If God is all-loving, why would he send people to Hell?
This is a good question. Is God a cruel, evil judge? Aren’t people naturally good but just do bad things? Here, we’ll attempt to answer that critical question biblically.
In the Bible, in 1 John 3:4 it reads that “sin is the breaking of God’s Law.”
Let’s look briefly at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and see if we have kept God’s Law:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me
2. You shall not make yourself a graven image
3. You shall not take God’s name in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy
5. Honor your father and mother
6. You shall not murder
7. You shall not commit adultery
8. You shall not steal
9. You shall not lie
10. You shall not covet
Before a person can say they have obeyed the Commandments, this is what someone would be like if they kept the Law—they would always love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their strength, and with all their mind, and love their neighbor as much as they have loved themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). They have never made a “god” to suit themself (either with their hands or in their mind).
They have always given God’s name deep respect, kept the Sabbath holy, honored their parents implicitly, and never once have they been “angry with their fellow human being without a cause.” They have never hated anyone, had lust in their heart, or had adulterous sex (Matthew 5:27-28). They have never stolen even a paper clip or ballpoint pen, or told as much as a “white” lie, and not once desired anything that belongs to someone else. They are, and always has been “pure in heart,” perfect in thought, word, and deed.
The truth is, we are not like that. We have all “sinned” many times. In James 2:10 it reads, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” In Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In Isaiah 64:6 it reads, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” And in Psalm 14:1-3 and Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Think of it—if He has seen everyone’s thought, word, and deed, and if He is going to bring all of everyone’s sins out as evidence of our guilt on the Day of Judgment, all will be found to be guilty. God will “by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7). He “will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2-3). God will give everyone justice, and Hell will be the place of our eternal punishment.
And yet, even though we stand before God as guilty sinners deserving of his justice, in 2 Peter 3:9 it reads, “God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” In 1 Timothy 2:4, “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And, in John 3:16-18 it reads, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
God didn’t want robots to follow Him. He wanted his personal creation - mankind - to choose to love Him, that they might experience and express love with each other, and most importantly and foundationally with God through the freewill He gave them. We even read in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
Of course, God knew all along that all would sin against Him. He permitted this to happen, but it is all part of an amazing plan in store for all of us. In fact, we see in Titus 1:1-2, 2, Timothy 1:8-9, Ephesians 1:4-6 and Revelation 13:8 that God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ was laid out before He created time.
We see throughout the Bible that in His righteousness, God the Father condemns our evil, but in His immeasurable love, He sent God the Son in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, an historical person, and intervened into human history. This Jesus of Nazareth lived the perfect life that you or I could never live (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). He was tempted in every way yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Then, in AD 30, Jesus went to be nailed to a cross.
On the cross, our sins were laid upon him (Isaiah 53:4-12) and all the punishment of a Holy, Righteous and Just God fell upon the head of God the Son. He submitted and suffered the punishment to its fullness. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8). God made him who had no sin to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That God would rather crush Him who knew no sin than to crush us who do.
All of mankind owes a debt to God because of our sin and that debt was suffering an eternal punishment. But on the cross, God the Son himself took our place, bore our sin, and suffered the wrath of God the Father that we deserved. He extinguished it. He put it away and on the third day, he rose again from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6, Luke 24:6-7, 1 Peter 1:3, John 20:8-9, Matthew 28, Acts 26:22-23).
People are not reconciled to God through their own virtue or merit, they are reconciled to God through the virtue and merit of his Son (Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 10:9).
So, if God is all-loving, why would He send people to Hell? The answer is, He doesn’t. God is a just judge (Psalm 7:11). All have sinned (Romans 3:23). No one is good, not one person (Romans 3:10-12). We send ourselves to Hell (John 3:18). And yet, out of His immeasurable love, offered Jesus to be the undeserved sacrifice on our behalf. God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through Christ (Acts 17:31), but if a person rejects Christ, by their choice and their choice alone, they choose Hell for themselves.
Inevitably, it would not be unjust for God to send people to Hell; on the contrary, it would be unjust for Him not to.