How can a loving God send people to hell? #BigQuestions
This week we will be looking at the topic of hell and how a loving God could possibly send people to hell. It is a topic, which cause much anger and debate not just amongst non-Christian communities but Christian communities too. It can be and is a real struggle to get your head around the fact that God sends people to hell.
“There’s no way I could ever believe in a God that sends people to hell”
The picture people and you yourself may have when you think of God sending people to hell may be one of God sat rubbing his hands together gleefully, as he without discretion sends people to face their eternal torment. It makes me think of Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons tapping his fingers together as he says “excellent”.
However, this is not the picture the Bible paints at all. The language the Bible uses is not the language of God sending. God is giving people what they choose.
Romans 1:24, 26 and 28 says “God gave them over…” he has not ‘sent’ them God has given them over to do as they wish; to live how they would like to. Living in a way that is unpleasing to God. This is the worst thing about hell. You are separated from God and all his goodness and his unfailing love for eternity.
Verse 21 says that our sin; the things we do that are unpleasing and go against God’s commands is what separates us from God. Only through the death of Jesus on the cross can we be reconciled to God (22a). Jesus’ obedience in dying for us and all we have done wrong allows us to stand before God without a mark against our account. (22b) We need to however, trust in the death of Jesus to deal with our sin. (23) if we choose not to be reconciled with God then the eternal consequence is eternal separation from God.
Another common argument is this:
“Your God is contradictory- one minute he loves; the next minute he is angry. I don’t want to believe in a God that is angry with me.”
In many people’s minds their logic may well say “hang on if God is a God of love he cannot be angry and judge people for their sin”
Let’s put it this way… Imagine that someone close to you that you love was abused, raped or even murdered – How are you going to feel towards the offender?
We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are all capable of love and loving people are sometimes filled with anger. In response to a loved one being abused, raped or murdered you of course are rightly going to feel anger towards the offender. This anger though comes out of a place of love. It is because you love that person that you are angry that they have been treated the way they have been treated.
We may think that the opposite of love is anger. It isn’t, the opposite of love is indifference.
Imagine God turning to Adolf Hitler at the end of time and saying – “it doesn’t matter that you ordered the deaths of 6 million Jews”
If God was to do that and pretty much ‘let him off the hook’. That is indifference. That is not love.
God’s anger is always a right response to what is wrong in this world. Our anger at times as we’ve said can be righteous however, it can also be anger that is out of control we do at times ‘fly off the handle’.
2 Peter 3:9 says that God is a patient God, he wants no one to perish. That is not his desire. He sent his son Jesus to die so we could have right relationship with God. God wants us all to come to repentance.
However, the day will come when God will step in and judge the world – Romans 2:5.
“Surely a place of eternal punishment is a bit extreme.”
We may struggle with the length or severity of the punishment of hell but we agree justice is right. E.g. if you were caught stealing a twix from a store you would feel a prison sentence is too harsh for the what was committed.
If a drunk driver was on his or her way home from the pub, lost control of their vehicle and ran over one of the following, which is the most serious and why?
A) A snail
B) A rabbit
C) A pet dog
D) A child
It is not just the act we commit that dictates how serious the crime is, another factor is who the crime was against. Of course in our mind running over a child is far worse than the other three options.
So when it comes to us sinning, it is who it’s against that is a big factor in determining what our punishment is. When we sin as we’ve said we sin against God; the infinite eternal God who made us.
As we have discussed when we sin that is us rebelling and choosing to live independently of the plans God has for us. If we choose that then God will give us what we have chosen.
The Bible is not a book of an evil vindictive God who delights in sending people to hell! No! it is a book of a loving, rescuing God who sacrificed his own Son Jesus so that we can enjoy life forever – John 3:16.
One last challenge that again crosses the minds of Christians and non-Christians is:
“What about babies that die young or people who have never heard about Jesus – What happens to them?
Three points here are worth considering:
God is a loving, merciful, patient and just. There will be no miscarriages of justice on the final day Psalms 33:5 & Acts 17:31.
We have no excuse.
We can see the reality of God is clear in creation. He has made it plain to us. Romans 1:18-20.
Our own moral standards convict us. We judge others around us for what they do yet we do the same things! God’s judgement is based on truth. Romans 2:1-3.
The only true assurance lies in the finished work of Christ, those who do not believe in him will not see life. John 3:36. Trusting in Jesus is our only fool proof guarantee that we will have eternal life with God rather than be separated from God’s love for all of eternity.
Francis Chan puts eternity into perspective. Feel free to check out what he has to say. The link is below. I would encourage you to have a watch. 5 minutes of your time.
Francis Chan – Rope Illustration– Francis Chan link.
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This post was written by Sam Dallimore, a placement student currently serving at Gold Hill from Moorlands Bible College.
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