How could a loving God send people to Hell?
By Christopher Jethro
Last Updated: Dec 13, 2017
Last Updated: Dec 13, 2017
One of the number one questions people have asked is, “How could a loving God send people to Hell – a place of eternal torment?” Due to confusion and doubt, people have decided to either stop believing in Hell, stop believing in the authority of God’s Word, or to not believe in God at all. Hell will not cease to be a real place simply because people choose to not believe in it however. Nonetheless, this page has been created to help the reader understand why God, even a loving God, sends people to Hell. I will also explain why Hell is a real place according to the Scriptures, and offer solutions for why it is forever.
God's plan of redemption for mankind
Perhaps the best way to understand how a loving God can send people to Hell is for the reader to have an overall understanding of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. God deeply loves people and man was created to have intimate fellowship with Him, but we have been separated from this relationship with God because of our sins (anything morally wrong in God’s eyes). Because God is infinitely holy and a Good Judge, He cannot let people get away with their wrongdoings. Like criminals guilty before a just judge, as sinners we find ourselves having to answer to Yahweh, the Judge of the universe, upon death.
God’s original intention of intimacy with people would be ruined if all are doomed to eternal separation from God in Hell. However, the Good News (i.e., Gospel) is that because God loves us, He provided a perfect solution to this problem: 2,000 years ago God became a man (Jesus of Nazareth) and willingly suffered and died via a crucifixion in people’s place. When a person is guilty of a crime, they must pay the fines. In Christianity, God paid your fines for you. By accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, the payment for sin at the Cross will be attributed to your soul.
At the Cross of Jesus, the love and justice of God are both evident. God’s justice is that He can’t let sin go unpunished. God’s love is that He doesn’t want to have to punish His beloved creation, so He died in our place. The crucifixion speaks both of God’s wrath, but also of His mercy. Indeed, God is love but He is also holy.
It is not His will for anyone to go to Hell. He has provided a means of escape from damnation – a free gift that is available to all – but those who willfully choose a lifestyle of sin, and reject Jesus’ payment for their sins, will have to face God’s justice. Damnation to Hell is not God’s will for anyone, but it is also not unfair. Sinners do deserve the wrath of God, and the fact that Jesus went to great lengths to make salvation available, reflects that God is loving after all!
Why does God send people to Hell?
God does not send people to Hell because they did not believe in Him. God sends people to Hell for the same reasons a good judge sentences criminals to prison. To understand the righteousness of God’s judgment on sin, simply answer the following questions honestly:
- If a person is proven guilty of a crime, but they committed it a long time ago, should they still face the punishment?
- If a person confesses their crime and says, “but judge, I’m a good person. I’ve also done a lot of good things in my life by helping people.” Should a person’s “good deeds” allow them to not have to pay the price for breaking the law?
- If a person is proven guilty of a crime and says, “but judge, I no longer do those things, I’m a different person now.” Should they get away with their crime(s) because of their change in heart?
The honest reader would give a “yes” to the above questions. When a person is guilty of a crime, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was, how many good deeds they have committed, or if they no longer do those things anyways – they still have to face the penalty and pay the price. A good judge simply would not let a rapist, murder, or thief ‘get off the hook’. If they cannot afford to pay their fines, or otherwise refuse to repent of their immoral lifestyle (such as violate parole), they are imprisoned.
Now if a good judge knows how to punish wrongdoings (and not let people get away with their crimes), how much more so does God? God is the Judge of the universe. Because He is good and righteous, He will not let people get away with their “crimes” (sins). Immorality must be judged and punished. It doesn’t matter if you sinned a long time ago, if you no longer do those things, or if you have also done good deeds. Because God is a Good Judge, He will give you justice. Hell is like a jailhouse for sinners, and Heaven is like the wonderful city you could have lived in if you were a perfect person.
The eyes of Lord have seen evil all throughout mankind’s history. We have sinned against a holy God; rebelling against Him and rejecting His commandments. People have abandoned worship of the true God in favor of worshiping idols (false gods, worship of the self, worship of money and material possessions). They have blasphemed His holy name saying, “God d*** it,” and using the holy name of “Jesus Christ” like a cuss-word to express shock or disgust. They have murdered, dishonored parents, lied countless times, fornicated, committed adultery, indulged in pornography, harbored hate in their hearts, and stolen innumerable things (whether money, material, or plagiarized ideas). They argue women should have the “right” to kill babies for any reason, children in the womb created by God. They support unholy sexual relationships and defy His holy intention for marriage. They mock God’s Word and his holy saints. Worst of all, they justify nearly all of their sins in their own eyes and arrogantly believe that God will simply overlook all their lawlessness because they judge themselves as a “good” person. There is no fear of God before their eyes. For all the evil in world, assuredly, there is a Hell.
