This question is one that troubles most people when they think about Christianity. How can God be loving and good if He’s shipping people off to hell? However, the real problem with this is that people have a misunderstanding of hell. For this blog, we’re going to look at the misunderstanding relating to God’s attitude towards humanity and hell.
When people think of the purpose of hell in Christianity, they usually think about a torture chamber God made, and that if you don’t believe in God, then He sends you there for eternity. However, the Bible doesn’t actually paint the picture that way. Personally, I think the reason why many people have such a bad understanding about hell is because churches don’t really preach on hell. If there’s no proper education about hell, then Christians aren’t going to understand the doctrine very well. If Christians don’t understand it well, then how can we possibly expect people who don’t even go to church to understand it? By gaining a proper understanding of the purpose of hell, I think the problems start to disappear.
One of the most important points to consider about hell is that it was originally created for Satan and his fallen angels (Mat 25:41). That’s right, hell wasn’t meant for humans! But doesn’t the Bible say that God sends people to hell? Yes, but this is where the misunderstanding comes in. In order to understand why humans go to hell, we first need to understand humanity’s relationship with Satan. Humanity was originally put in a position to rule over the earth (Gen 1:28). However, Adam and Eve submitted to Satan, following his will rather than God’s. Because humanity submitted to Satan, he then gained authority over the earth. You might remember the story where Satan tempted Jesus, and Satan offers Jesus the nations of the world if Jesus would worship him. Part of what Satan said is an admission that the authority was delivered over to him, so he can give it to who he wants (Luke 4:6). This is why in different places in Scripture it talks about Satan being the “ruler” or the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4; John 14:30). So, if hell was created for Satan and his fallen angels who followed him in rebellion, then if humans reject God they are following Satan in his rebellion, and will follow him to his punishment as well. Basically, humans go to hell because they are in submission to Satan, and will get the same consequences as Satan.
At this point, humanity has given rule of the earth to Satan, submitting to him by sinning, and are now in bondage to sin. The whole point of Jesus entering into humanity and paying the price we owe by dying on the cross was so that the bondage of humanity could be broken. This is what it means to call Jesus Christ “Lord”; He becomes your ruler who you submit to, rather than Satan. This is why in Scripture it says that God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). We also see this in John 3, where the famous John 3:16 is found. It says God loves the world, and that whoever relies on Christ will not perish (go to hell). It also says Jesus didn’t come to condemn humanity, but instead, to save it. It also specifies that, if you don’t depend on Jesus for salvation, then you are condemned “already”. In other words, we are already on the path to hell, and Jesus is trying to prevent that! So, does God want to send people to hell? No! It’s the exact opposite! God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, and He has gone to extreme measures to prevent us from going to hell. This is why we find in the Old and New Testament that God says He doesn’t enjoy punishing people, but would far prefer that everyone come to Him in repentance (Ez 18:23; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). You are then met with a very important question; will you follow Satan to hell? Or will you repent and follow Jesus to salvation?
Photo by Miriam Espacio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/orange-flame-selective-focus-photography-110867/