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COLUMN: Why would a loving God send people to Hell?

OPINION: Lita Cosner says God is not to be blamed when an unrepentant, rebellious creature chooses a destructive path that leads to Hell in this week’s Faith Column.

The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia. It has been provided as part of a partnership with AllOnGeorgia and Creation Ministries International

By: Lita Cosner


There are a lot of charges brought up against the God of the Bible; perhaps one of the most common is, “If God is supposed to be loving, how could He send people to Hell just because they didn’t worship Him?” It’s implied that it’s deeply unjust for God to judge sin at all, and even worse to do so by sending the sinners to a place of eternal punishment. However, these critics often profess they don’t believe in the God they are accusing, and also deny any objective standard of right and wrong anyway. Sometimes believers also struggle with this question, wondering how God could condemn someone who never heard of Jesus and so never had a chance to believe in Him, for example.

The question of Hell is not an appealing one even for people who affirm its existence. No one likes the idea of many people suffering judgment in the life to come. But the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel requires that there be ‘Bad News’—salvation in Jesus Christ would not bring glory to God if there were actually nothing to be saved from. So it’s important to be able to give an answer, even in the case of a subject that no one particularly likes contemplating.

Who goes to Hell?

When unbelieving critics talk about Hell, they sometimes speak like it will be full of innocent people (like themselves!). However, the Bible doesn’t indicate that innocent people will spend a single moment in Hell. Rather, Hell is God’s answer to the fundamental injustice of this life. There are many murderers, rapists, and other people who wreak havoc in the lives of others, who never experience judgment in this life. Everyone knows that it is wrong that these people never be brought to account for what they’ve done; something in the human heart demands justice. And Hell is God’s answer.

Randy Alcorn writes:

Without Hell, justice would never overtake the unrepentant tyrants responsible for murdering millions. Perpetrators of evil throughout the ages would get away with murder—and rape, and torture, and every evil.

Even if we may acknowledge Hell as a necessary and just punishment for evildoers, however, we rarely see ourselves as worthy of Hell. After all, we are not Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Bundy, or Dahmer.

God responds, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12).1

For the majority of people who are not guilty on the scale of these obviously (even to us) depraved people, it’s hard to understand that we deserve punishment, too. But most people have grievances against others—if someone stole from you, or hurt your children, or if you were a victim of something fundamentally unjust, you would want justice; your sense of what is right would demand that the person at fault pay a penalty for wronging you. Every time we break God’s law, that’s an affront to God, and He demands justice, just as we do imperfectly on a smaller scale. If you’ve ever said in your heart, “That person should pay for what he did!” then you fundamentally agree with the idea of Hell, because the doctrine of Hell says somebody is going to pay for every sin, eventually.

Sin: Rebellion against our loving Creator

God didn’t create people to go to Hell, and He didn’t create people to sin. In fact, the place He made for people originally was perfect. The Garden of Eden had everything Adam and Eve could ever want. It was safe and pleasant, God lovingly provided everything they needed, and they enjoyed a perfect relationship with the Creator. God gave them some simple commands (have children, tend the Garden, and don’t eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), and their continuing perfect relationship with God only required them to obey. It was a position that we can only imagine today.

Even though Adam and Eve had everything they could ever possibly need, they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree that God had forbidden. Sin immediately broke the perfect fellowship that they had enjoyed with God. They realized that they were sinful, and they were ashamed and aware of their wrongdoing—as is shown by their initial attempts to cover themselves with fig leaves.

God is holy, meaning that He is completely separated from anything sinful. And as their Creator, He had the right to judge them when they disobeyed—in fact, His nature and His justice demanded that He respond when they rebelled against Him. He could have instituted the death penalty instantly, and He would have been perfectly just if He had done so. But God is also loving and merciful, so He did not put a premature end to the human race. Adam and Eve had spiritually died, meaning that their relationship to God was broken, but they would continue to physically live long enough to have children, who would inherit their propensity to sin.

Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God still loved them and provided for them. He agreed with them that their new sinful state required them to cover themselves; but the fig leaves were inadequate. He killed animals instead and made clothes out of their skins for Adam and Eve. This is the first place in Scripture where anything is killed—and for thousands of years, animals would continue to be killed in an attempt to cover over man’s sin, and to delay God’s wrath against humanity.

God was not willing to leave all of humanity to perish (cf. 2 Peter 3:9), so He promised that Eve would have a descendant who would defeat Satan (Genesis 3:15). This is called the ‘protevangelion’ because it’s the first hint of the Gospel in Scripture. The rest of the Old Testament can be characterized as God dealing with sin in various ways by judging it or putting off judgment, and getting ready for the descendant of Eve who would deal with the sin problem once and for all.

Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden into a world that was now largely hostile to them. And when Genesis tells us that Adam had a son (Seth) “in his image and likeness”, it leaves no ambiguity about whether the sinful state was in fact passed on from father to son.

Jesus: the loving God incarnate

Scripture affirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Eve. The only way that humanity could be saved is if there was a single person who was both fully God and fully man, who was related to every single person through Adam—because He could only redeem us if He was related to us, and so would be qualified to be our Kinsman-Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20). In addition, this person would have to live a perfect human life—avoiding every sin and perfectly obeying every command of God’s Law. And this is precisely who Jesus was and what He did.

It’s important to understand that this was the only way that humanity could be saved. We can’t save ourselves even by our best efforts; no other god or religion or philosophy can save us. If Jesus had not gone to the cross for us, and if He had not been raised on the third day, we would be completely and totally without hope.

When a person repents of their sin and trusts in Christ, God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for that person’s sins (Isaiah 53:6), and credits Jesus’ righteousness to that person (2 Corinthians 5:21). This brings the person into a right relationship with Him in a legal sense; they have an ‘innocent’ instead of a ‘guilty’ sentence (this is called justification). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit indwells that person and starts the process of actually making them righteous (this is called sanctification, and continues until the process is finished after death, and must not be confused with justification). The believer also has a host of privileges as part of being an adopted child of God.

Those who rebel against their loving Creator

So we see that because of Adam’s rebellion, all people are born with a sinful nature which is offensive to God. We’re not blameless, because we not only have the sinful nature, but we cooperate with it and enjoy sin. So we are culpable for the sinful things we do. We deserve to go to Hell, every single one of us, but God in His love provides a way out, so that anyone who repents will not be judged for their sin, but rather Jesus’ sacrifice pays for it. And He did this without us doing anything to merit it: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But there are many who don’t repent. There are some who never hear the Gospel; there are others who hear it and reject it for any number of reasons. There are those who even descend into conscious hatred of God; they recognize Him and hate Him, much like Satan and the fallen angels. And many of these same ones complain that God is not loving because they chose Hell of their own accord.

If Jesus’ sacrifice is the only way to salvation, yet someone rejects Jesus, what is God supposed to do with that person? God cannot apply the salvation they’ve rejected (because remember God gave people the choice to reject Him in the Garden of Eden, and so He won’t override that when they actually do). When someone sins and rejects salvation, the only option left is to punish the rebellious creature.

Hell: a place for those who reject the loving God

It can be hard for the person who loves God to comprehend that there are people who hate God as much as we love Him. That there are people who hate Him so much that if they saw Him finally, they would not embrace Him and turn from their rebellion, but they would shake their fist all the more and damn themselves for eternity.

Just as through the Spirit, the believer is finally sanctified after death, something happens to the unbeliever at death that makes him unable to ever repent. He has chosen to hate God and he will hate God for all eternity. Jesus reminded us that some will not believe even if He rose from the dead. The unbeliever cannot inhabit Heaven, because he embodies everything that can never enter Heaven; and to be in the presence of God is not Heaven for him in any case, but the most exquisite torment. He has lost the ability to experience God as anything but terrifying.

For such a person, Hell is God giving him what he asked for all along—a place where His presence is not manifested as it is in this life. But this also means that there are none of the blessings and providence that even the unbeliever experiences in this life.

The loving God became our Savior

So why would a loving God send someone to Hell? Because that person has chosen in such a way that God has no other choice. The existence and reality of eternal judgment for the person who does not repent is sobering, and no one really wants to contemplate it too deeply. But the person who goes to Hell must reject Christ, who died so that anyone who repents can be saved. So God is not to be blamed when an unrepentant, rebellious creature chooses a destructive path that leads to Hell. In fact, we all deserve hell due to our sin nature that separates us from God, but thank God for Jesus.

The good news is that anyone reading this article is still alive, and so if you haven’t repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus yet for salvation, there is still time to avoid the terrible fate that awaits those who rebel against the Creator, or to tell your unbelieving friends or family members about the Gospel. If you consider yourself a good person that doesn’t need salvation then just consider the following questions: Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, committed adultery, blasphemed etc? If you are truly honest with yourself you will find that you have failed to reach God’s standard for holiness and entrance into eternity with Him. And if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior then you will have to represent yourself in God’s ‘courtroom’ when you die and answer for your sins. But for those who believe, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Chuck

    September 13, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    God wouldn’t… Gehenna is where they burned bodies… there are many lied which were added to the bible to control people through fear.

  2. Mili

    November 23, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    For the mere this life, because of lack of practical evidences, people don’t believe In him, they suffer eternal life in hell. Wow! I am believer but I truly don’t believe my loving god, the most mighty savior will do it that evil things. I wish Christian more focus on how to follow his foot steps and spread a good news without justification as like we are god. Also, as many thing we couldn’t explain or answer, just say I don’t know. That’s it. Period

  3. Guest

    December 22, 2020 at 10:09 am

    God should be the one to burn in hell for punishing the innocent.

  4. Zac

    January 11, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Why would an omniscient god allow his creation access to a tree of knowledge in the first place? Would he not know that they would turn against him? There’s questions that can’t be answered and having faith in these words is ignorance, considering god should have been able to create a perfect existence for all. If people could just expel their egos and critically think for themselves again maybe there would be less division in the world.

  5. Lala

    April 25, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    I feel like this is ridiculous. If God truly knows everything that will happen to everyone since it goes with his plan, why would he set Adam and Eve up for failure with the tree? And why would he send people to hell for something they can’t control, their “sin nature”? Something someone allegedly did centuries ago shouldn’t impact my being judged. People being sent to hell because they don’t embrace the idea of Jesus is horrible. They could be amazing people and have a religion like Buddhism and truly believe they’re doing what’s right but be sent to hell because they were wrong. I feel like if the God I believe in is truly as I think he is, people wouldn’t be condemned for things as petty as these. If he really is so harsh like you say though, I don’t think he’s a God I want.

  6. Gordon

    May 1, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    “We all deserve hell due to our sin nature…”
    But who arranged that we have this nature?
    (Psalm 139:13) “You possessed my reins: you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
    The Bible says that God actively participated in your birth into sin, and punishes you with eternal life in hell for following this natural instinct that he made you with. Being born human is the one true sin if you’re descended from Adam, and all other sin comes from being born a sinner. God also commanded that we spread humanity (and sin) when he told us to be fruitful and multiply, which multiplies sin as well.
    Our sinful nature is proof that God has actively set us on the path to hell, and commands us to do something unnatural. Our infirmities come with the package of coming into being.
    In short, original sin is proof that God doesn’t love us, since he directly inflicts it upon us by creating the rest of us. He set the default state to hell because he wants us to go to hell. Jesus is the one whose atonement takes a meagre selection of us who are lucky enough to believe, that we might see his righteous cruelty that he inflicts the rest of us (Romans 9:22.)
    Is this unfair? No, because God is outside of the law. He does what he wants, and is by definition, good. He is not responsible for us, because he gives account to no one. God is fairness, and there is no escape. Original Sin and the bondage of the will prove this.

  7. Kayla

    July 11, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    I don’t understand how he could send us to hell. What about people who have never even heard of him? Does he just send them straight to hell? I mean I feel if he really did love us he wouldn’t have set the world up like this. The tree of Knowledge and the birthing of sin. I’ve always been told he knows the future so he obviously knew Adam and Eve would eat of that fruit. So what’s the deal on that? And he supposedly loves us a lot. Yet we get so much pain. I just don’t get it.

  8. Joseph Donnelly, Jr.

    August 7, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    Go to Lds.org to read about the place hell has in the plan of salvation. It has a purpose, and is not a destiny. It’s harsh but doesn’t last for eternity…You’d be well served to see how traditional orthodoxy misinterpreted the Bible…over the centuries. Don’t blame them however, it is confusing, but makes sense when more thought is given, and you understand better how the Father works.

  9. Greg

    September 17, 2021 at 1:41 am

    No people, God will not punish anyone forever! There was one word that was mistranslated, it is aion, same as our English, eon, it means for an age or a period of time but it does not mean forever! That word was put in many Bible versions for eternal punishment, but the literal Bible translations that are very accurate say “Angelo good correction” which could last any length of time as God decides so people can learn to call on Him for help, that is all He wants, and many many people with loving hearts but did not understand Christianity or were given a warped version of God’s love will be shown the truth and let right into eternal Heaven with God! God wants all saved, and He knows how to do it!

  10. Greg

    September 17, 2021 at 1:45 am

    Previous comment should have said – “Age long correction”, spell check strikes again!

  11. Brent

    November 8, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    According to the Bible, God is perfectly just and fair, and he knows all, including what we don’t.

    Others may search for loopholes, and try to escape what they deserve.

    Not me. I will be honorable, and face the righteous and fair judgement of God. I won’t try to escape by partaking in human sacrifice. I absolutely refuse to let someone else suffer for my own actions. Especially if the cost is completely fair, reasonable and loving.

    Anyone who tries to escape, obviously lacks any trust that Gods judgement is fair and reasonable. If he decides to send me to hell, I’ll go. Most people I don’t like in this life are choosing the cowards way, and I don’t want to be where they are anyway.