God’s eyes have seen all evil. He is cognizant of every unholy thought that has ever crossed a person’s mind. His Spirit has been grieved by the plagues of evil among man. To think that the infinitely holy Creator of the universe would turn a blind eye to these sins, or fail to judge them, is to misconstrue His holy and righteous character.
Should God punish evildoers?
Most people would agree that God should not let people like Hitler get away with their evil deeds. Most people would also agree that murderers, rapists, and child molesters should be punished by God too. It ends up that the real problem is that people simply refuse to believe that they too have done things deserving of punishment. Everybody, to at least some degree, has contributed to bringing pain and hurt into this world. For this, those who have not accepted the payment of Jesus’ death on the cross will have to answer to God one day.
Questioning God's Judgment
This section addresses common questions regarding if condemnation to Hell is truly fair.
Does love stop God’s justice?
Asking the question, “How could a loving God send people to Hell?” is akin to asking, “How could a loving police officer send people to jail?” Even if the police officer has compassion for the person they are arresting, a just officer upholding the law is only doing what is fair, right, and just regardless of any emotional turmoil. God – who is the perfect Judge of the universe – is not doing anything wrong. On the contrary, He is only doing what is fair, right, and just. Like a good judge, God can’t let emotions affect what is true justice. God loves people indeed, but this won’t affect His ability to judge sins fairly (free from emotional bias).
If a judge let’s people get away with their crimes, He is an unjust and bad judge. It doesn't matter if the criminal did some good deeds too, it doesn't matter if they stopped doing those things, or if his crimes took place long ago. The criminal must still face the penalty. God is perfect, and being a good and just Judge of the universe, He cannot let people get away with their sins. It is necessary for a God of justice to send people to the “jailhouse” of Hell for their sins.
Is where a person is born affect their chances of salvation? Is it unfair that some people are born in places ignorant of Christianity?
Some people argue that it is unfair that some people are born in certain parts of the world that have not heard the Gospel in order to have a fair chance at being saved too. First of all, the Bible says that where people are born is determined by God as divine ordinance. What part of the world people are born at is not a coincidence or accident. Acts 17:26-27 says, “From one man (Adam) He (God) has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
As we can see, the geographically location where a person is born is determined by God under conditions where salvation is possible. All they have to do is seek God and seek truth; if they just cry out to God, then one way or another He will reveal to them His redemptive plan of Jesus Christ. People all around the world are receiving visions of Jesus revealing Himself to them in places that have never heard the Gospel. It goes to show that God gives everyone a chance, and where a person is born or raised geographically is neither a coincidence (they are not “unlucky”) nor is it impossible for them to learn of Jesus. The true reason why those people raised under different religious beliefs go to Hell is because they have rejected the general revelation of the true God (are not interested in knowing the true Creator), they do not fear God (justify their sins), and did not seek truth (choose to believe in their own made up gods or worldviews). For those who genuinely seek God and truth, He will reveal the Gospel to them so they can be saved through Jesus.
Remember that it is not unfair for people to go to Hell. If at all, it is unfair that people go to Heaven because none of us deserve God’s mercy or forgiveness. Some people think God is going to condemn people for being ignorant but the Bible clearly tells us that they are not ignorant. The book of Romans clearly explains that deep down they know that there is a Supreme Being, they know they are morally responsible to God through the conscience He gave every one of us, and they deny this truth to escape conviction.
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)
- For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:12-16)
Why does God create people if He knows they will go to Hell?
Suppose that a parent could foreknow that their baby will one day grow up, make some terrible decisions, and be imprisoned for it. Would this cause the loving parent to refrain from having children then? Nay, the foreknowledge of knowing their child will eventually turn out to become a criminal doesn’t remove the parental desire to bring forth this beloved child into the world, to love him/her, and give him/her a chance at life. What the child decides to do with their life after they have grown up is their own decision. For the parent to not bring them into the world because of what the child will choose to do with their life may even seem unfair.
In this same way, God indeed knows they many will fail to reach His perfect plan or original intention because of their own choices. Nonetheless, this doesn’t remove His desire to create people made in His image. God does not refrain from creating people simply because He knows some will use their God-given freewill to reject Him. In fact, quite the contrary, it might seem unfair for God to not create people because He won’t like how they will choose to live their life. Every person has the equal potential to love God and be saved, as well as to reject God and be damned. It boils down to the choice of the individual and God loves them enough to give them the freewill choice to reject Him.
Questions about Hell
This section answers questions concerning if Hell is real, what Hell is really like, and why Hell lasts forever.
Is Hell a real place of fire and brimstone?
