There has been much talking and debating about hell these past few months, mostly due to the release of “Love Wins”, a book about hell and eternal judgment by Rob Bell. While I am reading the book right now, this post is not about that book. This post is to help show truth against a wrong view of God.
In all the arguing about hell, the most popular question asked is “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” Often the best answer that is given to this question is “God doesn’t send people to hell. People choose to go based on their own decision to deny His love.” This statement is generally true, but it usually accompanies much talk about how sensitive God’s heart is and that He could never send people to eternal suffering. They make it seem like hell is a big loophole that God can do nothing about but offer an escape by Jesus.
This view is not Biblical.
Firstly, there is no loophole with God. This suggests that He is less than what He is – perfect. Secondly, due to the me-centered culture and thinking, we have lost the understanding of what sin and a sinner truly is. Culture would try to have us think of the saved and the unsaved as “children/friends of God” and “could of been children/friends of God”, but that’s not how God fully sees it. To God, anyone who is not a friend is an enemy.
Now God doesn’t delight in seeing sinners perish:
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23 ESV)
(Sidenote: I would highly advise reading this in context. The Lord is saying that the righteous will live and the sinful will die, and He rather all people turn to righteousness instead of sin. Our God loves life.)
However, God does delight in the judgment of the unrighteous:
Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. (Ezekiel 5:13)
Because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you. (Proverbs 1:25–26)
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her! (Revelation 18:20)
And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 28:63 ESV)
John Piper sums up these paradoxal verses and shows us how God can delight and not delight in the same thing:
My suggestion is that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself not a pleasure to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. The death and suffering considered for itself alone is not his delight.Rather, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God has pleasure in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness, and the vindication of his own honor and glory. When Moses warns Israel that the Lord will take pleasure in bringing ruin upon them and destroying them if they do not repent (Deuteronomy 28:63), he means that those who have rebelled against the Lord and moved beyond repentance will not be able to gloat that they have made the Almighty miserable.
Exactly. No one is able to gloat that they have robbed God of any pleasure and neither can they say they robbed God of any justice.
Now concerning how Jesus/God view the saved and unsaved, let’s look at a few scriptures. First, regarding the saved (children/friends of God):
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15 ESV)
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 ESV)
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 ESV)
Now let’s look at how God feels about the unsaved (enemies of God):
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV)
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalm 7:11-13 ESV)
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12 ESV)
The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Psalm 11:5-6 ESV)
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5 ESV)
(Jesus speaking) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)
When we accept God’s salvation, He doesn’t just forgive us or wink at us. He transforms us from being a enemy of God to being a child and a friend of His. Those who reject “this great salvation” are continuing to stay under the wrath of God which will be poured out in fullness in the age to come. The end of the Bible (in Revelation) states:
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 ESV)
The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8 ESV)
But nothing unclean will ever enter it (the city of God), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27 ESV)
God has no problem judging sin/sinners (since He is fully in-the-right to do so), yet He desires them to choose Him over their sin and themselves. He desires them to be friends and children of God. If they choose to reject Him, they get what they (and we all) deserve – the fullness of His wrath. The lake of fire (hell) is not a loophole that God meant for the devil and the devil somehow got mankind into as well. God created the lake of fire (hell) to punish and torment all those who are wicked and reject God, whether humans or demons. At the end of time, there won’t be any good people in hell. Hell will only be filled with the enemies of God. Many times the gospel we preach is “God loves you and has a plan for your life” which is true, but we must also preach the whole gospel: “God loves you and has a plan for your life and a place for you after you die, heaven or the lake of fire, based on who you live for.”
This realization about hell and enemies shouldn’t lessen our resolve to evangelize and neither should it make us judgmental about people who die apart from God. It should ignite our passion to see people understand the weight of their sin and what it means to their future all the time speaking to them of a God who wants them in His family and Jesus who wants them as a lover. This should cause us also to look at our own hearts constantly to make sure we are “still in the faith” remembering James’ words in James 4:4 and the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples:
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6)