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Why would God send people to hell?
Thank you for your important question - there is no point in denying that you have picked a very controversial and emotive subject for us to deal with in this answer. Of all the teachings of the Bible, I wouldn’t be surprised if the teaching of hell is the one which is most difficult to accept for men and women the world over.
None of us want to speak or think about a place where people just like us are punished in eternal torment, but we cannot deny the fact that it is in the Bible. In fact, you cannot really take the Bible seriously without acknowledging there is a place of punishment for the wicked who do not put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ; God’s only means of escape. All this makes the teaching of hell a vital one for us to grasp well, and so I pray that this brief answer will be of real help to you as you wrestle with these difficult questions, and seek to understand the great plan of salvation that God has laid out in the Scriptures.
I think that it might be fair to say that your question can be boiled down to an even more fundamental one as we look at the revelation of God’s will in the Bible - why did God create people at all if there was going to be the possibility that they might end up in a place of eternal punishment?
It must be said that this is not an easy question to answer - the Bible is clear that often the mind of God is not easy for us to completely understand - Paul poses the question: For who has known the mind of the Lord? (Romans 11:34), and God Himself says "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).
We must acknowledge therefore that for us as small, finite human beings to fully enter into the mind of God and grasp why He does what He does is simply impossible. Just because we think something does or doesn’t make sense has no bearing at all on what is real - God is all wise, and we are not, so we shouldn’t be surprised if there are things in the Bible that we don’t understand. This doesn’t mean for a second that we should not bother trying to reason these things through, but we must understand that we have very real limitations which could prevent us from seeing the big picture as God does, and therefore understanding all that is going on.
Let us then look at some of the truth that we can understand that puts this teaching of hell into perspective:
Punishment in hell is absolutely fair.
This is clearly something that people do begin to question - how can the sin we commit on earth be worthy of eternal punishment? The answer to this may not be easy for us to articulate, but what we do know for certain is that the Bible presents God as being completely fair and just.
The Bible tells us that his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice (Deuteronomy 32:4) - God cannot act in a way that is unfair as it is contrary to His character. What this tells us is that there is often more to our sin than what we see - to sin against the God of the universe is clearly more serious than we can sometimes give it credit for.
What this means is that when we get to the end of time we will see everything for what it truly is - the sinfulness, and rebellious rejection of God that people display in their lives will be absolutely deserving of the punishment that is given to them. We can sometimes seem as if we are putting the blame on God for punishing people in hell, when in actual fact it is not God’s fault at all - people will be punished for their own sin, and those who end up in hell will merit nothing more, and nothing less than what the God of all justice gives to them.
The punishment of the wicked will bring God glory.
As the Bible makes clear, God does nothing that is not for the sake of His own glory (Isaiah 48:9-11), and it is His glory that is the ultimate end of the universe that He has created. That glory includes the destruction of the wickedness that has been committed in God’s own creation whether it be by Satan and his fallen angels or by rebellious humankind. God’s holiness will be magnified in the destruction of all that is not holy, and not only that, but the punishment of the wicked will also serve to display the magnitude of God’s grace to those He has pardoned - to the praise of His glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:6 and also Romans 9:22-23).
This truth is as close as we get to being able to explain the big picture question of why God allows hell at all - He does it because the end is greater than the beginning. Somehow He will receive more glory in His judgement than He would without, and the joy those who have trusted Him will be greater when contrasted with the destruction of all that is evil. God cannot do anything for no reason, and so we must trust Him that His great plan of salvation is perfect. If we ourselves have trusted Him, then we will see the glorious fulfilment of all that God has been doing in this world since the moment of creation, and maybe then we’ll understand perfectly that God does nothing wrong, but has been weaving together the perfect plan of salvation for His lost world.
God has provided a way of escape.
Once again, it is easy for us to start pointing the finger at God for seeming to be the cause of this great punishment, when actually God has made a way for anyone who comes to Him to be pardoned, and to escape the wrath to come.
The call of the Gospel goes out to all men and women everywhere, calling them to only trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they will be forgiven.
This isn’t just some cheap free-gift that God is offering - the only way He could possibly offer forgiveness to the people of this world was by taking the punishment and the pain that they deserved on Himself in their place. When Jesus came into this world and died a criminal’s death that was exactly what was happening - it was as if Jesus bore hell on the cross, so that anyone who trusts Him would not have to suffer hell, but could be welcomed into heaven as a forgiven child of God.
God sacrificed the most precious thing He had - His own Son - that He could make a way for us to escape from hell and enjoy eternal paradise. Anyone who ends up in eternal punishment will surely be there, not because of some vindictive god who loves to punish people, but because they chose their own life, and they chose badly while all the time there was a God full of love for them calling them to Himself to receive forgiveness and eternal life.
Right now, God is being patient with people, calling them to Himself.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
The reason God doesn’t just stop the world and set up His eternal kingdom now is that He is waiting patiently for more people to come into His kingdom. If it was us, we’d have got fed up long ago and just wiped out the rebellious human race, but God is so patient with us, and so full of love and grace that He is waiting, calling and drawing men and women to Himself. The longer God allows this world to go on before He sends Jesus back to us, there will not only be those who will be lost because of their rejection of the good news of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, but there will also be many who, by the grace of God, will turn from their sin and trust Jesus to be saved from the coming judgement.
I for one, am glad that He was patient with me when I was far away from Him, and you too, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, should be grateful that God didn’t just end it all before you were able to find the assurance of eternal life in Him for yourself.
As I end this answer, I urge you that the most important thing in all of this is to make sure of your own eternal destiny. If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you must do - it’s all very well wondering about the reasons God hasn’t finished with this world yet, but the reality is we’re here now, and the only way of escape from the judgement that is coming is by faith in Christ as the one who bore that judgement for us.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Luke 16:19–31
- Romans 1:18-3:31
- Revelation 20:1-21:8
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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