Hell is real. The Bible directly refers to Hell 167 times. Why do that if it’s a fictional place? Jesus preached on Hell 33 times in a 3 year ministry. That’s about once a month – if He had a church, you might not have liked it! Jesus warned of facing hellfire and the importance of repentance saying, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8). Jesus further warned His own disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him (God) who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).
When Jesus described His second coming (speaking of Himself in the third person), He said He will say “to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41). This everlasting fire of punishment is just as real as Jesus’ second coming.
In Luke 16, Jesus talked about a rich man in Hell who refused to help a man named Lazarus. Jesus never used names in parables. This is clearly not a parable but a specific person in a real event. The rich man was in the torment of Hell and spoke with Lazarus who was with Abraham. Again, we all know that Abraham was a real person – Jesus is clearly not giving a parable!
Some people are desperate to deny Hell so they try to argue that the fires of Hell described in the Bible is just “metaphorical”. Yet the Bible clearly says those who go there will be in everlasting torment, does that sound like symbolism? That’s like saying that Heaven and descriptions of the New Jerusalem are just symbolism too. At this point, people are just trying to avoid the obvious truths of God’s word. In order to consistently say that Hell is simply metaphorical, one must also choose to not believe in a real Heaven as well. Otherwise, you are just cutting out the parts of the Bible you don’t like and highlighting the parts you do like.
Does Hell last forever?
Does the Bible say that Hell is eternal? Yes it does. Some people, in an attempt to escape what the Bible says, want to believe that perhaps the verses describing Hell are “mistranslated”. I assure you that you can look it up in the Greek a hundred thousand times if you want to, it won’t change the reality of an eternal Hell. The Scriptures are clear that Hell is forever so watch out for cult groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny the reality of it.
Where does the Bible say Hell is forever?
- And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
- And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)
- When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
- The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14)
- If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:9-11)
- The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).
Before you think the above verse is just referring to Satan, note that the beast (the Antichrist) and the false prophet which are human persons are also said to be in Hell torment forever. This clearly shows that people – not just demons – will be tormented forever in Hell.
Why does Hell last forever?
The Bible doesn’t give us a clear explanation to many questions, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they don’t understand why Hell is eternal, it only matters if this what the Bible really says. Obviously, there is a rational reason why God has made Hell forever. We know that God is fair, so if damnation lasts forever, we have no reason to question His judgment. Having said that, here are two possible solutions that may help the reader understand why Hell is forever.
Infinitely wrong sins
Traditionally, some Catholic apologists answer this by saying sin towards an infinitely holy God is thus infinitely wrong and therefore deserves an infinite punishment. For instance, a judge would sentence a harsher punishment for attempted murder of the president than attempted murder of your neighbor. The basic idea is that the greater that person’s position of importance, such as being the queen of England, would deserve a harsher sentence. With this understanding, God is of course the Person in the highest position. God is not just good, God is infinitely good. Because of this, a sin against a Being who is infinitely good is therefore infinitely wrong and thus deserves an infinite punishment.
The true sin continues forever
I would like to present another solution for the eternity of Hell. I present the following scenario… Person A accidentally killed a person in a car wreck. In his heart, person A would never desire to kill or hurt somebody and is deeply sorrowful over what happened. Person B, however, each day fantasizes of murdering innocent people in cruel ways. Person B has never killed anyone yet only because he has never had a successful opportunity.
Based on this scenario, who would you rather remove from society and imprison – person A or person B? The obvious choice is to remove person B. Even though they have not done something wrong via tangible actions, their heart is that of a wicked serial killer. Next I would ask, how long should they be imprisoned? Logically, they should be imprisoned (separated from society) as long as the evil in their heart remains. You would never release them back into society if they still retain those evil motives!
The point is intentions matter. True evil is in a person’s heart (thoughts, desires, intentions), even if not reflected with their actions. The Bible says “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus taught, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:18-20).
The Bible says “the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What does He see? He sees that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). This means that God, who knows everything, sees that deep down all humans have evil hearts. History has shown us time and time again that even seemingly good people – when put into dire circumstances – will resort to the most grotesque evils to survive such as cannibalism.
What God is punishing people for in Hell is more than their evil deeds, but the evil of the person themselves – the wickedness of their heart. In this eternal Hell, the true sin continues forever because the true sin is a state of mind (evil desires, intentions, motives). Because this evil sin nature abides in people’s hearts forever, the punishment also remains forever.
The final verdict
When a judge decides a case and the gavel hits, the verdict is final. Even if the person truly regrets their decisions or desires to change, it doesn't matter and it is too late. Once a person faces God’s judgment, the judgment is final. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Once a person is condemned, there is nothing God can do for them. Until then, every individual has a chance to repent of their sins and accept Jesus.