“If God is love, how can He send people to hell and eternal damnation?” Non-believers frequently ask this question.
Some Christians have the same question. And some say that there is no hell, and that non-believers simply cease to exist when they die. Others say that people are given a second chance for salvation when they die.
The Bible is very clear on this point. People don’t cease to be, and they aren’t given a second chance to be saved after they die. People will spend eternity either in heaven or in hell.
Heaven is where God’s mercy, love, and goodness rule. If God rules our hearts, we experience heaven. If He rules our families or house churches, they become heaven. But they are just tastes of the real heaven that comes after death. We experience heaven fully only after we die.
Similarly, hell is where we are cut off from God. In the absence of God, there is no mercy, love, or goodness. This is tormenting. Since hell is what we experience when we are separated from God, we can experience it even on earth. However, earth is under God’s general grace, no matter how evil it may be – it is not totally cut off from God. The experience of hell after death is where people are totally cut off from God and His goodness. The separation is so complete that the torment is as unbearable as being in a fire.
Most people understand hell as being a place where people burn for eternity, but I believe that this is a metaphor. Jesus sometimes described hell as being dark and cold (Matt 22:13). Jesus’ description of hell must be taken symbolically – not literally – as a place where suffering is unbearable.
In a way, it’s not accurate to say that God sends sinners to hell. God doesn’t send them there; sinners themselves choose to go there. God gives men the power to choose. When people choose to reject God, He does not forcefully place them under His rule.
Some people refuse to ask God for help even under severe pain or distress, which shows the strength of their hatred and aversion to God. God can’t take people like these to heaven, or heaven would be more unbearable than hell. God has respected man’s choice since the creation of the world, and He will continue to respect it in the hereafter.
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