Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, struggle with the idea of Hell as it is likely the most offensive doctrine that the Bible teaches. The primary objection that people often employ when arguing against the teaching of Hell is that, “God is love (1 Jhn 4:16), so how could he send anyone to a horrible place like hell?”.
For a multitude, it is simply seen like an overreaction on God’s part; that he would send Hitler and the guy who stole a candy bar to the same place to suffer the same punishment. At first glance this claim doesn’t seem to be compatible with a loving god at all! But that is why it is important that we dig deeper than the surface and examine these objections to the Christian God and by so doing we will see the faults in the objection and the truths in the issue.
God’s Love Requires Justice, God’s Justice Requires Hell
For starters, people who take this position are figuratively only reading one sentence of the whole chapter. What I mean to say is that God is much more than love. In this case we need to look at another one of his qualities; that being his justice (Isa 5:16; 30:18). This attribute shows us that because he loves us, he also disciplines us when necessary. Of course there will be those who object to this principle with one excuse or another, but what they fail to realize is that they are essentially saying that it is also wrong for our parents to punish us when we disobey them as youth. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that good parents love their children, show it as much as possible, and because they love them, they also discipline them when needed because they care about the outcome of their child’s life.
While often times there are natural consequences to our actions, such as sexually immoral people contracting sexually transmitted diseases and drug addicts destroying their bodies, there are also spiritual consequences as well. A popular statement that I often hear is, “It’s only wrong if you get caught,” but what the speaker fails to see is that we cannot hide from God. He knows our actions at every moment of every day and on the day that we meet him face to face, we will have to answer for the things we have done. The Christian and the Non-Christian alike.
But here is where we get into the psychology of it all. Think back to your youth (if you’re still young, this will be easy). Imagine you go to your parents and ask if you can go out with some friends or over to a buddy’s house, but your mother and father tell you, “not tonight, maybe some other time.” Aggrivated, you go up to your room and after a few minutes of thoughtful consideration, you put on your sweater and sneak out of the house and go about your original plans. What is it you’ve done here? You’ve intentionally broke the rules of the household and by doing so have said, “These rules are stupid. I know what’s best for me, my way is better so I’m gonna do it.”
Though there are many who may fail to see the connection, this is exactly how our lives relate to God - it is no coincidence that one of the persons of the Trinity is named ‘;Father’ (1 Cor 8:6). He gave us rules and boundaries to live within that are in place to keep ourselves and others safe. In addition, he tells us love him and love others (Luk 10:27). When we decide not to live by these rules, we are essentially saying, “No, my way is better.” But there comes a day when we stand before our father, and answer for all that we have done. After all is finished he will look us in the eye and say, “It’s clear based off your actions that you don’t like my rules, so tell you what, since you don’t respect them or myself, I’m sending you away to a place where both are nowhere to be found.”
The Chemistry of Eternity
Hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God, which is on a trajectory toward infinity. When we build our lives on anything but God, (e.g., money, drugs, alcohol, sex, fame, gluttony, etc), those things - even if they are good things - become an addiction that we cannot get enough of, so in turn, we justify whatever actions we must take to get more and more, which over time only satisfies our need less and less, until we are completely and utterly slaves to our addictions.1
God Offers Us Heaven
But this is what God offers: Jesus tells us, build your life with me and I will take care of all the other stuff (Mat 11:28-29). Be addicted to me, the more you want the more you can have (James 4:8) and the more you take the more rewarding your life will be . When everyone’s against you, I’ll ease the pressure (1 Pet 5:6-7). When the world stabs you in the back, I’ll mend the wounds. When you’re sins make you like scarlet, I’ll make you white as snow (Isa 1:18). When you’re feeling lost, I’ll show you that you’re found.”
When we object that it is wrong for God to send us to hell, we must remember a few very important facts. God is the living God and the author of life, and sin results in death. It is similar to an appliance that has been unplugged from its power source; though it continues to exist, it is functionally dead.2
We Choose Hell
Likewise, we are alienated from the Lord because of our own sin. It is not God who turned his back on us and severed our loving relationship. It is we who have freely sinned and given God the finger.3 But Jesus’ ministry was about telling the world to die to sin, die to pride, die to comfort, die to anything and everything that fails to glorify God alone as the object of our affection and the source of our joy4 and give it all to him.
He loves us and died in our place so that he could spend eternity with his creation in heaven, but if we decline the offer for which he was executed to give us, then our guilty verdict and subsequent sentencing is not showing a lack of God’s love for us. Rather, it’s likely othe most loving thing he will ever do for us, which is give us what we’ve always wanted: separation from him.
In closing, God is not the one who sends people to hell. People send themselves. I think C. S. Lewis put it best in his ‘;divine comedy’ The Great Divorce when he said, ‘;There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”’;5 You decide which path you will take, but it is hell if you are wrong.
- Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008. 78. Print.
- Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2007. 113. Print.
- Ibid. 125
- Ibid. 120
- Lewis, C. S. "The Great Divorce." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: HarperOne, 2007. 506. Print.