That was a question we had the opportunity to share on an online Christian radio program; This is how we answered it.
WHY WOULD A LOVING GOD SEND ANYONE TO HELL?
The question assumes that Hell exists, so we must start there with our answer. It’s important to note that the question is asked with the issue of ‘fairness’ according to our human standards of fairness. We will speak to both. To adequately address the question, we must begin with God.
Why did God create anything and everything?
We can answer that question by glimpsing into a portion of John’s vision of the throne room of God, around which are four and twenty elders exclaiming in the words of a well known chorus:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. – Rev 4:11
What about Hell?
Although I know of no specific passages of scripture that tell us that the existence of Hell brings pleasure to God as part of ‘all things’, we do know that God created Hell for a specific purpose:
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” – Matt 25:41
These are the words of Jesus concerning Hell, with a view of judgment day when there will be those who are sent there, what it will be like and WHY Hell was created in the first place. We are prone to think of Hell in milder terms like ‘eternal’ separation from God. Now that’s true, and probably fine with unbelievers because they don’t want anything to do with God anyway. That brings us to the next question:
How DID Hell end up a place for humans, created to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’?
For that we return to the Garden of Eden, the place created by God for mankind to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’
We are loathe to think that God created robots, and He didn’t. He gave Adam and Eve a limited free will, restricted by the command NOT to eat of the fruit of a certain tree and the ability to choose between good and evil. We know the story. There was only one rule:
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.“ – Gen 2:16-17
With all the ‘good stuff’ God had given them, Adam and Eve sinned and suffered the consequences –death, physical and spiritual. Not only did Adam and Eve’s disobedience affect them, it affected the entire human race to follow them; it’s called ‘imputation.’. Every person born after the fall has been born tragically flawed by sin, just as Christ’s righteousness is ‘imputed’ to those who believe in Him. We seem to have issues with the former, but not with the latter (a bit more about that later).
What do we mean by sin?
Here we need to define two aspects of sin. The first aspect about sin that comes immediately to mind are the sins we commit connected to God’s law – that we are unable to keep in their entirety and reach God’s standard of perfection (clearly demonstrated in the OT by the giving of the law and Israel’s inability to keep it). That fact alone tells us that we deserve hell.
There is also an aspect of sin not spoken of much these days, and that is the indwelling sin nature of fallen men, hinted at earlier. That sin is expressed in stark terms:
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:7-8
“as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. – Romans 3:10-11
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Cor. 2:14
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
If that isn’t bad enough, we are told
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Eph 2:1-3
How can we be held accountable for all that sin, if Adam’s disobedience caused it? “Not fair!” we scream. I offer that in the same spirit of ‘fairness’, it wasn’t ‘fair’ of God to send his sinless Son to die for human sin! Hold that thought. And if God was really fair, he would leave us all to our ‘just’ fate – death and hell . We know the passage well:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Rom 6:23
Both types of sin are deserving of death, by God’s own decree. In fact you could say that we are all ‘born on death row’:
“ Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18
In other words, what we are often told about “how worthy we are of heaven just because we have been born into this world” is not true. That teaching is, however, the picture of God’s love that is painted for us these days by many false teachers and so-called leaders in churches – a picture void of God’s hatred of sin, of His pouring out of wrath against it, of His judgment of it, and of His punishment for it. I heard one executive pastor’s wife tell an auditorium full of people that “God can’t imagine heaven without you in it! If this were true, from where does the concepts of sin, death, and hell originate?
It’s no wonder we ask the question this paper is discussing!
Having said all that, there is a remedy for sin!
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Eph 2:1-6)”
The “us” are those who have repented of sin and believed in Christ as God’s remedy for that sin. When God could have left us all to the eternity we deserve, He sent his Son to die for those who believe. The result:
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18
In other words, those who are eternally condemned to Hell are there because they refused to believe – they refused God’s offer of salvation through the shed blood of Christ
Perhaps we should be asking “How could such a loving God sentence His own Son to dies for OUR sin?”
Would it be ‘fair’ of God to ‘set the rules’ and grant eternal life to those who refuse the free gift of salvation by rejecting the Son?
The reality of a final judgment is clearly taught in Scripture. But the Bible also indicates that the people who go to hell do so because they have rejected God’s provision for salvation. The Bible says that God does not want anyone to go to hell:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Thus we conclude by saying:
1. The Bible teaches the reality of a final place of judgment for the wicked.
2. Those who spend eternity in hell, do so because they rejected God’s love and His provision for salvation.
3. It is God’s desire for everyone to come to Him by faith and receive the salvation that He offers.
C.S. Lewis, in this book, The Problem of Pain, notes that hell is the most loving thing God can do for those who would accept nothing better. It’s been said that the one who spends eternity in Heaven has only God to thank, and the one who spends eternity in Hell has only himself to blame.