People ask all the time, “How could a good God punish people by sending them to hell?”
At one time, I wondered the same thing. And without taking time to consider who God is or how it all really works, some reject Him based on their own opinions, presuming our sinful minds are somehow superior to a Holy God’s.
Still, it’s a fair question.
Notice the objection has nothing to do with whether or not we sin. If that were the case, the question has no meaning. Rather, the objection is against being punished for sin. Why would a ‘good’ God punish people for behaving badly?
And yet, here we are, people made in God’s own image taking great pains to establish a system of justice to ensure that bad behavior is punished.
Perhaps the objection is not that all bad behavior should be punished, but maybe just the worst kind. Here on earth, that’s easy enough to get around: simply redefine the laws. Give murder another name and poof; it’s no longer a crime. Barely 70 years ago in Nazi Germany, murder in the name of ethnic cleansing was not only legal, but promoted. In many countries today, “honor killings” of violated girls is routine, and here in the US, this month marks 40 years of Roe vs. Wade’s legalized murder repackaged under the name of abortion.
So we’re back where we started. We all want justice – as long as it is limited to our preferred brand of crime. That’s our sin nature at its finest. God, however, never changes. Holy is holy and sinful is sinful. There is no middle ground; we are either one or the other. We all want to go to heaven but heaven is heaven precisely because the Presence of God keeps it holy; if someone unholy could enter, it would cease to be heaven.
“Are you saying that unless we are as holy as God, we will go to hell?”
Yes, but keep reading; there is Good News!
God deeply loves every person He created and “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) To be truthful, we have far more than a good God, we have a loving, sacrificial God who gave His very blood to cleanse us from our un-holiness (sin) and open Heaven’s door to repentant sinners. When Jesus went to the Cross, He offered His holiness for our sin; His Heaven for our hell, and bore the punishment for all sin for all people for all time.
This is glorious news! If the punishment for all sin was paid for on the Cross, no one will spend eternity in hell suffering the punishment for their sin.
The Bible makes it clear that hell is a real place. According to Matthew 25:41, it was prepared as a place to banish Satan and his demons. God never created hell as a place to punish sinners; however, those who reject the sacrifice of God’s Holy Son reject Heaven itself and by default, choose hell. Eternal torment in hell then, is not the result of being punished for sin (Jesus paid that debt on the Cross), but rather, it is the torment of realizing that although the door to Heaven was opened, they refused to enter.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
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Still have questions? Please leave a reply or check out Got Questions.
Has God been tugging on your heart? You can choose to receive Jesus today. Confess your sin to God in prayer; acknowledge that by faith, you believe Jesus is the Son of God who came down from Heaven, died for your sins, rose from the dead, and sits on the throne of Heaven. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and cleanse you of your sin and make you into the person He desires you to be. – If you prayed that prayer, tell someone today, and ask God to help you find a good church where you can grow in your faith. God bless you.