THE SHORT ANSWER: The bible teaches that, he is not ONLY loving but also severe against his enemies, there are things he loves more than individual people, we are his possessions, and he can do what he wishes. Although he wants NO ONE to go to Hell, there are things he wants more.
Keep reading to learn more.
Hover over reference links to read the verse without leaving the page.
We don't like the doctrine of Hell, but we need to talk about it because Jesus did. Anyone who seems excited to talk about Hell is a little scary to me. I’m not excited about this, but scared for those who don’t believe. I’m writing this because I love you, whoever you are.
Trust me, I'd love to pretend as if references to Hell were not in the bible... but they are. There are too many to ignore. Here is a list of verses that talk about Hell.
2 Peter 2:4. Revelation 21:8. Matthew 25:46. Psalm 9:17. Matthew 13:50. Acts 2:27. Mark 9:43. Jude 1:7. Proverbs 15:24. Matthew 13:42. Matthew 25:41. Revelation 19:20. Revelation 20:13-14. Matthew 10:28. 2 Thessalonians 1:9
So here is our question, which has come in from multiple people.
“How could a loving God send people to Hell?”
I'll start by saying, "He wouldn’t… if he were only loving."
Of course John tells us, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) It’s important to know that he is not ONLY love. He is loving but he is also severe with his enemies. Paul says, “Behold the kindness and severity of God.” (Romans 11:22) He values forgiveness but he also loves justice and righteousness. (Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 33:5)
We've turned God into a flat character who ONLY loves. Western christianity has become a self centered ideology that promotes the value of the individual above all else. Modern teaching implies that God is only love and nothing else. Did you know that God hates specific people? The bible tells us so.
There are things that God hates.
God hates the boastful and those who do iniquity (Psalm 5:5)
God hates the violent with a passion (Psalm 11:5)
God can grow to hate those who do wicked deeds (Hosea 9:15)
There are 7 things that God hates above all else. (Proverbs 6:6-19)
Pride, lying, blood shed, wicked schemes, evil, false witnesses, one who spreads strife.
Here is a slew of verses that talk about things God hates. Notice that everything God hates has to do with evil, wickedness, or sin in some way.
Leviticus 20:23, Leviticus 26:30, Deuteronomy 32:19, Psalm 5:5, Psalm 5:6, Psalm 10:3, Psalm 11:5, Psalm 53:5, Psalm 73:20, Psalm 78:59, Psalm 106:40, Proverbs 6:16-19, Proverbs 22:14, Lamentations 2:6, Hosea 9:15, Zechariah 11:8, Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13
You may say, "wait a minute. How could God hate? Doesn't that make him a bad God?"
Aren't there things that you hate? Do you hate war? Do you hate crime? Do you hate abuse against children? Do you hate violence? Do you hate rape?
You need to hate these things to be considered a good person. In the same way, shouldn't God hate these things to be considered a good God?
Secondly it's important to understand that the New Testament doesn't focus on these things, because Jesus' death made it possible for the enmity between God and Man to be removed. (Romans 5:10)
"How could a loving God send people to Hell," is like saying, "How could a courtroom judge send a murderer to the prison."
In a similar way that the state offers free rehabilitation programs, God offers a free solution. For those who refuse to be rehabilitated, there is little choice.
The Peace Treaty from God
Imagine that you're a powerful head of state who has been at war with a competing nation for generations. After many lives lost, and incredible damage to both countries you get a phone call on the red telephone... (I assume there is a red telephone in every president's office.) On the line is the leader of your enemy country. He says this, "I offer you a peace treaty. I will pay all expenses through my own method. I will repair any damage that has been caused. I just want peace." Now as the leader of your nation you have a decision to make. Do you continue to fight, or do you take the peace treaty? You'd be crazy not to take the pease treaty.
God views those who sin as enemies. (Col 1:21, Romans 5:10) Sin in it’s various forms is considered treason. He's offered a way to remove the enemy status. God has offered a peace treaty that every individual is able to accept.
For some reason that I can't understand, not everyone accepts this peace treaty. For those who refuse his peace treaty, what option is there? You may not feel like an enemy of God. I didn’t either. Unfortunately our feelings are misleading.
Remaining enemies with the King of the World
Make no mistake, Jesus plans to be the world dictator. (Rev 11:15) He promised to return to set up a worldwide Government that he often called, The Kingdom of God. (Mat 16:27, 24:30-31) We think of “dictator” as a bad word, but when the Kingdom rests on Jesus’ shoulders it will be good. (Isaiah 9:6) We will finally have our “philosopher King” as Plato phrased it. (reference) Because he is good, he will not deny justice to those who live in his Kingdom.
