Why would an all-loving God send people to hell?
I think it’s important to validate someone’s question before jumping right into answering it.
This is a difficult question for us to comprehend. We can’t imagine allowing our worst enemies to suffer eternally, much less subjecting them to such inescapable torment. I think that this question and the problem of evil are the two most common rejections of Christianity offered in our day and age. I think they are the root of our other objections too.
Option 1 – Hell is God’s Monument to Human Freedom Answer – It’s clear in Scripture that God does not desire for anyone to perish forever, but for everyone to come to repentance and salvation. Again God does not desire for any of us to suffer perpetual death! Hell is God giving individuals what they both desire and deserve, eternal separation from him. John 3:19-20 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” The Light is Jesus Christ and men love darkness instead of light. Those who reject Christ do not want to know God and have a relationship with him. In hell, God is giving them the desire of their hearts, to be forever separated from his grace, riches, and provision, forever awake and dying in the darkness of eternity.
Option 2 – Hell Wasn’t Intended for Humans Answer – We must remember that God doesn’t desire for humans to suffer in hell for eternity. Hell wasn’t intended for humans, but rather the demons. In Matthew 25:41 Jesus states that hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” But because of man’s own wickedness, we too deserve hell. The people who are destined to hell do not want anything that is of God in this life. What is to say that they all of a sudden will flip a switch in heaven? Heaven is a place of perfection for it is the place that God’s glory dwells. Nothing evil can exist in his presence. If people don’t want to be washed clean and to be forgiven by the work of Jesus Christ, God is left without a choice but to cast them out of his presence.
Option 3 – Who Are We? Answer – Based on our human understanding of love and hate, crime and punishment, we reject the notion that a loving God could possibly punish someone for eternity for matters that we feel are trivial. This is arrogance on our part. As God reminded Job, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). Have we not stopped to consider that God’s ways are not our ways, and that in fact his ways are greater and better than ours? Is it not possible, that in this situation, hell is the only possible consequence for sin that a good, loving, and just God can deliver?
Option 4 – Share the Gospel Answer – Read “Back to the Gospel” within this question.
2 Peter 3:8-9 – “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:1-6 – “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
Isaiah 55:9 – “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Back to the Gospel:
Whenever answering an objection to the Christianity, the goal should always be to turn the conversation back to the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation for all who believe. (Romans 1:16)
The terrors of hell are real and we act as if a loving God who chooses to send people there must not exist. We have no grounds upon which to make this accusation, because God himself has suffered the penalty of hell in the person of Jesus Christ. What greater love is there than for God to give his only, eternally, begotten Son to die as a substitute for us, who though he was sinless bore our sin and took the penalty of our guilt upon himself? We can’t claim that God is not loving for sentencing people to hell, when God allowed his own, innocent Son to suffer hell, so we don’t have to! God didn’t have to send his Son to die for us, but he did, out of love for the world.