Top 10 Questions People Ask About the Christian Faith:
How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
The question of hell is a fire-y one. Even those who call themselves Christians struggle to explain the connection between a loving God and a place of eternal damnation. But, we know hell exists because Jesus said it does.
Sometimes in conversations, people assume hell is only associated with the Old Testament, but Jesus spoke about hell passionately. In fact, hell is referenced 420 times in the New Testament.
“It is our Lord Jesus who, above all, forces us to affirm the dreadful truth that those who stand alone before God as sinners on the day of judgment will face condemnation into a state of eternal punishment called hell. To the religious hypocrites, Jesus declared, ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ (Matt. 23:33). Those rejected as subjects of the kingdom, Jesus said, ‘Will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 8:12).”
- A writer for the C. S. Lewis Institute.
We don’t like to talk about hell – and for a good reason! It is an awful place. But, if we don’t talk about it, we may be confused about why hell exists and why a loving God can send people there.
So, let’s explore How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
God Doesn’t Send Anyone to Hell
The first answer to this difficult question is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell. People send themselves to hell.
We certainly do not blame a good judge for sending a criminal to prison. The judge swore to uphold the law, and when a criminal breaks the law, they are choosing the consequences of their crime.
“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”
-- Charlie on the TV Show Baretta starting Robert Blake.
People are free to make their own choices. Unfortunately, some people make choices leading to eternal separation from their Creator.
Active Christianity explains, “Make no mistake – hell is not a place where people are simply ‘sent to.’ Just as there is a way that leads to heaven, there is also a way that leads to hell – and it’s heavily signposted. It’s a path that someone decides to take, a direction they have been heading in and a course they have set, long before they get there. When one consciously chooses to live contrary to God’s laws, rejecting His promptings to repentance, they themselves are choosing what the outcome of their life will be.”
God is Holy
Next, it is important to recognize God’s holiness. Because God is holy, He cannot be in the presence of evil. Therefore, sin and evil have no place in Heaven or in His eternal presence.
Those who are sinful cannot enter Heaven.
Along these lines, it is important to recognize that we’ve all sinned at some point in our lifetimes, and it is only because of God’s goodness and forgiveness that we can escape the punishment of hell.
Because of our sin, we are deserving of hell, so the question should really be, “Why does God allow sinners to repent and escape an eternity in hell?”
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”
– Colossians 1:21-22
God is Loving, but He Doesn’t Love Everything
Often, people seem to get stuck on the concept that God is loving, and that is true. 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” But, just because God is loving doesn’t mean He loves everything. Think about it.
Children can have loving parents, but that doesn’t mean their parents love everything they do – especially when they act in sinful and hurtful ways.
In the same way, God is loving, but he doesn’t love hatred or sinful acts like murder or child abuse. As a loving God, He hates these things.
And, it should give us some peace to know He will not allow those who are filled with sin and evil to spend eternity in His holy presence.
God is Just
Moreover, God is just. When we see evil on earth, we can rest assured God will act justly.
If perpetrators do not repent and reconcile with Christ, their choices will lead them to their eternal punishment.
Everyone is held accountable for their choices on Earth. God will judge all the inhabitants of earth in righteousness.
“Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
– Psalm 96:13
God Wants Restoration
Christianity Explored says, “This is the amazing news—that even though we all deserve punishment, even though we deserve to go to hell, Jesus—God himself—has provided a way out for us. He doesn’t do this by leaving things unpunished, and so forgetting about justice. He does it by himself taking our place; in his death taking our punishment and himself experiencing hell so that we don’t have to.”
Our loving God does not want any of His children to perish. Instead, He wants us to be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him.
The problem is when we choose not to believe God and repent of our sins. In this case, our relationship with Him is broken. If our relationship is not restored, then we have no way to enter His holy presence.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19).”