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.”
“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 (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? 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. 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.
 Unless otherwise noted, the Scriptures used in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
 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.
 Abortion is just a variety of child abuse, but that’s another article.
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