Do people choose to go to hell? Or does God send them there?
Is hell the absence of God? Or is God ever-present in hell pouring out his wrath on a sinful people?
I have a problem with the saying, “God doesn’t send people to Hell, people choose to go there.” Throughout the scriptures I find while yes, “God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.” (Ezekiel 18:23) God is the one who sends people to hell. The argument I will make is that those who hold to this humanistic view of hell also remove the offensive nature of sin towards God.
By taking God out of the act of throwing sinners into hell and punishing them one makes sin no longer an offense against a Holy God. Sin becomes but merely a harmful element to which God “kindly” warns man against. You will find that those who purport this view will also often state that, “God hates sin not because it offends Him but because it is harmful to man.” If people choose to go to Hell as opposed to God sending them there: Sin will no longer be sin; God will no longer be Just and the gospel will be transformed into a man centered gospel rather than a Cross Centered Gospel.
Argument for God sending people to Hell: (The bible says he does)
- In Matthew 7:21-23 it says that many WANTING to enter the kingdom of heaven will be told by Jesus, “Depart from me you workers of of lawlessness I never knew you!” Firstly this doesn’t sound like a person who chose to go to Hell.
- In Matthew 13:41-42 it says that there will be WEEPING and gnashing of teeth. Secondly, this doesn’t sound like a people who want to go to hell.
- Matthew 25:41-46 tells us again Jesus separates one from another and the wicked are cast into hell.
- Revelation 20:11-13 says the wicked are judged by their works and cast into the lake of fire. Note: The wicked are JUDGED by their WORKS!
- Rev 11:18 God is thanked for his wrath on the workers of lawlessness. Clearly God is the one pouring out wrath and they suffer it not out of choice but because they deserve it!
- The false teaching that man chooses to go to hell assumes that the default is Heaven. The bible teaches that the un-regenerate man already stands condemned. (John 3:17-18). He deserves it!
- Matthew 10:28; we are told to fear Him who is able to throw both soul and body in hell!
So then why must people say, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell… People choose to go there”? If not because they do not comprehend the righteous judgment of God? Nor the total depravity of man.
Usually these statements are followed up with the fact that Hell was not created for man but for the devil and His angels. But we find this statement in but ONE verse (Matt 25:41) and in that verse we find God sending MEN to hell. That verse doesn’t say that MEN don’t deserve to go there… it just says that it was originally prepared for the devil and his angels. Though it was once prepared for Angels it is where God pours out his wrath on both men and angels.
Is Hell the absence of God? David did say where can I go from your presence, if I make my bed in Hell… you are there (ps 139:8). Could it be that God is also ever-present in Hell pouring out His wrath?
Why does it matter? Because the gospel message is completely altered by the stance you take!
The Gospel is that the unregenerate are already rightfully condemned to Hell to suffer the wrath of God. The gospel commands us to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. If I am so wicked as to be deserving of Hell as the bible teaches… If I am due the just WRATH of a Holy Righteous God… and not only that, but with all of eternity could not pay my debt… Then the fact that I am saved from going there becomes ever so much more the amazing grace of God. The atonement becomes ever so much more intense and great and effective. God owes me the cup of His wrath; but Jesus drank it for me: WOW! and then in the ages to come He shows the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus… Mind blowing!
On the contrary IF God doesn’t send people to Hell… If Man chooses it himself… Then God’s wrath is nothing to be feared. The good news, is minimized. Sin is no longer serious. The difference between the hell bound man and the heavenly bound man IS NO LONGER THE DILEMMA OF SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS and the JUDGMENT to come as Paul so beautiful articulated to Felix (acts 24:25) and Jesus emphasized was the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8). The problem is no longer that man has offended God and awaits His pending judgment. The issue becomes: man hasn’t made a choice yet! You haven’t made the decision to go to heaven yet.
Now instead of preaching a gospel centered around the dilemma of sin and the work of the Cross… I must appeal to the carnal desires of man to muster in him a decision for a “christ” who saved man from an empty sad voided life rather than a Christ who saved man from the eternal WRATH of God and this wicked generation… Sin, while mentioned, is no longer sin anymore. The Heresy our church fathers condemned comes to life!
No wonder the church has such a low view of God’s grace, love and holiness. No wonder the church can’t see why we are to be living sacrifices or why we owe Christ our lives (2 Cor 5:15; Romans 12:1-2). We told them Hell was a mistake and the work of salvation was your choice! We downplayed salvation.