The Loving Nature of God in Sending People to Hell

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Okay, let me make a deal with you, right off the bat: You don’t leave this article immediately after reading the title, and I’ll humbly explain myself in detail. How’s that sound?

If you’ve made it to this paragraph, I’ll assume you said, “Alright. I’ll see what this weirdo has to say.” First of all, thank you for being more open-minded than eighty percent of the world’s population. Secondly, because I appreciate your openness and value your time, I’ll try to be as concise yet as complete in my explanation as I possibly can. (Thirdly, I’m not a weirdo. But anyway.)

Before getting into the title, though, we’ve just got to come to grips with something: the concept of hell (or the doctrine of eternal punishment) is not exactly a belief that many hold dear. It’s not something you usually try to visualize when you’re looking for your “happy place.” If there was one thing in the Bible that we as people could remove, most of us would probably choose the doctrine of hell.                                   

And the thought of unbelievers burning for eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone is not liked very much for basically one reason—it’s not very likeable. At all.

And that’s very understandable. I mean, we all live and work and play in this world. We all have unsaved family members. We all have friends whom we love dearly (sometimes more than the family members!) who aren’t Christians. We don’t want to think that they will go to hell forever if they die in their current states.                                                   

And if we’re honest, it’s not just that we don’t want our friends and family to go to hell—we don’t want anyone to go there! Most of us would say that we wouldn’t want our worst enemy to spend eternity in hell. We don’t think anyone should have to burn in conscious torment for endless epochs to come, just to pay for the sins they’ve committed in one lifetime. We don’t believe that God should send anyone to the eternal furnace, with the exceptions of a few brutal killers and maniacal mass murderers (e.g., Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Joseph Stalin). It doesn’t seem fair. It just doesn’t seem right.                                               

In light of all that, the title of this article sounds even less right. How could God be loving if He sends people to hell? If you went out in the streets—or even in the churches—and asked professing Christians this question, most of them will try to turn it around on you. They’ll probably say something like this:

“Well, since God is loving, He would never send anyone to hell.”

Or this:

“Because my god is a god of love, He couldn’t send people to hell.”

Now, it’s more than likely that these people are not trying to be heretics. Most of them sincerely think that they’re right, and that what they believe is that which the Bible teaches. And their desire to keep people from misunderstanding God’s character is admirable (as some would claim that hell is proof that God is sadistic or cruel to His creatures).

But just because they’re not trying to be heretics doesn’t mean that what they believe is not heresy. And before we try to keep others from misunderstanding God, we must be sure that we understand Him ourselves.                                                 

Herein lies the problem of the “God is love” argument against the existence of hell, for if we say that God cannot be loving if He sends people to hell, we make it clear that either we do not understand this God we are trying to defend, or the god that we’re talking about is an idol we have created in our minds, and not the God of the Bible. Scripture makes it plain that God, who is just and perfect, does not refuse to punish the guilty simply because He is also loving. One of the clearest passages concerning this is Exodus 34:6-8.

Then the LORD passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…”

Exodus 34:6-8[1] (emphasis added)

Abounding in lovingkindness (mercy) and truth, forgiving all kinds and types of sin, yet by no means sparing the guilty. Seems a little contradictory, doesn’t it? And yet this is the way God describes Himself to Moses. This isn’t some fanatical theologian or crazy heretic trying to make God into what they want Him to be. This is God preaching a sermon on God. This is the truth about God’s nature being revealed to man by God Himself. And since this is the truth, we don’t have the right to try to change it; we have the duty to accept it even if we can’t fully comprehend it.                                   

So how do we try to understand this? How do we grasp how God can be loving yet send souls to eternal hell? By looking again at God. Not at just one attribute or action, but at all of Him. At His worth. At His utter, absolute perfection. At His blinding loveliness, His overwhelming, infinitely unmeasurable value.

Meditate on this for a moment, then ask yourself: Who is most worthy of love? Who alone is truly perfect, lovely, majestic, and glorious? What is the highest object than anyone could ever love? The answer should come rather quickly (especially if you are a Christian!).                       

It’s God. God is the Being most worthy of love—in fact, He is the only one who is truly worthy of love, because He alone is truly perfect, lovely, majestic, and incomprehensibly glorious. He is the highest object than anyone could ever love, because He is God. Yes, He is the Creator of the universe and everything in it. Yes, He is the Savior of those who believe, and the Redeemer who gave His life for us. Yes, He is the One who provides for us and holds the world in place. But even if He wasn’t, He would still be worthy of infinite love, because He is God. Even if He had never created the universe, never created mankind, never come to save us, and never gave us a single thing, He would still be God. He would be unchanged in His perfection, glory, and loveliness. He is always and eternally worthy of all the love that could come into existence. He is love, and He is the highest and indeed the only object that perfect love could ever love for its own sake.

This is how God remains loving while He opens hell’s gates for another unbeliever. Because if God is the supreme object of love, and His love is perfect, what greater object could His love have besides Himself? What else should God love more than His own character and being, if He is the only being who is truly worthy of love?[2] Nothing!         

But our modern society’s idea of love—that if someone is loving, they will never be angry or hateful toward anyone—has got to be flushed out of our thought processes before we can grasp the true definition of love. As much as many people would tell us otherwise, if we want to know the truth, we have to realize that love presupposes hate. Love requires hate. Even in our fallen, sinful, human minds, we can understand this. If I love children, then I will hate child abuse and abortion[3]. If I love my family, I will hate anyone who would try to harm them. If I love French poodles, I will hate people who are cruel to French poodles (do you get the point?). And if God has to love Himself first and foremost and above all, shouldn’t He also have to hate anything or anyone who comes against Him or offends Him? Such as sin, and the sinners who commit it?

Earlier we looked at God’s absolute perfection. If God is perfect, and God is love, then His perfect love must be (as we’ve just seen) accompanied by hatred. And not just hatred, either—perfect hatred. Righteous hatred. Hatred that will seek justice and retribution rightly. And because God is also omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (everywhere at all times), He will find the offenders whom He pursues. He may not strike them instantly; in fact, the psalmist David often laments that the wicked seem to be more abundant and more “blessed” with possessions than the righteous (Psalm 17:13-14, Psalm 12:1-2). But God will strike them (David sees this, too: Psalm 7:10, Psalm 9:5), and when He does, (literally) all hell will break out against them because of their sinfulness.                                                         

After a man dies, he is judged (Hebrews 9:27), and in the state that he dies, so he must be for eternity. If he dies a righteous man who is trusting in Christ for that righteousness, he will be taken to heaven to spend eternity worshipping God for His wonderful mercy. If he dies a wicked man who has spurned the gospel command to repent and believe (Acts 2:38, 17:30), he will be cast into hell, where he will spend endless ages in fire, never to be removed, and the smoke of his torment will rise up in praise to God for His marvelous, eternal justice. In hell there will be no mercy, no exception, and no escape for those who are placed there. Just as no person chosen by God to be placed in His love can escape that irresistible grace, no person who is resigned to hell on that final day will ever see another moment that is not filled with the flames of God’s unrelenting justice. And yet God is loving, because His name is being glorified and vindicated. If His wrath was not satisfied on the cross for a person (which is evident if that person has not been saved by repentance of sin and trust in Christ), He will satisfy it in hell, so that either way, His holiness is proven and His love for Himself does not fail.                                                       

I’ve tried the best way I know how to lay out plainly what Scripture says regarding hell and God’s love in sending people there. Still, this is one of those “unsettling” doctrines for most of us, and I know it can be hard to swallow. But the truth is, it’s true, so we must believe it, and defend it with our lives. Because God said it, and that settles it.

SDG <><


[1] Unless otherwise noted, the Scriptures used in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

[2] And if God did love anything more than Himself or seek to glorify anything other than Himself, would that not be proof that He isn’t God? If He did so, He would essentially be breaking the first commandment that is listed in Exodus twenty, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God must be completely devoted to God’s glory because He is God.

[3] Abortion is just a variety of child abuse, but that’s another article.

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Categories: Theology

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9 replies

  1. I don’t believe anyone is “sent” anywhere. It’s more of a choice, I believe, but I am only going as far as I understand. It’s kind of like a guilty person coming up before a strong, honest person. The honest person, having lived a life of compassion, strength, and responsibility. The guilty person, being in the same room as the honest person finds it very uncomfortable. More so if they can’t confuse the honest person, talk about nonsense, and change the dynamics, the honest person always doing what’s right, pointing out errors and such, and talking about “good”things. And the music is always on “good things.” Any television is on “good” shows.
    In a sense, being in the same room as the honest, responsible, strong person, for the guilty person might seem like hell. Now, imagine at death. The person who has always chosen the wrong paths, complaining and complaining, not looking to truly understand, not giving their best, always blaming others, then even attempting to prove to everyone else to not believe in goodness and what’s right. Trying to prove to anyone we don’t have to follow our conscience (Pinocchio anyone?), there is no ultimate authority, and we only have to do what “feels” good.
    You see two doors. One door leads to peace, joy, and happiness. Through that door, there is no sin. There are no lies. All that we are, all that we’ve ever done, said, or think will be opened up for all to see. In other words, all of our “sins” will be shown. To go through that door, you will be face to face with your guilt for all of eternity. The guilty person, having not believed in truth and goodness, always turning away even though the truth is always before him, just that he keeps choosing otherwise, listening to all the wrong people, how could they step through the door to paradise if they haven’t come clean. I would imagine living in purity, surrounded by wonderful people, and always in the light of love and understanding would feel like being ripped apart to the one who keeps denying what is true. Like a kid who stole from his dad, having to face his dad at home, but multiplied a million times (The guilt that is). But all the while, there is the opportunity (I believe) to seek your Father and His Son. The question is, what do you want?
    If you don’t want to be with God, if you don’t want to seek Him, if you (When I say you, I don’t mean you, but to anyone who isn’t seeking.), if you don’t want to live a better life, if you don’t want to stop sinning or admit we all do sin, then why would the One who made you force you to be with Him? You get to choose. But if you don’t go through door number one, there’s only one other door. You either choose God or the devil. The devil is the one constantly telling you there is no god, that you can be god, and that you don’t have to listen to anyone, but in listening to that, you are listening to someone. And you go through that door to be with him forever. That’s the choice. We all have that choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You speak much of honesty and goodness, but the Scripture says that there is none good, no not one (Rom. 3:10-18). Scripture also says that God actively hates and punishes those who transgress His law (Psalm 5:5-6, Psalm 7:11-16). Man has responsibility, but he does not have free will. God is sovereign, and we are not. We may not completely understand that relationship, but we have to believe it, because Scripture clearly states it (Roman 9 is a good treatise of this). If a man does not repent of his sin and trust in Christ alone for salvation, he is not choosing to go to hell—he is choosing to rebel. God sends unrepentant sinners to hell, and He takes believers to heaven.
      The problem with man’s choice concerning salvation is that man is unable to make a choice concerning salvation. Since Adam, the head of all mankind, fell into sin, the human will is completely dead toward godliness and salvation; only a regeneration of our souls, accomplished by God’s sovereignly applying the substitutionary atonement of Christ to us, can move our wills to choose godliness. Our choosing to obey God is not a motivation for Him to adopt us as His own children; on the contrary, it is our response to His adopting us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have learned to allow people their beliefs, but never, under no condition, allow them to think for myself. Throughout my life, in various learnings and scriptures, I have heard multiple versions and interpretations, all of the speakers/writers, thinking they know, absolutely certain of their beliefs, quoting this and that, and yet, I can’t help wondering what their motivation is. The quoting, the monotone speaking. I like my current pastor, for he follows the bible, but admits he has much to learn. I also understand why many shy away from churches. Why some have completely severed any ties. Which is why, when I talk with an atheist, I explain this is “your” road, hopefully with others, but when we die, we (in a sense) die alone. But if you believe, then their is hope, but that’s for each person to seek and discover.

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    • @dolphinwrite

      “I have learned to allow people their beliefs, but never, under no condition, allow them to think for myself.”
      –That’s great! It’s not our job to force others to believe what we do. However, we can (must!) present the facts to them and tell them there is a God who (justly) demands complete and utter allegiance from all of his creation. We must tell them that they must come to him on his terms if they are to escape the wrath they have incurred through their rebellion. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2012:29-31&version=NASB But no, we can’t (must not!) force them to convert. That would be an insincere, false conversion that would do no better than damn them to hell! https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023:14-16&version=NASB

      Throughout my life, in various learnings and scriptures, I have heard multiple versions and interpretations, all of the speakers/writers, thinking they know, absolutely certain of their beliefs, quoting this and that, and yet, I can’t help wondering what their motivation is. The quoting, the monotone speaking.
      – Augustine of Hippo – “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” However, man is in rebellion against God and would rather make own way than follow God’s way. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14%3A6&version=NASB https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20%3A3-5&version=NASB But God has revealed Himself to us in his Scripture and shewn us exactly how we are to follow him.

