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How Can A God Of Love Send People To Hell?
[See also Wolves Who Teach God Does Not Send People To Hell.]
The reason people are sent to hell is because God is a God of love. This may sound incorrect to the human mind (1 Corinthians 2:14), but it is nonetheless the teaching of Scripture. For example, why did God kill the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30)? Psalm 136:10 says because His mercy endures forever. Why did the Lord destroy the Egyptian army in the Red Sea? Psalm 136:15 says because His mercy endures forever. Why did He strike down great kings? Because His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136:17). Why did He slay famous kings? Because His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136:18). Why did He kill Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan? Because His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136:19-20). Those who died in their wickedness went to hell. Yet, Psalm 136 begins with these words:
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
It is good for God to slay the wicked and send them to hell. David knew this well, thus he wrote,
You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. (Psalm 59:5)
Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! (Psalm 139:19; see also 144:6)
The Lord has and will answer these prayers (Psalm 5:6; 21:8-10; 52:5; Proverbs 15:25; Isaiah 11:4; 13:9), because He is love; and love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
A Song of Love (Psalm 45 title) declares,
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies; the peoples fall under You. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness. (Psalm 45:5-7a; see also verse 1 which declares this to be a "good theme")
It is righteous to destroy the wicked, and in His love, this is what God does.
In Psalm 69 David appeals to the lovingkindness of God and His tender mercies (Psalm 69:16) and in these asks the Lord to pour out His wrath on his enemies. David writes,
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; and make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; let no one live in their tents. For they persecute the ones You have struck, and talk of the grief of those You have wounded. Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. (Psalm 69:23-28)
When David says, "Let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous," David is asking the Lord to assign them to eternal fire. The only way anyone is ever saved is by coming into the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21-22; 4:3-8), and by being written in the book of the living, written with the righteous (Revelation 20:15). Therefore, David is asking God not to save them, but to destroy them forever.
In Psalm 143:12 David likewise requests,
In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul; for I am Your servant. (Psalm 143:12)
Asking for them to be cut off, is asking for them to be killed (e.g. Exodus 31:14) and sent to hell, for all who die in their sin experience the second death (Revelation 21:8). David requests the Lord to do this in His mercy.
In Malachi, the way the Lord proves to Israel that He loves them is by pointing out how He has hated Esau and his descendents.
"I have loved you," says the Lord. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the Lord. "Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness." Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places," thus says the Lord of hosts: "They may build, but I will throw down; they shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever. Your eyes shall see, and you shall say, 'The Lord is magnified beyond the border of Israel.'" (Malachi 1:2-5)
The Lord proves His love for Israel, by showing that He has hated Esau (Romans 9:11-13, 18) and sent him and his descendents to hell; as the Scripture says they are "the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever." That depicts eternal torment (e.g. Isaiah 66:24)!
Some may consider such a predisposition and predestination (Romans 9:11-23) as anything but loving, but the Word reveals God's plan in creating the wicked for hell (Proverbs 16:4) is part of His lovingkindness and faithfulness. As "A Song for the Sabbath" reveals,
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night. (Psalm 92:1-2)
What is the first declaration of God's lovingkindness and faithfulness? It is God's predestined plan for the wicked.
O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this. When the wicked spring up like grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever. (Psalm 92:5-7)
Why are the wicked presently flourishing? "It is that they may be destroyed forever" (see also Proverbs 16:4 & Romans 9:22), so they will never rear their ugly heads again! In other words, it is that they may be destroyed in hell forever never to be released (Isaiah 66:24; Revelation 20:10; 21:8).
Note also, it is good to declare this in the morning and every night (Psalm 92:2), because it is His lovingkindness and His faithfulness. In fact, this is one reason the godly love the Lord and His Word, because God destroys the wicked. As the Psalmist wrote,
You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love Your testimonies. (Psalm 119:119)
At the same time, this fearful Love also causes people of faith to fear God. This same Psalmist wrote in the very next verse,
My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments. (Psalm 119:120)
God's judgments are indeed dreadful (Isaiah 8:13), but they are nonetheless good (Psalm 34:8; 52:9; 54:5-6; 119:68; 135:3). Both His harsh wrath (Proverbs 27:4) and His merciful kindness is all rooted in the fact that He is a God of love, and that He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Psalm 107 illustrates this well.
He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it. (Psalm 107:33-34)
Here we see His wrath. But then, Psalm 107 continues with,
He turns a wilderness into pools of water, and dry land into watersprings. There He makes the hungry dwell, that they may establish a city for a dwelling place, and sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield a fruitful harvest. He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly; and He does not let their cattle decrease. (Psalm 107:35-38)
Here we see His mercy and kindness. Yet, Psalm 107 continues,
When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction and sorrow, He pours contempt on princes, and causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way. (Psalm 107:39-40)
Here we see again His wrath. Psalm 107 continues,
Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock. The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth. (Psalm 107:41-42)
With both the wrath of God and His merciful kindness in view, Psalm 107 ends with,
Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. (Psalm 107:43)
Even though the God of Love has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11), He nevertheless loves justice (Psalm 37:28) and delights in and rejoices in judgment (e.g. Deuteronomy 28:63; Revelation 19:1-7). As it is written,
Thus says the Lord, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
When the Lord kills the wicked, which also means they die and go to hell (Revelation 21:8), He is exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, and in these He delights; and so do others.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation. (Proverbs 11:10)
To what end is all this? It is as Psalm 92 declares. In His love, God will have eradicated the wicked from the earth (Psalm 37:1-2, 9-10, 20, 28, 34, 38; Revelation 19 & 20), and this will make an awesome eternal existence for the godly! The wicked will be destroyed forever (Psalm 92:7). There will be no more evil people roaming around! They will all be in the lake of fire unable to have any evil influence on the new heavens, new earth, and New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-8). As Revelation declares,
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie. (Revelation 22:24-27)
This is God's love. It is His love for those who are saved. It will be an eternity without wicked people!
Praise the Lord! For He has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of evildoers. (Jeremiah 20:13)
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