Q&A: Does God send people to hell?

Q&A: Does God send people to hell?

My neighbor is super kind and always treats others well. He wants God to do the same. Every time we speak about the Bible, he always asks, “How can you believe that a loving God would send people to hell?”

Hell is horrible and real

The logic goes, “If God is loving, then the concept of eternal suffering is incompatible with his character. That would make God a monstrous God.” It seems logical, but it’s not biblical . . . nor is it really logical.

I can understand why people would want to believe it. The Bible shows that hell is real and horrible. It uses a number of pictures to describe hell. The prophet Isaiah describes hell as fire when he says, “The fire that burns them will not be quenched” (Isaiah 66:24). Jesus ends the parable of the talents by saying, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

Hell is described as “fire” because when you get burned you instantly forget all the good things. I know how true that is just when my finger gets burned. Suddenly I forget my blessings and can only focus on the pain. Hell is described as “darkness” because you cannot see beauty. It is described as “outside” because you don’t belong there. Hell is horrible, and it is real.

God is love, and he is just

God is love, and he is just. “We know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people’ ” (Hebrews 10:30). Sin must be punished. And that is logical.

God forbid this, but imagine someone was convicted of murdering your loved one. At the sentencing, the judge asks the convicted person, “Are you sorry?” And the murderer nods affirmatively. Then the judge continues, “Well, then you can go.” Would you say that was just? No! You would scream, “That’s unfair! That’s unjust!”

God is love and God is just. So how did he satisfy both?

To use a crude analogy, imagine a kingdom where the king made the law that no baked goods could be sold on Tuesdays or the perpetrator would be put in the stockades. On Monday night, the king’s mother made a really tasty batch of cookies and decided to sell them the next day. The guards caught her and dragged her before the king. If you were the king, what would you do? You love your mom and so you do not want her to be punished. But you are also just, and crimes must be punished! How would you satisfy both your love and your justice? You could go to the stockade in your mom’s place. Your justice is satisfied because the crime was punished, and your love was satisfied because your mother was free of punishment.

God’s love and justice meet at the cross

The Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This great exchange is what Jesus did for you at the cross. He saw that sin needed to be punished because of his justice, but he did not want you to suffer hell because of his love. So what did he do? He suffered hell in your place on the cross.

Hell is real, but because of Jesus suffering it in your place, so is heaven. God bless you as you witness to your neighbor that God’s love satisfied his own justice for him!

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David Scharf

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