      “I like my current pastor, for he follows the bible, but admits he has much to learn.”
      –Having much to learn does not negate the truth you already know.

      ” I also understand why many shy away from churches. Why some have completely severed any ties. Which is why, when I talk with an atheist, I explain this is “your” road, hopefully with others, but when we die, we (in a sense) die alone. But if you believe, then their is hope, but that’s for each person to seek and discover.”
      –In the book of Judges “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” And murdered each other, and broke God’s law, and had concubines, and killed each others concubines, and hung out with prostitutes and threw Israel, the very people of God, into complete chaos.

      Jesus Christ, God of Creation, and Lord of the Earth said:
      “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51) There is only one Source of life.
      “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) There is only one Source of truth
      “I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7,9) There is only one Safe Haven
      “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) There is only one Savior and only one Source of life.
      “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14) There is only one Savior and Protector.
      “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) There is only one Saviour, only one Source of truth, only one Source of life.
      “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5) There is only one source of life.

      John 14:6 in full:
      “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”

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      • One thing I have heard, which seemed demonstrated in the New Testament. It was in Job. Being careful to think one is speaking for our Lord and Savior. For some reason, some people find it necessary to expound, and there is a mindset reason for this. Fear and worry. It goes with a lot of other things as well. We see it in every walk of life. I know, for I’ve done that, later realizing what is my motivation. **Okay. Repeat my words.

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      • @dolphinwrite
        “One thing I have heard, which seemed demonstrated in the New Testament. It was in Job. Being careful to think one is speaking for our Lord and Savior.”
        –I don’t pretend to be speaking by divine revelation if that is what you mean. However, I am striving to proclaim and explain Scripture clearly and accurately.
        “For some reason, some people find it necessary to expound, and there is a mindset reason for this. Fear and worry. It goes with a lot of other things as well”
        –Would you care to tell me what I’m afraid of? I don’t see it in myself, but I’ve been known to be wrong. On the other hand, by your own standard, I don’t see why I should take your word for it. Maybe, my worldview tells me different. Would one of us be wrong?
        “We see it in every walk of life. I know, for I’ve done that, later realizing what is my motivation.”
        –As fallen human beings, we can definitely deceive ourselves as to our own motives. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+15%3A19%2CJeremiah+17%3A9&version=NASB -this link contains 2 passages)

        That being said, I’m not sure I understand what you intended to say in your post on April 20, 2020 at 2:39 pm.

        If I’m following your argument, I believe you’re saying we should not proclaim God’s truth with absolute certainty. I would disagree. The Bible is clear that we MUST preach the gospel to the lost. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+28%3A19-20&version=NASB https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+1%3A16&version=NASB https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+10%3A42&version=NASB https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+10%3A27&version=NASB)

        And as I posted above, the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to be saved!

        PS: Please pardon any bad spelling. My fingers get ahead of my brain. (Or vice versa?) ;D

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    • Also @dolphinwrite. I just realized that this conversation was a month old, so I wanted to thank you for taking the time to re-engage!

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  3. God does not just leave people to their own beliefs (Ecclesiastes 3:17). People WILL be judged for their beliefs about God and their sins against Him when they die and are brought before His righteous throne. This is why our theology is so important. If we do not know the truth, then we cannot tell others the truth. And the truth about God and what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ is the only thing that can save people from hell, where God’s just wrath will eternally burn against them because of their infinite sins against His holiness. (John 8:32) There is no truth without THE Truth, Jesus Christ.

    In Hebrews 10:25, God tells us not to neglect to gather together as a church. If we are part of the Church, then we are part of Christ’s Body; if we are part of Christ’s Body, then the Body cannot be separated. Also, fellowship with other believers is a fruit of true conversion (1 John), so if we don’t like being around Christians, we need to examine ourselves and see if we are truly Christians ourselves.

    P.S. There is only one Scripture, the true and Holy Scriptures that were “breathed out” (inspired) by God. All the other writings of other religions are false and therefore NOT “scriptures”. And the Scripture is of no man’s private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Just to let you know.

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