We are continuing in a series of blogs around the theme of bible difficulties. We have already looked at the argument that the bible is God’s word and can be trusted, but the problem is, the amount of difficult questions it raises. Last week we looked at how a good God could allow evil and suffering in the world and we saw that God has placed a high value on human beings having the ability to make choices (called ‘free will’).
This week we look at a problem which is associated with last weeks question and that is; “Why would a God who is good and loving send people to hell, which is a place of eternal torment?”
God sending people to hell, from a human perspective seems very unfair. From our point of view it is really difficult to imagine people being subjected to eternal suffering. Eternal is forever, never ceasing. Surely that can’t be right?
It’s important though that we take a balanced view. It is a very emotive subject and we need to see the situation not just from our own viewpoint. The bible helps with a number of starting points which we need to consider;
An important thing to consider is that God is holy;
for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
Holiness is perfection, a complete absence of sin. Not even having the ability to sin. God is completely pure and incorruptible, the absolute standard. And importantly, not even allowing sin to be anywhere near His presence.
Allied to this is the fact that He is righteous
God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:11-12)
Meaning He will only do what is right, He cannot do and accept wrong. It is against His very nature
In perfect balance with His Holiness and righteousness is His love. God is a God of love. He is the meaning of the word, it too is in His very nature.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 John 4:16)
This aspect of love is why we see that God takes no delight in people going to hell
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
If God were to only be loving He would let everybody off and in fact if He was only just, Hell would be full, including all the people who have ever existed. God has balanced his righteousness and love in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus took our sin on himself and has made, through His body, an escape from hell. Justice and love were both served on the cross of Jesus Christ.
This now brings us to the subject we looked at last week. There is a very real sense that God doesn’t ‘send’ anyone to hell. All who go there deserve to be there because that is what they have chosen, that is their ‘free will’. Sin continues in this world through the choices we make that are not in God’s plan. Choices we make to go our own way each day. You may say that they are not ‘big’ sins like rape and murder, but actually the biggest sin of all is rejecting the one who has provided a way of escape from the punishment of the consequences of our sin and those that go to hell have committed that sin.
Ok, so what about young children, babies, those who have never heard of Jesus? What happens to them? Well, our ‘human’ assumption is that they are innocent, but actually the bible suggests that we are all born in sin, we are born with a sin nature and therefore guilty.
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12)
We simply don’t know enough about God’s judgements as He has chosen not to reveal them fully to us, but what we do know is that He can be trusted completely. As we have seen already He is completely Holy, entirely just and utterly loving so what He will do will be right. What a comforting thought to know.