Does God send people to hell?
|Created by Gerard de Vos|
Category: Atheist related
One of the atheists’ objections against God is that they declare that He is cruel to send people to hell. As Robert Ingersoll wrote: ‘Eternal punishment must be eternal cruelty - and I do not see how any man, unless he has the brain of an idiot, or the heart of a wild beast, can believe in eternal punishment’ (A McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism, Rider, 2004, p 275).
Hell (an eternal lake of fire) sounds a bit scary, especially if we remind ourselves that God is actually a God of love. And that as Creator He made all people, and that He intimately knows them all. Why would He love to send people to hell?
1. To answer this question, let us first ask if there really is a place like hell? The Bible teaches about such a place. Initially hell was designed as the prison for the devil and his angels who defected from God (Matt 25:41). This is what we would find in any normal country: rebels are usually punished severely, because they are a danger to the stability of the country. Most people would agree that eternal imprisonment in hell is a fit punishment for the rebel, the devil who deceives the whole world and leads them astray (Rev 12:9; 20:7-9).
2. What about humans? Does God really want them in hell? Not at all. This is the message that He sent us: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16,17). God is gathering a citizenry from the people living on earth, for His eternal dwelling place. That kingdom will be characterized by peace, with no rebellion and violence. To accomplish this, He has to make sure that He will be obeyed eternally. (This is not something outlandish: most countries require obedience to the government or ruler.) To test obedience, God gave a command that no one can fulfill, namely to live an absolutely perfect life on this earth. Since He knows we are not able to, He made it possible that our ‘criminal record’ can be obliterated by Jesus taking our punishment on the cross. As we accept this provision we can be prepared for that future kingdom. To summarize: God said all people are condemned as rebels, and destined to die and be with the devil. But He sent Jesus Christ to pay our penalty of death, and humans can be saved from this terrible future by accepting Jesus’ pardon. This is free choice, since real obedience never comes by force (The atheistic governments like those of Hitler and Stalin tried to force loyalty on their citizens, and millions died).
3. Who must we blame then for this doctrine of eternal hell? God made everything very clear. Mankind can escape it. But if people refuse to accept the provision, God is powerless. A country has rules, and if a person refuses to obey them, we usually side with the government in condemning the person. 7wise chaos might ensue if people are allowed to do what they please. We do not blame governments for ensuring peace and stability, but why do we blame God for it in his kingdom? Do we think straight, or not? Or is this just another atheistic propaganda scam to heap abuse on God?
Conclusion: God sends nobody to hell. Man by his own volition decides to have nothing to do with God, and is willing to accept what goes with it.
Related articles: Why are good things from God, but not bad things?, Did a good God make a bad devil?, Where will good people spend eternity?