A place of burning fire, likened to the loss of an only child. Hell is a horrific place.
No wonder, this doctrine puts people off Christianity.
Emotionally, the idea is so disgusting we want to never hear it again. Logically, it seems utterly inconsistent that Christ could send people to hell.
Surely a loving God can’t send people to hell?
If Christianity is to stand we must ask this question: is there any way a loving God would allow hell?
Hell is Chosen
Firstly, a loving God could allow hell if we choose to go there.
The ultimate responsibility for going to hell lies with us. True, God decides to punish sin, but that doesn’t mean he is ultimately responsible. If I murdered a child nobody would blame the judge for me rotting in jail. They’d say it was my own fault.
So it is with us. We chose to rebel and therefore we are responsible for being in hell. God lets us have what we want. An eternity without him. We just don’t realise now how painful that is.
Hell is Just
Secondly, a loving God could allow hell if it was a just thing to send people there.
Many think that disobeying God’s law doesn’t deserve hell. Surely, a loving God could never condemn us according to this!
Yet he could for two good reasons:
- We shun a law that is always good: God gives us commands that make life better. Even people who complain God is unjust agree we should love our neighbours as ourselves. This is a law God created! His laws are all good laws and so it is loving that he enforces them.
- We accept a life that is always hurtful: Our sin has tremendous consequences. Why do people cry? Why do people commit suicide? Why do people starve for lack of food? Because people like us abuse them our whole lives. God must punish us if he is loving to those we hurt. If he allowed people who hurt others as much as we have to go to his new creation, then frankly he isn’t loving at all!
For God to be a loving God he must be just, he must be fair. Hell is the ultimate sign of his justice and his justice shows us his love.
Hell is Hated
Thirdly, a loving God could allow hell if it was something he hated.
If God sends sinners to hell with sadistic glee, he isn’t loving. Yet hear this:
As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked
Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV)
God does not enjoy hell. In his love he laments over those going there. Therefore, how can we say hell disproves his love?
Hell is Love Revealed
Fourthly, a loving God could allow hell if it provided a way to reveal his love.
How does hell provide a way for God to reveal his love?
You and I deserve hell. If God is creating a perfect world, sinners like us don’t deserve to be there.
Yet the crazy thing is I won’t be going to hell. Why? Because Christ died in my place. He said that he would die on my behalf. He would go through the punishment of hell that I deserved.
That isn’t to say Jesus literally went to a place called hell. But he had the wrath of God poured out on him on the cross, and that is what hell truly is.
What absolute love that shows! That he would go through hell for us! All we have to do is repent of our sin and have faith in Christ and our sin is forgotten. How loving is that?
Hell reveals the love of God, for it shows what he was willing to do to save us. A loving God could allow hell for he would allow it to reveal the love he has for us.
Over to You
What are your problems with hell? Do you think it disproves the existence of God? What do you think of the God who went through hell to save us from sins?
P.S. Tim Keller’s Reason for God was really helpful in answering this question.
If Christ Was Real… Answering four arguments that Christ cannot exist (Originally discussed at BridgingSchisms.org).
1. If Christ was real…he wouldn’t have such awful followers.
2. If Christ was real…he wouldn’t send people to hell. (this post)
3. If Christ was real…he wouldn’t judge us according to an unjust law
4. If Christ was real…he wouldn’t call me “sinner”. (coming soon)