Why Would a Good God Send People to Hell?
People often ask Christians, "If God is so good, why would He send people to hell?" This question implies that no one really deserves hell or even that God enjoys sending people there. The question also implies that it is a contradiction to say that a good God would send people to hell. The skeptic says either God sends people to hell and is therefore not good, or else He is good and does not send anyone to hell.
Does anyone deserve to go to hell? The Bible says we all do (Rm 3:23). We enter life with the sentence of hell hanging over us, because the first humans – Adam and Eve – rebelled against God (Gn 3). Thanks to them, we are all rebels by nature, and our rebellion is an infinite offense to holy God.
Can you really doubt that we are all sinners? Look at the world around you – evidence that humans are sinful surrounds us daily. Read the news; surf the Web. While you're at it, take a close look at your own heart. If you're honest, you'll admit that your thoughts and actions don’t always line up with God's holiness.
Still why does God have to send people to hell? The answer is that He cannot diminish the importance of His holiness by simply dismissing our offenses against it. Justice must be served. Either our sin debt is paid for (through faith in Christ's sacrifice for us) or else we must pay the debt in hell.
Does God enjoy sending people to hell? No. He'd rather see people repent and be saved. In the Old Testament, He pleaded with Israel saying, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?" (Ezk 33:11). In the New Testament, Jesus told the people of His day, "I assure you: Anyone who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life" (Jn 5:24). Paul says God "wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2:4), and Peter reminds his readers that the Lord is "patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2Pt 3:9). God is just, but we see that He also is loving. He has provided a way for us to escape punishment in hell. Jesus Christ is that way.
The offer of salvation proves God's goodness. He didn’t have to rescue us. Rather than giving us what we deserve, He pours His love and grace upon us. Jesus is the one who willingly took our place; our punishment fell on Him (Rm 4:25; Col 2:13-14; 1Pt 2:24). When we place our faith in Jesus, our sins are wiped clean and we come alive in the depths of our souls. Hell is no longer in our future.
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 874.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Ezekiel that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.