How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? - page 7

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From the Summer 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

by Bill Kynes, Ph.D.
C.S. Lewis Institute Senior Fellow, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church

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  When Jesus died on the cross, when He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), He was experiencing something of the God-forsakenness of hell itself for sinners. This is what He endured on your behalf. Consider this sinless man, who was Himself God—one who lived in a perfect relationship of faith and love with His Father in heaven. That separation from His Father on the cross, that loss of relationship—bearing the wrath that our sin deserves—that was far greater than any suffering we could imagine. But such is the love of God for us; it is as deep as the depths of hell itself.
  If you say, “The God I believe in would never send anyone to hell,” then you will never know the true depth of the love of the God who reveals Himself in the Bible—the God of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the God who in love bore hell itself for us. His is not a sentimental love, but a holy love—a love described by Isaac Watts as being “so amazing, so divine,” that it “demands my soul, my life, my all.”

A Different Question

  How could a loving God send people to hell? That’s a question we will all wrestle with to some extent. But the question we should ask is this: how could a holy God allow me into His heaven? That’s the question that points us to the grace of God in the cross of Christ. In Jesus Christ, God rescues us from that broad road that leads to destruction—eternal destruction, and in Him God puts us on that narrow path that leads to life—eternal life.

1. Various terms are used in the Bible to convey this reality with slightly different shades of meaning—e.g., Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, the lake of fire, and the Abyss.
2. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version. Cf. also Matt.13:42, 50; 22:13; 25:30.
3. Matt. 5:22, 29–30; 10:28; 23:15, 33.
4. W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (1888), 2.680. Cited in J.I. Packer, “The Problem of Eternal Punishment,” Crux 26 no. 3 (1990), 19.
5. The following illustration comes from a sermon preached by John Ortberg in which he attributed the illustration to Hybels: “Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?” (preached at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, CA, April 3, 2005).
6. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.” The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 72.
7. Cited in Timothy Keller, Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 81—from several sources in Lewis.
8. C.S. Lewis refers to this as “The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.” (Great Divorce, 120).
9. Cf. Rev. 6:9–11; also, e.g., Ps. 58:10–11; 59:13.

Bill Kynes studied philosophy at the University of Florida, where he also played quarterback and was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving an M.A. in theology. He has an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Cambridge University. Bill has served as senior pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Annandale, Virginia, since 1986. He and his wife Susan have four boys: Will, Matthew, Cameron, and Cason.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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