I recently read an article suggesting God sends people to hell – I strongly disagree. Whereas separation from God is indeed taught in scripture as the finale of matters for the unregenerate (those who reject Jesus), and that being in a fiery place that is both inescapable and eternal. It is the natural conclusion of individual choice, the logical consequence of a behavior as when a child acts in rebellion against the parent to suffer an emotional or physical injury. The parent doesn’t inflict the pain; the child brings it upon himself.
As is true of God towards you and I in the spiritual sense, the parent who is loving and kind towards his children wants for his child to grow up healthy, to navigate life successfully avoiding the pitfalls and bad habits that will result in harm. Thus parameters and boundaries are set early on to establish a safe zone; guidelines are put into place to promote a healthy lifestyle: “Eat your veggies; Don’t smoke; Don’t talk to strangers; Never get into a car with someone you don’t know; Don’t play with matches”, and so on. None-the-less, as the little ones grow up, they are free to choose.
For example, in rebellious disregard of the guidelines, I chose to be a smoker at an early age. Eventually, I gave up cigarettes, but not before having a heart attack two months and three days after my 54th birthday. Today, I have both coronary artery disease and COPD. Are the health problems I experience my parent’s fault? Did they inflict my body with these diseases? Of course not. The issues I cope with are self-inflicted, the logical consequence of the choices I made; the natural conclusion to not act responsibly and stay within the boundaries mom and dad had set for me years earlier as a child.
For that matter, even if a person is raised in a home where right and wrong is neither practiced or taught; still, we are by nature aware of a moral code of conduct to which all are responsible – no one has to tell you it is wrong to kick the dog. The great apologist, C.S. Lewis, begins his classic work “Mere Christianity” by making this case in like fashion and it is the intent of the apostle Paul who when writing to the church in Rome states,
“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right” ~ Romans 2:14-15 NLT.
That a moral code has been written in the heart of all is self-evident, and to it, all are intuitively responsible. It then follows naturally that if indeed an organic moral code exists to which our conscience demands we be held accountable; a logical consequence must flow out of it.
Deuteronomy 30:19 reads, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live!” ~ NLT.
Not only does God here speak to Israel as having a choice, he makes us aware of and establishes the logical consequence to be expected in the choice made. To this verse, David Guzik writes, “Man today, even outside the Old Covenant, is confronted with the choice. But the choice focuses first not on “Will I obey God or not?” but on “Will I trust in Jesus for my standing before God?” Jesus said, He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters Luke 11:23). Jesus is still asking the question, who do you say that I am (Matthew 16:15), and our choice in answering that question determines our eternal destiny.”
Scripture makes plain God’s desire is that none perish, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” ~ Ezekiel 33:11 ESV (see also 1 Timothy 2:3-4, and 2 Peter 3:9). Equally clear in scripture is the reality of hell, and eternal punishment for the wicked, but it won’t be God who one day grabs you by the nape of the neck and tosses you into the pit, you will do that yourself – the natural conclusion and logical consequence of a choice to reject the free gift of salvation available to all through faith in Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned alread, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” ~ John 3:16-18 ESV.