“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)
God does not want to send anyone to hell.
“‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)
In fact, God loves us so much that he was willing to endure mocking, rejection, torture and one of the most excruciating deaths possible in order to save us from hell.
Hell is the just penalty we reap for sinning against God (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:12-14). Sending someone to hell is an act of God’s justice (Romans 6:23)–not an act based upon a lack of love–for the Scriptures say, “God is love” (1 John 4;16), and he has certainly demonstrated this love for us by dying for us on the cross! While God’s perfect holiness and justice demand that our sins must be punished, it is his great love for us that drove him to provide the way for our redemption and eternal salvation.
In the Bible, hell is described as “…the second death” (Revelation 20:14). Because God is life (John 14:6) and the giver of life (Acts 17:25), final, eternal alienation from God is eternal death. This does not mean annihilation but rather eternal torment (Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 18:8, Mark 9:47-48, Isaiah 66:24, Revelation 20:10, 14-15), for the Bible is very clear that both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected (Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew 25). The righteous will enter eternal life, and the wicked will enter hell, which is the just wrath of God being poured out upon unrepentant sinners for all eternity.
This is how serious our sin is to God.
Some feel that hell is too harsh of a judgment for a loving God to mete out upon sinners, but to hold to that view is to disregard the intrinsic attributes of his divine nature: his infinite holiness, sinlessness and glory. One must also disregard God’s perfect, moral standard. Because he is perfect in every way he cannot compromise his moral standard of sinless perfection. Neither can he compromise his perfect justice by not punishing sin. He cannot contradict himself by compromising his perfect character.
When we compare ourselves to other people (sinners comparing themselves to other sinners), we usually don’t view ourselves as being that bad. We reason that everybody rebels against authority by driving over the speed limit sometimes (or all the time), everybody tells “white” lies, everyone steals time from the company and lots of people cheat on their taxes. But in the light of God’s holy, sinless presence, and in comparison to his perfect standard of morality, our motives and actions expose us to be rebels, thieves and cheats. We stand guilty before God without a single plea (Romans 3:9-20). Therefore God would be unjust (not unloving) not to send us to hell.
Thankfully, God declares that, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13) and, “..the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18).
Out of God’s great love for us, he provided the way to fully satisfy his justice in order that he may grant mercy to all those who agree to his terms of forgiveness.
God’s terms of forgiveness and eternal pardon are this:
God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live the perfect, moral, sinless life that none of us could live. Because Jesus never sinned he never deserved to die (Romans 6:23). However, Jesus, though morally innocent, chose to take upon himself all of our sins and bear the full punishment for them through his death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus died as a substitute and ransom for all those who trust in his sacrifice to atone for their sins. He rose from the dead three days later, making reconciliation with God possible.
In order to be forgiven, reconciled to God and saved from your sins and hell you must first repent (confess and turn away) from your sins. Second, you must trust in Jesus as your personal Savior, believing that he died to pay the punishment for your sins.
“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [declared “not guilty” and put into eternal right standing with God] freely by his grace [unmerited favor] through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26)
For more questions and answers about God, please see “Is God Real?”