  12. Steve

    November 12, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    So many people describing this in such a cold heartless way not to mention kinda full of themselves. Such a wrong and sinful way of describing it.
    Full of themselves like so many preachers or many of our american brothers who still believe in the death penalty as a “Christian” solution for murderers.
    Someone here even said that God hates his children. Is this what the Bible’s saying?
    God’s plan is not for us to understand. It surpasses our understanding.
    We’re not looking at a human being.
    If you believe in God and you believe that He is the Alpha and the Omega than why don’t you sit down in your chair and accept the fact that you can NOT understand his plan and you can NOT understand his mind.
    We haven’t figured out the oceans yet. And we’re still finding new corners and life that God created and we don’t even understand their purpose or why do they even exist.
    How much of the universe did we explore. We didn’t get to Mars yet and we don’t if we ever landed on the Moon. And yet God created the universe and knows everything about it.
    I think many preachers (and many people on this page including) who pump their chest and think they have it all figured out they also think they love God but they don’t. You my friend love an image of God that you created in your imagination. I’m not too far myself. I’m not sure if I love God? I’m sure that I desire to love God.
    The Bible says that you can not love God if if you don’t love your neighbor as yourself. No matter how sinful or not your neighbor is.
    I say we should pray to God to give us understanding and admit that we’re not as smart as we think we are.

  13. Dan trombley

    November 12, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    Anyone who does not obey acts 2:38 is going to hell too.
    Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?

  14. David A Aucoin

    November 30, 2021 at 11:09 am

    When Jesus shed his blood on the cross he purchased everyone’s sins Thus he owns them and can therefor redeem everyone who comes to him and ask for his lordship as Romans 10:9 declares and the thief on the cross that Jesus told this day thou shall be with me in paradise demonstrated..
    . Thus this will stand up in any court it is an airtight proof of what one must do to become saved. Simply confess Jesus as Lord. Romans 10:9.

  15. David

    December 10, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Jesus has already been punished for our sins. He in a sense purchased with his shed blood all our sins ,past present and future For the bible says there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in The Lord Jesus Christ.However as the owner of our sins He can do whatever he wants to with them. He has chosen to forgive us for all our sins upon one condition and that condition is that we accept His Lordship.Therefor Romans 10:9 declares “If we confess the Lord Jesus as Lord with our mouth we shall be saved. Notice the word Lord comes before saved because if he is not your lord he is not responseable for you and has no legal right to represent you before the father Jehova. Why accept His Lordship? The word Lord means ruler of my life. As ruler of our lives He becomes responsible for us and that’s why He promises to supply all our needs. One of our needs is to be forgiven for all our sins which is cobditioned upon two things. One He must be our Lord and we must ask for it.

    So say this simple prayer.

    Dear Lord Jesus I come to you asking you to become the Lord Of my Life.
    Thank you Lord Jesus.

    How do I know He will save you?
    He said all those that come to me I will in nowise cast out.

    So do it.

    Romans 10: declares what you must do to become saved(Confess Jesus with your mouth publicly out loud) and the thief on the cross demonstrates a thief getting saved only after He said “Lord remember me when thou cometh into thy kindomd. So we have a declararation that is in complete harmoney with the illustration. This is an airtight case that would stand up in any court.

  16. Mark

    January 29, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    Honestly, I really don’t want to say this, but you evangelical Christians are completely crazy. Sending children and non-Christians to hell? And everyone else who has a different religion? Really!

  17. Lisa

    February 18, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    I agree, a loving god would not send his children to hell. It’s like if someone had three kids and one of them messed up so we punish them forever. No. People learn from their “sins” and love is the most powerful thing of all. God is love.

  18. Christian

    February 28, 2022 at 10:25 am

    Believer big time here but I’m having a really hard time understanding God, I’m angry.. ok super angry at Him. I really don’t want to be but I cannot get past this. I constantly remind myself what He did for us all, leaving His throne to die for a bunch of us. Coming up, I don’t mean to undermine the great sacrifice He has provided but it really destroys me to know that my good loving God isn’t only sentencing these atheist, murderers, horrible rapists, exc to Hell.. in the Bible, it clearly states that there are a number of even believers that will go straight to hell. There’s a level of righteousness that he expects, a level of spiritual growth that needs to be acquired in one’s life in order to receive the His loving Grace, and I believe everyone’s situation is unique. He’s going to turn many people around at the Gate; He will address them as Lukewarm, double-minded, or “hypocrites and shall take their place with the nonbelievers”. That gets me because He had just acknowledged that there are believers that will still go to hell; so they’re lacking something.

  19. Gay

    May 4, 2022 at 11:13 pm

    People who spend there time questioning God are fighting a losing battle. God does NOT send people to hell and the lake of fire. They send themselves by rejecting Jesus Christ. You have to walk through Christ blood to get to hell.

  20. Peter

    July 17, 2022 at 11:41 pm

    So let me see if I have this right. We are born with a sinful nature, having a propensity to do bad things.We live in a evil world. Then God sends a super being (Satan)to us on earth to blind us to the truth and destroy us. So the majority of the people on the earth are going to hell and God blames us.Is my theology correct?

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