How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?

This is a difficult question for a number of reasons:

A. Personal Perspectives—no one likes to think about punishment, especially final personal punishment.

B. Personal Experiences—many people struggle because of negative encounters in which the fear of Hell was used in an effort to scare people into making a religious commitment.

Some common objections to the idea of Hell:

A. How can a loving God send people to Hell?

B. How could God overlook all the good that people do during their lifetime?

C. How can God punish people for eternity when they have only sinned for a lifetime?

We must remember a few big ideas from the Scripture in order to answer the question:

A. God is our Creator.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 English Standard Version)

1. God’s original creation was perfect—no sin, no suffering, no death.
2. Mankind enjoyed perfect relationships with each other and with their Creator.
3. God created us so that we could delight in knowing and serving him; he has a rightful claim to our obedience

B. God is righteous.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” (Psalm 97:2b)

1. He is morally perfect in absolutely everything he does.
2. God’s character is the very standard of what is right and just.

C. Mankind rebelled against God and fell into unrighteous.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

1. Adam, our first father, rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.
2. As humanity’s representative, he led us all in rebellion against our Creator.
3. As a result we who are “in Adam” constantly fall far short of God’s righteousness in every way.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What does the Bible teach about Hell?

A. God has created a place of punishment for Satan and his angels.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

B. God tells mankind that he will punish the unrepentant who persist in their sin.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12, 15)

This is not a pleasant subject in Scripture. John Calvin, a well-known Christian leader who lived centuries years ago said, “The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” And yet it is the plain reality that the Bible teaches.

How does the Bible address my objections to its teaching about Hell?

A. How can a loving God send people to Hell?
The Bible emphasizes that God is perfect in his love and his justice. Would you consider a judge to be just who overlooked crime and refused to punish?

B. How can God overlook all the good people do during their lifetime?
The Bible is clear that the good things I have done do not please God nor change the fact that I have rebelled against him
C. How can God punish people for eternity when they have only sinned for a lifetime?
Consider the seriousness of rebellion against your Creator. Sins against other people have certain consequences, but sinning against God is an infinitely greater matter.

Is our situation hopeless?

If we look to ourselves, the situation is hopeless because we can never do enough good to outweigh our sin against God. We desperately need someone to save us from the judgment that we deserve. This is where the Bible announces the best news that mankind could ever hear.

A. God has shown the depths of his love to the world by making a way for people to be saved.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

B. God the Son became a man and lived the perfect sinless life that we never could.

“He [Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:22–23)

C. Jesus suffered a violent death in which he endured God’s righteous anger against sin.

“Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet 3:18a)

D. By absorbing God’s judgment on sin, Jesus has become the substitute for all who repent and trust only in him.

“he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

[You have learned] “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

E. God raised him from the dead to show Jesus’ victory over sin’s ultimate consequence. Because Jesus conquered death, it is no longer the door of judgment for those who are “in Christ.”

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

How does the Bible encourage me to respond?

1. The Bible urges you to despair of any efforts to reconcile with God on your own and to put your confidence fully in Jesus, God’s Son.

2. The Bible commands you to confess your sins to God, to repent of them and seek his forgiveness through Christ.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)

3. The Bible invites you to the ocean of God’s grace which is found in Jesus.

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37–38)

“The Spirit and the Bride [the Church] say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17)