Now imagine that a man attempted to assassinate the world’s king, Jesus, during this Kingdom era. It’s not hard to imagine, considering that on his first visit they nailed him to a cross. That would-be assassin would be an enemy of the state. What if another man tried to subvert the Kingdom with false information about the King? Shouldn’t he be held accountable? What if a woman attempted to insight a civil war against Christ’s regime? Shouldn’t she be held to task? We all are enemies of the state when we resist our future ruler, Christ (specifically when we do not believe in him). In the eternal Kingdom this kind of activity cannot be allowed in. (Rev 21:27) God aims to ensure the success of his Kingdom by giving citizenship to those who willing subject themselves to Christ. Those who do not will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom. (Jn 3:5)
For all of those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God, They receive eternal life and are allowed into the Kingdom. (Matt 16:15-17, Jn 20:31) They are made into a new creation which will bloom in the Kingdom of God. (2 Cor 5:17) It’s because they are a new creation that they will one day be able to live according to the sinless nature of the Kingdom. (Matt 13:43. 2 Cor 5:21) His Kingdom will last forever. (Luke 1:33) The Kingdom is greater than any individual. What's more, God is extremely passionate about putting Jesus on the World's throne. He's extremely passionate about this Kingdom. (Isaiah 9:7) All of history is leading up to it. He cares deeply about this.
God cares more about his Kingdom than he does about you!
He views it as extremely valuable. (Matt 13:44, 13:45) His mission to preserve the Kingdom trumps all individual’s claims of unfairness. How do I know that God cars about the Kingdom more than he cares about you or me as individuals? Because he's willing to leave us out. (John 3:3, 3:5)
Considering this, the existence of Hell makes much more sense, than blanket acceptance of enemies. Let's imagine that after the terrorist attacks on 911, The US president went on TV and said, "I issue an official pardon to all the terrorists who were involved in the 911 attacks." It would be evil for the president to deny his own citizens the justice they deserve, in order to offer enemies of the state a pardon. Obviously, the president didn’t do this, but instead declared war on the enemies of the state.
To offer a pardon denies Justice. Even though God loves mercy, he also loves justice. For whatever reason, God refuses to deny justice. (Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 33:5) Justice must be served. So he doesn’t offer a pardon. He offers a sacrifice. He offers a replacement for those who are enemies of him and his kingdom. (Romans 3:25) For those who believe, we’re given a new identity in the Kingdom. (2 Cor 5:17) The bible says that he writes his new name on his faithful ones when the Kingdom begins, (Rev 3:12)
God will not allow his enemies into his Kingdom.
God is preparing a future Kingdom that will last forever. (Psalm 45:6. 2 Samuel 7:16) Any who enter that era but remain enemies of God will NOT be allowed to live in the Kingdom. (John 3:3, 3:5) They must go to a separate location.
The question, "how could a loving God send people to Hell," illustrates an entitlement mentality. Why would we think we are entitled to anything, especially considering that our rebellion against God makes us his enemies. We showed up here on our birth day, free of charge. We were granted a lifetime for free. We were given a world to explore and enjoy for free. We then stomp all over the gift of life by rebelling against our future Creator King. (Romans 1:20)
This world is a staging ground for God's eternal Kingdom. He's invited any who will believe in his son to join the Coming Kingdom of Heaven. (John 3:16) However, why would he continue to give us free gifts if we make it clear that we don't want anything to do with him or his Eternal Kingdom plan?
Hell is a natural conclusion, as long as there are men and women who continue to refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. (John 3:36)
Certainly God could force all humans to conform. He wants us all to be in the Kingdom. (1 Timothy 2:4) He could easily turn us all into Kingdom worthy new creations against our will. However, for whatever reason, he has chosen not to do this. He wants our willingness and love. He cares about you, but he cares about his Kingdom more.
Here are a few things that have helped me to come to terms with this.
The lake of fire was not designed for humans, but for the devil and his angels. The people that end up there, are doing so against the divine plan. (Matt 25:41)
God wants everyone to be saved eternally. (1 Timothy 2:4-5)
Despite what it looks like on the surface, all people have been offered a chance to believe. (Romans 1:20) This means that God does not trick people into Hell. They choose to be there.
God seeks those who seek him, even those in places where Jesus' name has never been heard. (Proverbs 8:17)
It’s not immoral for God to treat his creation however he likes. (Isaiah 45:9) It is important to remember that God wishes to offer love, mercy, and forgiveness to each and every human. The fact that God had to have retribution for your sin is between Him and his Son. The thing you need to know is that he offers you eternal life with him for believing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. (John 3:16) It's as simple as that.
Some consider Hades a type of mercy in this way: For those who do not allow God to make them a "new creation," that is, those who resist believing in Jesus, it would be absolute agony to be in the presence of God. A great example of this is when the Israelites heard God's voice directly they felt as if they were going to die. (Exodus 20:19, Hebrews 12:18-20)
There are different levels of judgment, and different levels of punishment in Hades. Not all are punished equally. We know this because Jesus tells us that some will endure a judgment that is more bearable than others. (Matt 10:15)
You might be interested to know that early Christian theologians believed that God continues to offer salvation to those who wind up in Hades. CS Lewis gave a similar image of Hades in his book, the Great Divorce. In that work of fiction, people were free to leave Hell, but wouldn’t for various reasons. I don’t know if this is true. I am not advocating this theology, only bringing light to it’s existence.
He can do it if he wants. All of this is his. We've fought hard in this country's history to prove that no man can own another man. We put slavery to death. We can't apply that rule to God, though. The bible says we are his possession. (1 Peter 2:9) Did you catch that? He owns us. He owns us and he can do what he wishes with us. This is scary, but remember he's offered us an beautiful option.
He's offered us eternal life with him if we believe in Jesus. (John 3:16)