Friday, February 21, 2014

Does God choose to send anyone to hell?

Sky over ELWA beach in Liberia
(Part of a series on death and the hereafter)

Does God choose to send anyone to hell? No. Heaven and hell have differing purposes for God. God created man in His own image to enjoy His presence forever. Hell was not created for man. It was prepared for the devil and his angels/demons (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10). It is not his will that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11). Hell is a destiny chosen by
the free will of man. It is an assault on God’s character to teach that he creates human beings so that he may damn them to Hell in order to demonstrate his justice for eternity. Such a deity would be a maniacal tyrant, not the God portrayed in Scripture. J.I. Packer writes, “All receive what they actually choose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves.”

Therefore, while hell was not created for any human beings, because of sin, hell is the default destination of all human beings (John 3:18; Rev. 20:12-15). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2) because God is so holy that he cannot allow sin in his presence (Habakkuk 1:3). Sinners are not entitled to enter God’s presence, so we cannot enter Heaven as we are. We must have a Savior Jesus Christ.

People go to hell because they reject God’s choice or destiny for them. Hell will be the destination for all who reject the righteous Son of God who came to redeem all who would receive Him (John 3:18-21; Rev. 1:18). At Christ’s return, there will be a resurrection, the believers to eternal life in Heaven and the unbelievers to eternal life in Hell (John 5:28-29). If your name is not found written in the Book of Life (Rev. 21:27), your destination is hell. For unbelievers, one’s judgment is based on their works recorded in Heaven’s books (Rev. 20:12-15; Matt. 13:40-42; 25:41).

God designed hell to be sufficiently frightening to motivate the worst sinner to flee to the grace of Christ and live with him in heaven eternally. If we had any understanding of hell, we would never say, “Go to hell.” It is far too easy to go to hell. You don’t have to change course. You don’t have to change your lifestyle. You don’t have to make any adjustments. We are born with our compass set toward Hell. That’s the worst news there is. 

Hell is the single greatest tragedy in the universe. Not all of our questions about Hell are answered, but we do know enough to know that Jesus is the only answer to Hell.  He provides an escape.  He provides eternal life in Paradise in His Presence.  The doctrine of Hell caused me as a seven-year old to flee the wrath to come and run to Christ. Won’t you run to Christ today for yourself?

Will people who have never heard about Jesus go to Hell? Yes. They have sinned and are without excuse (Rom 1:18-20). Unsaved people are already condemned for their sins (Rom 5:18; 3:9-19; John 3:18).