One of the most common objections to Christianity is the idea of hell. How could a good and loving God send people to hell? At first glance this appears to be a valid concern. God is love so out of His love, He shouldn’t be “sending” people to hell. And how could we want to worship a God who sends people to hell anyway? But when we consider the implications of this mindset, we find we actually
wouldn’t want there to be a God who didn’t send people to hell.
While God is indeed love, He is also Judge of all heaven and earth. Let’s put the idea of judge in the earthly realm and consider the implications in the spiritual realm. Imagine there were a judge in your town who listens to victim after victim testify that this defendant had done horrible and wicked things to them. There are piles of physical evidence at every crime scene that show this defendant is the one who committed these crimes.
Would it be loving of this judge to simply pardon the criminal and let him go without any punishment? The criminal might think so, but the victims certainly would not. Where would the judge’s love for the victims be? No, we can see clearly that the crimes must be punished.
Likewise, when we stand before God, who is the Judge of all who enter into heaven to be in His presence, we stand before Him, not as the victims, but as the criminal! Consider all of the lies and half-truths you have told. Doesn’t that violate the perfect moral standard of honesty? Consider the times you have betrayed friends and loved ones. Doesn’t that violate the perfect moral standard of loyalty? Consider the times you have been angry with friends, co-workers, or even just the driver who cut you off in traffic. Doesn’t that violate the perfect moral standard of love?
We have all committed these crimes, and as a we just acknowledged with an earthly judge, the spiritual Judge must punish and condemn these acts. But many people ask, “Why can’t He just forgive everyone, or overlook our sinful deeds?”
Would you really want Him to? Of course you would want Him to do that for you, but think about how most people view who should get to go to heaven. Most people believe that if heaven were a real place, then people who are “good” should get to go there. Now, we could focus on what would be defined as “good” to see that none of us are really in that category. Or, we could look at the implications of saying heaven is reserved for only “good” people.
We think there should be a different place for all those not-good people. Therefore, we still desire for justice to be carried out. Even though we never see that our own evil deeds are worthy of punishment, we still want punishment to fall on someone.
Most people would not think it right if Hitler or Stalin or Mao were allowed into heaven. This means we agree people should be judged. We still desire for God to not overlook the terrible acts of those we deem as evil and criminal. We wouldn’t want to worship a God who did not punish the likes of those men.
So while people may say they disagree with a loving God sending people to hell, at the same time, they want certain people to be in hell! We have a deep desire for justice, part of that Moral Law that our Moral Law Giver has written on our hearts. The problem is we always draw the line outside of ourselves for what things should be judged against. We want the evil in others to be judged, while we fail to see the evil and wickedness that require judgment in our own hearts.
In light of that, how can anyone get into heaven to be in God’s presence? This is why we don’t just need additional rules to follow to change our behavior. We need a Savior to stand in our place on the day of judgment. We need someone who doesn’t have any crimes in Himself to bear the punishment for those of us who do.
The punishment for our crimes against God is separation from Him, or death. God is love, joy, peace, and light. So an eternity separated from God’s presence would be an existence without love, joy, or peace, in total darkness. This is why Jesus said there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Those on earth living a life outside of God’s presence still experience the light, love, and joy of God’s blessings on His creation, or common grace, and the light, love, and joy of those who ARE walking in His presence. The final judgment though puts people in total separation from all of that.
But God loves His creation and doesn’t want us to be separated from His light, love, and joy. If God did not love us, then He would have just wadded up creation and thrown it in the trash when sin first entered into His good creation. It was God’s love that led Him to provide a way for us to be washed clean from our unrighteousness, to provide a way for us to be forgiven so we could be in His presence. Jesus took on that punishment in our place and allows us to be forgiven if we just acknowledge that truth about ourselves (being sinners) and about Jesus (being God and Lord of our lives).
Consider the words of John in the first chapter of his first epistle:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word
is not in us.”
God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, if we confess our sins to Him. But we cannot go around saying we do not have any sin. We all stand outside of that line drawn for who is “good” and deserving of heaven. We are all sinners, no one is good but God, and our hearts are desperately wicked. May you confess your sins today and seek forgiveness.