous individuals: Er and Onan (Gen 38:7-10), Lot’s wife (Gen 19:23-26), of large numbers of people: Israelites (Num 21:6-9), Assyrians (2 Kin 19:35), of entire cities: Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:12-29), and even the whole world: Noah’s flood (Gen 6-7). He caused plagues: the 12 plagues on Egypt (Ex 7:14-12:30) and sicknesses. And, the God who did this is the SAME God we have today. God NEVER changes (Mal 3:6)(James 1:17)(Ps 102:26-27). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).
How can you reconcile a loving God with these acts? Would you also say that these things in the Bible are false too? I know that some do…, but you are going to have to pretty much deny a LARGE part of the Old Testament in order to do so.
Friend, the reason God did these things in the Old Testament (as well as places in the New Testament i.e. Acts 5:1-11) is because humans have disobeyed God from the very beginning (Adam and Eve: Genesis 3) and continue to do so today. God set up numerous laws for man to follow in the Old Testament (613 actually!) and each person alive broke some of them. Because men deliberately chose to disobey God’s laws, God punished them. Sometimes those punishments were severe (i.e. people were killed). If God could render these punishments in the Old Testament for disobedience, couldn’t the same God also create a place like a literal Hell?
Hell is the ultimate price to pay for disobedience, and it should be because God made the ultimate sacrifice to keep people from going there, He gave His Son Jesus Christ to pay for man’s sins!
What we need to understand is that if man had been able to keep all of those 613 laws perfectly, he would be PERFECT, but no one could. And this is the key, if we could keep them, we could spend eternity with the PERFECT God. The Bible tells us that God is perfect (Mt 5:48)(Ps 18:30)(2 Sam 22:31) and He is holy (1 Pet 1:16) (Isa 57:15)(Lev 20:26)(Lk 1:49). God HATES sin and cannot even look upon it (Hab 1:13). There will be no sin in Heaven at all (Rev 21:8,27)(Rev 22:15). Yet, we are ALL sinners (1 Jn 1:8,10)(Rom 3:10,23)(Eccl 7:10)(1 Kin 8:46). So where do we go if we can’t be in Heaven with God? The Bible clearly tells us that we will ALL live forever (“eternally”) (Mt 25:46)(Jn 10:27-28)(2 Cor 4:17-5:1)(Heb 6:2)(Jude 1:7-8). So, we have to go to some other place than Heaven, right? This place is Hell. Hell was originally created for Satan and the angels who rebelled with him against God near the beginning of creation (Mt 25:41), but now is also the destination for ALL sinners. That would be EVERYONE! But, the GOOD NEWS is, there is a way out of Hell! That way is through Jesus Christ!
Because God’s nature DEMANDS that justice be done for disobedience, a price must be paid for disobeying God. Jesus Christ lived that perfect life that we could NEVER live, and when we surrender our lives to Him, His righteous, perfect life is imputed to us (2 Cor 5:19-21)(Rom 4:7-8,24-25)(1 Pet 3:18). He paid the price for our sin and disobedience to God. His perfect life allows us to spend eternity with a perfect God. Through His shed blood, we are forgiven of our sins (Col 1:14)(Eph 1:7)(Heb 10:16-19)(1 Jn 1:7)(Rev 1:5) and His blood covers our sins. When God the Father looks at us, He won’t see our sins, He will see Jesus!
The Bible calls this act of Jesus “salvation” (Acts 4:12)(Rom 1:16)(Rom 10:10)(1 Th 5:9) or being “saved.” Many of you have probably heard this term. It is used to describe the moment a person surrenders to Jesus and accepts His payment for his or her sin. Several key Bible verses are used to describe this.
(Rom 10:9-10) that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
(Rom 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(Rom 5:9-10) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
(Eph 2:8-9) For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) not of works, lest any man should boast.
What is the most important thing about all of this? It is a decision we ALL MUST MAKE. When we do, we are “saved.” Not everyone makes this decision and accepts Jesus’ payment. If they do not, they go from God’s grace and mercy to God’s justice.
Also, what exactly does “saved” mean? Webster’s Dictionary says the (main) meaning is “to rescue or deliver from danger or harm.” When the Bible says “saved,” what exactly are we “rescued or delivered from?” It must be something, right? That something is Hell! When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, He saves us from going to Hell. If there was no Hell at all, or if everyone was going to Heaven (or going eventually), why did Jesus need to die at all?? Hell gives the death of Jesus’ meaning. He gave His life to SAVE us from it. And, you can’t say that He had to die so everyone in the world would go to Heaven because what if He hadn’t died, then where would everyone go?
The Bible says that God sent His Son to die for us because He LOVES us so much (Jn 3:16)(Rom 5:8)(1 Jn 4:9-10)(Rom 8:39). God desires that ALL men would be saved from Hell (1 Tim 2:3-4)(2 Pet 3:9)(Ezek 18:23)(Mt 18:14) and accept the sacrifice His Son made so we can spend eternity with Him. Nothing we can do apart from accepting this sacrifice will be good enough.
Hell will be a terrible place in many ways, but the worst aspect of Hell is ETERNAL separation from God (2 Th 1:9). Hell is the only place where God isn’t. He doesn’t want anyone to go there, but Hell is ultimately our choice. A good description for Hell could be: “A place for those who chose not to obey what God said to do, but rather, did what they wanted to do.” Put another way, it has been stated, “Not thy will, but my will be done.”
One of the greatest gifts God gave us, apart from Jesus, is free will. We can choose to spend eternity with God or with Satan. God will not force us to choose Him. God has simply provided the means to spend eternity with Him, but He does not make us choose that means. The Bible says that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). However, since we know God desires that ALL men be saved, we know He draws ALL men. He does this through the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin (Jn 16:8). In addition, the Bible says Jesus died for the WHOLE human race (Jn 1:29)(1 Jn 2:2)(Jn 12:47)(2 Cor 5:19). All we have to do is accept His payment, and we will become a child of God (Gal 3:26)(we are not a child of God until we accept Jesus). Once we do that, we will live FOREVER as a part of God’s family. God will be our Father!
However, we can also choose not to answer the door and accept Jesus’ payment. We can choose to harden our hearts to the drawing and conviction of God (Mt 23:37)(Lk 13:34)(Acts 7:51)(Jn 5:40). This does not mean that God does not love us! In fact, the opposite is true. If God forced us to choose His way, it would not be love at all. True love cannot be forced, it demands that a choice be given. Let me ask you, do you consider it love if someone forces you to do something you don’t want to do, or imposes their will on you so that you have no choice? We might use the terms slavery, or rape, or brainwashing to describe this. FREE will cannot logically be “free” if it is forced!
All of the Bible in some way, shape, or form points to Jesus. Before Jesus’ time, the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus, and the New Testament shows Jesus’ life and looks back on it. The whole Bible is God’s gift of love to us. There is an acronym some use for the Bible: B.I.B.L.E. = (God’s) Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It is appropriate. God has told us what we need to do before we die and leave this planet. It is all about Jesus. It is a warning about how much we need Jesus, and how as sinners we are doomed without Him. (Rom 6:23) says, “For the wages of sin is death (Hell); but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We ALL deserve Hell as a result of our sins. We ALL fall short of a perfect God. But, by His grace and mercy, He has told us the way out: the perfect Jesus Christ! If you have never made that choice, please go here to do so.
Note: For the sake of space, I have not gone into depth here on two important subjects related to this. Please see:
Q: #19. What happens to those who have never heard of Jesus?
Q: #31. How were people saved in the Old Testament?