How can a loving God send people to hell? — Understanding

It’s an easy question to find online. It comes up in conversations. It is a reason some turn away. That question is: How can a loving God send people to hell?

A loving God

The first assumption is correct — God is loving. In fact, God is love. He is the source of all genuine love; it is His nature. The apostle John tells us in his first epistle:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. — 1 John 4:7
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. — I John 4:8
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. — I John 4:16

What God wants

What about the second part of the question? Does God send people to hell? Did He make it as a place of punishment for us?

No. Not at all. That is clear in this little secret about hell Jesus revealed (Matthew 25:41):

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;’ “

Hell was not made for us. It was made for the satan and those angels who left heaven to follow after him.

Someone might suggest that hell was made before God created man so that, while it was not made for us, it was intended for any of God’s created beings which might rebel against Him. Humanity joined that group when Adam sinned.

While this is possible, it is not true. Here is what Jesus tells us about why God sent Him:

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. — John 3:17

Paul tells Timothy:

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [a]knowledge of the truth. — 1 Timothy 2:3-4

And Peter reminds us

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. — 2 Peter 3:9

What God does

How can God accomplish His will for “all men to be saved” when we are all heading toward the second death (hell) due to the innate sin that separates us from Him? He makes a way for us to be saved. To see this, we begin with the more familiar verse from John 3:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” — John 3:16

John tells us in preamble of his gospel that grace comes to us in Christ Jesus:

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. — John 1:16-17

Paul explains that this grace and nothing else provides our salvation:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) — Ephesians 2:45
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. — Ephesians 2:8-9

God provides the way for us to be saved and makes it so easy — only believe. Paul gives step-by-step instructions that a child can follow:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in yourheart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” — Romans 8:10-11 

This gift of grace and opportunity for salvation is for humanity alone. The satan and those fallen angels that left heaven with him have no access to it. Their destiny is the lake of fire, but ours is not.

How can a loving God allow people to go to hell?

Now the question changes just a lot with just one word, from send to allow. God doesn’t send people to hell but He still lets them end up there. We still need answers, and I’ve heard different ones to this question. One is that God is a gentleman and as such does not force Himself on anyone.

Another is that since our forefather, Adam, chose to disobey God and believe (follow) the satan instead, all born of Adam and his descendants belong first to the satan, whom Christ Jesus himself says is ruler of this world and Paul explains has been allowed to blind the people in the world to the realities of the eternal.

The price of redemption was one pure life for another. Christ Jesus is begotten of God, born of a woman and yet fully God while fully man. He was, being fully God, pure and without sin. He lived a sinless life, meeting the satan head-to-head and emerging victorious over temptation to sin. That is why Christ Jesus is the sole eligible atonement to pay a man’s sin debt in this age and in all eternity.

However, just as Adam believed the satan over God, each individual has to believe God over the satan to receive that free salvation, believing (as Paul says) that salvation can be had in Christ Jesus. The problem is getting those blinders off so we can see the truth of God’s Word.

Drawing us to Himself

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44a). That is why, following Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, God went even further (as if we can conceive that is possible) by sending the Holy Spirit into the world.

Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit (the Helper) would come and that His ministry would be to help the believer and to convict the world of sin.

If not for God sending the Holy Spirit, no one could find the grace to be saved for we are blinded by the enemy of men’s souls. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world that ministers to all hearing the gospel with the spark of grace all people need in order to be receptive to the Word of God — to have the blinders lifted — and then to be able to sense the drawing of the Father. Thanks to the coming of the Holy Spirit, all men can be saved.

You can be saved today

Our loving God sends no one to hell. If you do not yet know Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can be saved from your natural fate right now. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

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