How can a loving God send people to hell?

No one knows for sure what will happen eternally for those who have rejected God. Some believe that “perishing” in the Bible means cessation of existence — people will cease to exist. Others believe that when the Bible talks about “torment,” it means conscious torment — people will exist and will experience pain forever.

In either case, it’s probably safe to say that hell is definitely something to avoid. But how can a loving God allow people to live with pain forever or to cease to exist? Here are some things to consider:

 

(1) God has given all people enough evidence to know that he exists.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The complexity of the world around us tells us that there is a God, even though people can suppress that knowledge in their hearts. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God'” (Psalms 14:1).

(2) Nonetheless, people choose not to know him.

Even though God miraculously delivered many Israelites from slavery in Egypt, only two people from that large group were allowed to go into the promised land. Why? Because the rest turned aside from following after God.

Therefore, you can see God’s hand at work and have much evidence about him, and still reject him. Revelation does not necessitate relationship. This idea is also evidenced in how the Bible points out that one third of the angels have fallen away from God. They’ve seen him, know that he is, and yet have rejected him.

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

(3) Therefore, God is giving people what they want.

God doesn’t force himself or his home on those who have rejected him. Heaven would mean an eternal presence with God and relating to God. Thus, such a person would not enjoy being there. Thus God is honoring their choice.

God told the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). In a way, that’s the choice before all of us: the blessing or the curse. To choose God is to choose the blessing. But he allows people to choose the curse.

For those who choose God, God has provided a way for them to be forgiven of their sins and cleansed from their guilt before him. All of us are guilty before God; no one is good and righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:12, 23). So God provided a way to have the curse removed from us, so that we could receive his blessing: Jesus, God’s Son, died for the forgiveness of our sins. If a person wants God, they will accept the forgiveness that God is offering in Christ. If a person does not want God, they will not receive Christ’s forgiveness…for they do not want the result of that forgiveness: knowing God.

God is just to condemn sin. He is loving to want to find a proper way to overcome sin. So He sent Christ to deal with sin, and through faith in Christ we can overcome sin and find life in God.

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