In order to address the question of a loving God sending someone to hell, we must be clear about the term, loving God. Our culture defines a “loving God” as a completely non-confrontational being who tolerates anything we want to do. But that is not a biblical definition. First John 4:16 says that God is love. That means that He does not possess love as we do; He is the very definition of love and therefore cannot do anything that is unloving.
So, one fallacy present in the question, “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” is the idea that allowing people to go to hell is an unloving act on God’s part. If we humans decide that God is somehow wrong to allow unrepentant sinners to pay their deserved penalty, then we have declared that we are more loving than God is. We know better than God and put ourselves in the place of being God’s judge. The first step in answering this question is to agree with the truth that God is love; therefore, everything He does is an expression of that perfect love. (Even if we don’t fully understand it at this point in our life.)
Additionally, God is not only love, but He is also perfect justice. Justice requires adequate payment for crimes committed. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (not just physical death but eternal separation from God). (Romans 6:23) The Bible states that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The adequate, just, payment and consequence for everyone’s sinful behavior is separation from a perfect and holy God.
God’s love, however, sent Jesus to satisfy God’s justice by paying the wages (death) for the sins of humanity on the cross. Those who reject God’s provision for the penalty of their sin choose to pay the penalty for their sin themselves. The penalty (consequence) is eternal separation from God. That separation means the absence of goodness, light, relationship, and joy, which are all facets of God’s nature.
To excuse or ignore our sin would require God to be less than just. His perfect love and His perfect justice allows those who accept His provision for their sin to be forever with Him, even though they deserve eternal separation. His perfect love and perfect justice allows those who want nothing to do with Him or his provision to be forever separated from Him.
Sin-tainted humans are allowed into His perfect heaven only because of the perfect life of Jesus and because of His perfect sacrifice on the cross. His perfect blood was the acceptable payment for the debt we each owe God (Colossians 2:14). God’s justice was satisfied by the sacrificial death of Jesus. When people refuse Jesus as their substitute, they must pay the price themselves (Romans 6:23).
Love you, Grandpa Larry
Note from Larry Ballard on these letters: