In answering this question (and all questions), we need to start by remembering Who God is and what He has done for us.
Who God Is
God is love. He is kind. He is merciful. He is gracious. And, He is also just.
When God created the earth, and all that is in it, He created it perfect. All creation was in perfect harmony with Him and the world functioned according to His perfect will and ways.
Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
Of course, we know that everything changed when Adam disobeyed God. Both sin and corruption entered the world and man was separated from the perfect union he had enjoyed with his Creator. But God, in His great love and mercy, promised to send a deliverer (Genesis 3:15), One who would rescue man from his fallen state and restore him to God. In this, God demonstrated His great love and mercy…and, in sending Jesus, He demonstrated His justice.
What God Has Done for Mankind
In His time, God sent Jesus to redeem the world by paying the penalty for man’s sin and opening the way to restoring our relationship with God. Jesus’ death on the cross secured forgiveness of sins. It was a just settlement of our account by our gracious God.
Ephesians 1:7 In Whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
When sinners trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, the penalty of their sins is removed from their account, they are regenerated, and receive Jesus’ righteousness imputed (credited) to their account. A redeemed sinner is positionally reborn “in Christ,” so when God judges him, he stands in Christ’s righteousness and is found to be righteous in the eyes of a Just Judge. This righteousness is not because of what they have done, but because of what Christ has done for them.
Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it [righteousnes] shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
With a remembrance of God’s great love, mercy and grace, and His perfectly just plan of redemption, let’s return to the question before us.
How Can a Loving God Send Someone to Hell?
First, understand that God can forgive any sin, but, in accordance with His justice, He must judge ALL sin….and He did. God judged all sin at the cross and Jesus paid the penalty for every past, present and future sin of man.
Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Salvation in Christ is a gift offered freely to all because Jesus died for all people (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
However, while the gift of forgiveness of sins and imputed righteousness of Christ is offered to all, it must be received. Although God desires that all people be saved, He will not force anyone to accept this gift. For the person who does not receive Christ’s forgiveness and dies in unrepentant sin, God will judge that person’s sin. Unlike the believer who has been justified in Christ (Read: The Gift of SalvaTION: Justification & Imputation), and without the imputed righteousness that Jesus gives to forgiven sinners, man will be found wanting and he will be judged guilty. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and that there is a place prepared for the unrighteous called hell. Sadly it is a place of torment.
For those who do die in unrepentant and unforgiven sin, it is their sin that condemns them, not God.
John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
God, in His love, mercy, grace, and His justice, has offered the only provision that can blot out the condemnation against man. That provision is Jesus. His life, death, burial, and resurrection offers life to all who will come to Him in faith.
Yes, those who reject Jesus will perish. But while this is very sad, it is not unjust.
Reframing the Question
So rather than ask the question, how can a loving God allow people to suffer in Hell, we should ask, how could a just God allow anyone into Heaven who does not have the righteousness of Christ? (Read: Are We All God’s Children?)
Because God gave His only begotten Son to pay for man’s sins, where one will spend eternity is man’s choice and there are only two choices:
- Receive Jesus and spend eternity with Him.
- Reject Jesus and perish.
In our love for others, it is very difficult to think about friends and family perishing. But remember, they perish because of their unforgiven sins, their unrighteousness, their choice to reject Jesus and refuse the gift of salvation God desires they receive. Their perishing cannot be blamed on God.
In our love for others, we should be motivated and diligent to share the gospel of saving grace with all people. Always remember the blessings of forgiveness and the imputed righteousness that you have received from a just and loving God and be ready, willing and able to share the love of Jesus and His saving grace with someone today.
Isaiah 45:21 …there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
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