How could a loving God send anyone to hell?
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That’s a great question, a potentially explosive question. If God is so loving—and the Bible says that he is—then surely he wouldn’t send anyone to hell, would he?
The Bible says that hell is a place without any of the good things that God gives us and which we enjoy today, such as friendship, love, joy - it’s an awful place. And so why can’t God just forgive everyone, and let anyone into heaven? Why does he insist in a seemingly cruel way that some people must go to hell?
Well the Bible says that God is loving, and it also says that he will send some people to hell - so could it be that both things are true at the same time? I’d like to briefly give a couple of suggestions as to why this is the case.
Just because God is loving, does not mean that he loves everything—there are some things that God doesn’t love, that in fact he hates. So he doesn’t love murder, or abuse, or selfishness, or pride. Actually, if he is loving, then he will hate these things. It wouldn’t be very loving of God to look at something like child abuse and say: “Well, I’m not really that bothered.”
So God is loving - and yet he doesn’t love everything.
And because this loving God hates bad things, he does something about it. And this is good news. We all have a kind of a sense of justice - so it’s good news that people who mistreat others are not allowed into God’s perfect kingdom, but are shut out—that is, they’re sent to hell.
It’s loving of a just God to hate and punish wrongdoing, so that only perfect things are in his perfect kingdom.
Now I guess not many of us have a problem with the idea of famously bad people facing punishment - but this actually leaves us with a problem too, because none of us are perfect. None of us have treated God, or treated each other, in the perfect way we were intended to.
If I’m honest, I know I haven’t treated people as I should. I’ve hurt people, I’ve ignored their needs, actually I’ve upset even some of the people I love the most. And I haven’t treated God as I should - as my Maker and my Creator, and therefore the ruler in charge of my life.
And so I deserve punishment of my wrongdoing too. We actually all deserve to be punished. We all deserve to go to hell. None of us are perfect - so none of us should be in God’s perfect kingdom.
Now as I say this, I know it’s not an easy thing to hear. It’s not an easy thing for me to hear. But just because we don’t like something, doesn’t mean that it’s not true.
And it’s not something that Jesus says flippantly or lightly, without caring. He doesn’t say it just to scare us. But he does say it to warn us - and to help us see how amazing it is that he offers us a way out.
Because 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.
It seems to me as if this is a truly loving God. He loves the world enough to punish wrongdoing, and he loves people enough to take the punishment himself.
He loves us enough to give us a choice: we can ask him to be part of our lives now, and so avoid hell and look forward to enjoying his perfect eternal kingdom.
Now I know that this is a huge topic and I probably haven’t answered some of the questions that you have, and maybe this has thrown up more questions or things that you disagree with. If that’s the case, why not look at the Go deeper section of this page? Or the great thing about Jesus is that he’s verifiable: so why not have a look at one of the eyewitness accounts of his life, one of the Gospels, and have a look for yourself at some of the things that he said, and some of the things that he did.
As Abi said, this is a very tricky question. You may well have more questions about what you’ve heard and read. Why not:
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