Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?

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Why would a loving God send anyone to hell? Especially nonbelievers who have never heard of Him? The answer is, because He is also just. But to understand what this means, let's lay a groundwork for it.

To begin with, why is there a place called hell anyway? The Bible clearly reveals that hell was not made for man but for the devil and his fallen angels. When God first created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden there was NO possibility that they would end up in that place. God did not create man for death; He created mankind for life and planted the Tree of Life in Eden to insure that life would continue.

What happened? Man disobeyed God and opened himself up to death and hell, although God had specifically warned him against disobedience and told him the consequences. Instead of obeying God, Adam and Eve listened to satan's lie, "You will not surely die!" If man had not disobeyed in Eden, there would be no men in hell today.

Why did God allow man to be tempted? If God had not given Adam and Eve a choice, they would have been little more than androids, soul-less creatures with no choice but to serve God. Giving them a choice meant risking rejection, but God was willing to do that to have man's love freely given in return.

When man sinned, what did God do about it? Did He just consign all souls to hell, and say, "Too bad, you sinned. Goodbye"? No, He put a plan into action that could have potentially keep EVERY soul from hell and death.

What did this plan consist of? First of all, God gave man a promise. When He cursed the serpent (satan), God said, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers; he (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15). Then He provided a covering for man's sin until the promised savior would come.

As the plan of God unfolded, it went through many stages until the time was right to send the Savior. At that time, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, grew up in Nazareth, taught and healed the people. Then He gave His life on the cross to pay for the penalty of man's disobedience from way back in Eden until this day, and far into the future, until the reign of the evil one comes to an end. He was then resurrected by the mighty hand of God, and now is our Intercessor in Heaven.

I still don't understand how a God of love could send anyone to hell, no matter what they did!

When someone offends you, they call you names, or cut in on you in traffic, or back stab you, how does that make you feel? It puts you on the defensive, doesn't it? It makes you want to strike back at the one who hurt you. Why do you feel this way? It seems that there is an outrage inside of us when someone else crosses our sense of right and wrong. We feel that person should be punished. And even more so, when we or one of our loved ones are physically harmed in some way. And when someone we care about is robbed, or murdered, or raped, we have such an outrage that we want revenge. We then assign the perpetrator the title of "criminal" and want him or her to suffer for what they've done. Hollywood has created a lot of revenge movies on this theme, and most who watch them are cheering for the "hero" who kills the motorcycle gang that has destroyed his family, or something similar.

When we say God is "just" we are saying several things about Him:

  1. There is a code of honor that He follows that separates right from wrong.
  2. He is impartial in applying this code.
  3. He will punish those who transgress this code.

Hell, although designed for satan and demons, is where punishment for sin is given to those who are evildoers. We can see where justice demands this action. But what about mercy? How can a God of love do this?

If God did not punish those who harm others, what kind of loving God would He be? Supposed that someone harmed your child, what kind of parent would you be if you didn't step in and stop it? What if you just said, "Because I am a parent of love, go ahead and hurt my child"? We would be outraged, and rightfully so, at such behavior. What if after the child was harmed, we just sat by and let the criminal get away with it? What if we said, "Since I am a loving parent, you are free to go now and harm others"? Again, that kind of behavior is not loving at all.

You see, love must be balanced by justice to be meaningful. Love without responsibility for actions is permissiveness which leads to pain. No loving parent would fail to warn their child about playing in traffic, or playing with fire or drinking household chemicals. No loving parent would let their child put a plastic bag over her head. Evil acts have evil consequences, and love demands that evil be punished.

(Don't forget, of course, that salvation is by grace through faith, and is open to all that believe, no matter what they have done in the past. Jesus Christ's death paid the penalty for all sin for all time for all mankind. And anyone who truly repents and accepts the gospel will be freed from the punishment of hell.)

Think about Hitler. The blood of 11 million people is crying out to God for justice because of Hitler's murderous attempt to destroy the Jews. In his day, Hitler was responsible for the death of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews. Should this outrage be unavenged? Since God is a God of love, should He say, "Aw, Hitler, you've been a bad boy. But come on in to Heaven anyway"? Of course not!

And Hitler is not the only tyrant that has bloodied the earth with his evil. Throughout history there have been many dictators who have murdered, raped, destroyed, pillaged and ravaged nation after nation. Should a God of love ignore this?

Ok, you might say, I'll buy that. They're all evildoers who deserve hell. But what about those good nonbelievers who have never heard of Jesus? Should they go to hell too?

First of all, who said that everyone who has not heard of Jesus is going to hell? To my knowledge, there is no verse that states this concept. If you know of one, please share it with me.

What is the criterion that determines whom God sends to hell? It's very simple. The only people who go to hell are those who choose to go there! How is that unjust or unloving? Would a loving God force someone to spend all of eternity with Him who didn't want to be there? Would a just God do so?

If someone has never heard of Jesus, how does God judge that person? If "there is no other Name given under heaven by which man can be saved", what if a person has never heard of that Name?

First of all, let me say that this is God's domain. He, and he alone, knows the heart of each individual. We really can't second-guess Him on this issue. The Bible states that "Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart."

Second of all, if a person has never heard of Jesus, how could that person reject Jesus?

Thirdly, we all live under the law of conscience. God has given us that facility to help guide us in choosing right and wrong. If a person who has never heard of Jesus lives by the dictates of an uncorrupted conscience, why would God reject him or her?

Fourthly, God only holds us accountable for what we know. We faithfully walk by the light He has given us. How can we walk by light we have not received?

Finally, since God is just, He can be trusted to make those decisions fairly.

One more question remains. What should we then do? God has called all man kind into a loving relationship with Him. We can then freely choose whether to accept His love and salvation or not.

The first thing we all must do is make that decision. If we reject God, the matter ends there as far as our responsibility lies for the unsaved. If we don't belong to God, we ourselves have nothing to share about Him with others. The truth is not in us.

If we do accept God's loving plan of salvation, what then? First of all, we must study God's Word to thoroughly understand it, from beginning to end. We cannot and must not trust in what we think we know about God. The only source for true information is from God Himself through His Word. We also need to keep in communication with Him through prayer and fellowship with other believers.

Secondly, we are told to be His witnesses "to the uttermost part of the earth". Here is the crux of the problem: the reason that there is a question in the first place is that Christians have not taken the Word to all of the world. Some are desperately trying to do so, of course. Some are financially supporting missionaries. Some are witnessing when it's convenient. Some are too shy or too uncertain of their own faith. Some are lazy. And some are disobedient. And, unhappily, some are fraudulently pretending to do so, but taking the money of others deceitfully. Where do you fit in?

For further thought and study:
What might this question reveal about the asker?
  1. It may reveal a lack of knowledge about God, who He is, what He does and how He feels.
  2. It may reveal that the Holy Spirit was been convicting the asker and that the asker is trying to deflect by accusing God of sin.
  3. It may also reveal that God has given the asker a burden for lost souls that he/she is not acknowledging. Instead of bringing the message of salvation to those he/she should be ministering to, he/she is blaming God for their lost condition!
  4. It may reveal a lack of knowledge about man's free choice in the matter - that God will not force anyone to spend eternity in Heaven if they choose not to.
  5. It limits God's ability to work in people's hearts to what the asker knows about them.
  6. It creates a problem by generalizing salvation instead of making it specific to each individual as God does in His Word.

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