Does God send people to hell?

the-big-questions-quoteDoes your existence end with physical death? Or, is there an existence after death?

Most people don’t believe existence ends with death. It seems innate to us as humans expect more to life than this life.

Most people also suspect that they will have to give an account for their earthly lives.

  • But is there really a heaven and a hell awaiting those who die?
  • What did Jesus teach about the afterlife?

In her award winning book, Just Give Me Jesus, Anne Graham Lotz observed that, “Jesus spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. But no one talks much about hell today. No one likes to think about hell. No one seems to be informed about hell. Few really even believe in hell. But the Bible teaches that hell is a real place, prepared for those who refuse God’s gracious offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Seven Truths about hell

Lotz suggests that the Bible reveals at least seven truths about hell:

  1. Hell is a place of physical agony, mental suffering, and emotional sorrow. Jesus described it as a place where there is gnashing of teeth and weeping.
  2. Hell is a place of insecurity and fear. The Bible describes it as a bottomless pit, an abyss. Imagine the terror of constantly falling, trying desperately to grab onto something-anything-to stop the fall. Hell is a place where one lives with the constant, conscious awareness of imminent danger.
  3. Hell is a place of instability. It is described as a lake of fire. A lake changes, fluctuates, with no firm surface on which to stand. Hell is a place where every moment is lived in uncertainty.
  4. Hell is a place of darkness. It is totally devoid of light. Have you ever heard people quip that they want to go to hell to be with their friends? You might want to point out that while their friends may be in hell, they will never be seen. It’s pitch black in hell; there’s nothing to distract people from their suffering and sorrow and fears and insecurities and instability. When we are sick, our suffering seems to intensify in the middle of the night. We long for the daylight to come. Somehow just the light of day makes us feel better. But in hell the dawn never comes.
  5. Hell is a place of loneliness. Each person is there alone. He or She may be able to hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth of others, but there is no one to talk to, no one to cry with, no one to even yell at. Each person is isolated in hate and bitterness and jealousy and pride and selfishness and meanness.
  6. Hell is a place of dissatisfaction. Jesus described it as fire. It may be a literal fire that creates a physical sensation of burning or just an overwhelming yearning for God, for love, for joy, for peace, for life that will never be. It must be the equivalent of being intensely thirsty yet never having a drop of water. Or intensely hungry with never a crumb to eat.
  7. Hell is a place of eternal separation from God. Each person who goes to hell will be separated forever from the source of life, the heart of love, the very One for Whom he or she was created.

The thought of a place called hell is emotionally difficult (if not impossible) to comprehend. But we should never ignore any teaching only because we find it emotionally disturbing.

We better have compelling reasons if we choose to reject the teaching of Jesus Christ.

In one sense, Lotz is right, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell. You send yourself there when you refuse His gracious offer of salvation.”

Scripture says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“But,” as Lotz states, “if you refuse to believe, you will perish. You will go to hell. The choice is yours. Our desperate need for eternal life is met in Jesus Christ. All you and I need to do is receive Him.” (See: John 1:12).

Hell and human defiance 

“The Bible does not present us with a God who chances upon neutral men and women and arbitrarily consigns some to heaven and some to hell. He takes guilty men and women, all of whom deserve his wrath, and in his great mercy and love he saves vast numbers of them. Had he saved only one, it would have been an act of grace; that he saves a vast host affirms still more unmistakably the uncharted reaches of that grace. Hell stands as a horrible witness to human defiance in the face of great grace” (D. A. Carson).

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Afterlife, Death, Hell, Life. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Does God send people to hell?

  1. Leon Maiolo says:

    Wow, God would never send anyone to a place like you have described. . God is Love. God in his mercy destroys both body and soul in the lake of fire. Those who refuse to except Jesus and his sacrifice are destroyed not tortured forever. Man is even kinder to the worse criminals then what you are describing. Check out my blog. God and eternal punishment.

    • thinkpoint says:

      Whatever Jesus intended by the metaphors, it isn’t good. I am not saying anything beyond what Scripture says. The issue of debate centers on whether eternal is in consequence (i.e. the result is eternal destruction, eternal punishment– not punishing) or in duration (i.e. never-ending— a process rather than a result).
      There are several other arguments used against the doctrine of eternal punishment.

      1. The issue of justice: Sins committed in a finite realm should not suffer an eternal consequence? True justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime.

      This argument may sound appealing on the surface but it fails tragically at the Cross of Christ. Why did the infinite eternal God have to come and die for the sins of finite creatures? Sin against an infinite God is infinite in consequence. Are we implying that people can sufficiently pay the consequence of sin against God? Indeed, Awe are incompetent judges of the penalty sin deserves.@

      2. The conditional immortality of the soul:

      (This is argued by Philip Hughes in The Image Restored, pp. 398-407). He believes that immortality belongs to God in the purest sense and to believers through Christ ( I Tim. 6:15-17; II Tim. 1:9f). This seems to be based on a limited understanding of death as extinction. But if spiritual and physical death do not equal cessation of existence why should the second death? (Eph. 2:1-3; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:6; 14:21:8). There is nothing in Scripture that demands death to equal non-existence. The evidence points in quite the opposite direction.

      3. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable and should not be looked to as a literal source of information:

      To begin with, this text is not identified as a parable. Even if it is parabolic in nature, relegating it to an unreliable source tends to ignore who it is giving the account. I highly doubt that Christ would engage speculative imagery on such a serious matter. If this refers only to a temporary intermediate state to end in the judgment of annihilation it makes the judgment a welcomed end. There are even people today who seek annihilation in suicide.

      4. The problem of eternal dualism: Philip Hughes writes: “With the restoration of all things in the new heaven and the new earth, which involves God=s reconciliation to himself of all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20), there will be no place for a second kingdom of darkness and death” (p. 406, The Image Restored). Is this to somehow imply that the lake of fire is a kingdom? The very ongoing punishment itself is a continuous testimony to the defeat of evil. This does not change the reality of victory over death secured by Christ (Heb. 2:14-16; ;I Cor. 15:54-55; Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

      In the final analysis this position is difficult to maintain in Scripture. It fails at the point of degrees of punishment (e.g. Lk. 12:47-48) and is especially difficult in a comparison of the following scripture: Matt. 25:41, 46; w/Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10. Note on Rev. 20:10 – The beast and the false prophet are real people, not symbols. There would be no point of symbols suffering.

  2. Nikole Hahn says:

    Leon, I suggest you read the Bible in its entireity. There is a Heaven and there is a hell. People have a choice per scriptures to accept Christ or not to accept Christ. Reducing Jesus to some flower child does Him a great disservice. God is great and powerful. He is merciful to those asking and repenting, and He also gets angry as demonstrated in many places of Scripture. Per our church’s sermon this past Sunday (www.fbcprescott.org), if we believe Jesus died for our sins, what are we doing in our life to please God? Are we loving Him by His love language or our own? What would make Him smile?

  3. Aaron Sullivan says:

    I think the question could be reworded more accurately into two questions. Has a Sovereign God created beings predestined to fail or succeed to prove/exemplify His grace and/or glory? Can a created being who is unable to comprehend the coexistence of Free Will and Sovereignty be held accountable for predestination and therefore used to exemplify grace?

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