Summary: God warns of eternal separation, not to intimidate mankind, but to reveal His love and compassion for sinful man. The message examines the necessity of divine judgement of sin and God’s provision so that no individual need be separated from Him and His l
WILL A GOOD GOD REALLY SEND BAD PEOPLE TO HELL?
“I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
It has been said, appropriately I believe, that no one should ever preach about hell without tears in his eyes. The prospect of eternal separation from all that is good and holy should move each redeemed individual with compassion. Despite a tendency to treat divine judgement with casual disdain, it remains that people we know—loved ones, family members, dear friends, colleagues with whom we have shared many laughs and pleasant hours—will spend eternity separated from God. That in itself is a tragic thought; however, the Bible is very clear in warning that everlasting torment is the lot of all who are cast out from the presence of Holy God. These warnings are issued for no other reason than God’s goodness, even toward rebel sinners.
God is good. Logic informs us that if God is not good He cannot be God. Though we might envision a powerful, even an awesome demigod, we cannot conceive of such a creature as good. However, we cannot conceive of the True and Living God as being anything less than good. Nevertheless, despite His goodness—indeed, because of His goodness—God clearly warns that many, perhaps even most, of mankind will be cast away eternally from His presence.
How else are we to understand a statement such as when the Master warned disciples: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” [MATTHEW 7:13, 14].
And what of Jesus’ stern warning to avoid sinning against the Living God? “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” [MARK 9:43-48].
On another occasion the Lord is recorded as warning those who listened to His words, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” [LUKE 12:4, 5]!
One cannot hear such warnings as these spoken by the Son of God without concluding that He spoke of a terrifying prospect for any who offend Holy God. Moreover, it is evident that He gave these warnings, not to gloat over the sentence imposed on the wicked, but in compassion to warn any against attempting to defy the will of the True and Living God.
Though undoubtedly some who hear these words are offended that such warnings are even addressed from the pulpit, fidelity to the Master compels the servant of Christ to echo His words. It is false compassion—cruelty of the most despicable sort—to remain silent in the face of the danger that lost people face. Compassion compels the child of God to speak a warning, for there will be some who heed what the Master says.
Whenever an individual reacts with choler at hearing divine warnings such as those just read, it should be evident that they hope to avoid the consequences of their own wicked choices. If individuals attempt to redefine the will of God according to their own desires, they are really attempting to redefine “good” according to an artificial criterion—a standard of their own making which must ultimately fail. Of course, all such efforts are doomed to abject failure. Just as people cannot make themselves live eternally, so they cannot create their own standard for defining what is good while ignoring that which God has established.