Many people believe that God is a loving God who would never send people to hell. Others believe God is cruel for sending people to hell, while others simply believe that hell (or even God) doesn’t exist.
There are two reasons why we struggle with the idea of a loving God who can send people to hell. The two reasons are:
- Lack of a clear understanding of who God is
- Lack of understanding the sinfulness of sin
The Bible teaches us a lot about God, and about who God is. While we already looked at who God is in the post on Trusting God, let’s recap and look at a few important characteristics of God that is relevant to this post. This is critical if we want to understand the problem between Man and God.
God Is The Creator And Owner Of Everything
The first thing we need to know about God, is that God is the creator of everything. Genesis 1:1 says,
“In the beginning God (Elohim) created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth.”
Colossians 1:16 says,
“… For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible…”
Because God is the Creator of everything, God is also the Owner of everything. Man does not own anything, he is only the steward of things God entrusts him with. Psalm 24:1 says,
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
In his time, Job was one of the richest men in the land where he was living. The Bible says Job had great possessions. Job also had seven sons and three daughters. Then, in one day, Job lost all his possessions. In addition, all ten of his children were killed on that same day as well.
Job’s response to all of this was evident of someone who knew God owns everything. In Job 1:21 he said,
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
God Is Love
1 John 4:8 says,
“The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.]”
Because God is love, everything He does originates from love.
God Is A Holy Judge
In addition to being a loving creator, God is also the Judge of the Universe. In Acts 10:42 Peter explained Jesus is the…
“… God-appointed and God-ordained Judge of the living and the dead.”
The Bible says that when Jesus came to the earth 2,000 years ago, He didn’t come to judge or condemn the world (see John 3:17). However, the next time when He comes, He is going to judge the world in righteousness. Acts 17:30-31 say that God…
“… charges all people everywhere to repent (to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins), 31Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
The reason why God can judge us in righteousness, is because He Himself is holy and without sin. 1 Peter 1:15-16 talks about the holiness of God, and how the Holy One who has called us is Holy. 2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about…
“… Christ who knew no sin…”
God Is Omniscient
Not only is God a judge, but He is an all-knowing and all-seeing Judge. Nothing escapes His attention, and nothing is hidden from Him. Hebrews 4:13 says,
“And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.”
Psalm 139:4 says,
“Even before there is a word on my tongue [still unspoken], Behold, O Lord, You know it all.”
God is an omniscient (all-knowing) Judge to whom we have to give account of every action, thought or hidden desire.
These are just some of the characteristics of God, but they are the most important ones to be aware of if we want to understand the problem caused by sin, or if we want to be able to evangelise to others effectively.This is also crucial to comprehend if we want to understand why Jesus said He is the only way to heaven.
God As A Judge
Since God is a judge (see the Scriptures above), let’s look at a few illustrations to better understand the nature of an ideal justice system, as well as the character of a fair and good judge. We will then use this as a basis to get a better understanding of the way God operates where the violation of the Law is concerned. Take note of the legality of each illustration.
Jack was eighteen years old and a fairly new driver who had only recently obtained his driver’s licence. His friends were having a party and his dad promised him the car for the evening, provided that he completed a few tasks and fulfilled his duties in the home. This caused him to run late for the party, but after a quick shower he was on his way.
Knowing his friends were all waiting for him and not wanting to miss out on a minute of the fun, he stepped on the gas to try and get there quicker. He found himself travelling at 120 km/h in a 60 km/h zone (or 75 mph in a 40 mph zone). Unfortunately for him, there was a traffic officer watching that specific section of the road for speedsters on that particular night.
Jack was given a gracious fine of only $2,000. However, he had no money and his parents had no means of paying the fine either. He soon realised the seriousness of his predicament and his offence when he found himself going off to prison for six months, as he was unable to pay the fine.
Let’s look at Illustration One again, except we find ourselves in court while the judgement is being pronounced by the judge. Jack appeals to the judge, pleading for mercy. He motivates his plea by telling the judge it is his first offence, he has no criminal record and it won’t happen again. The judge sees that Jack appears to be truly sorry for what he did. However, as he is a good and fair judge, would it be lawful for him to let Jack off? No, it wouldn’t! The evidence is there and the fact of the matter is that Jack broke the law. The judge can, at his own discretion, lower the fine to maybe $1,000 or only one month in prison, or maybe 400 hours of community service, but he must pass a sentence. He cannot just overlook Jack’s crime without there being some form of consequence to his actions.
Let’s look at Illustration Two again. We find ourselves in court while Jack is motivating his plea for mercy. He tells the judge this is his first offence (that we know of) and that the judge should consider that he is otherwise a very good person. Since the town is very small and everyone knows everyone else, Jack tells of how he helped the judge’s mother a while ago when she had a flat tire and was stranded next to the road. He also tells of how he helps his younger brother who suffers from down-syndrome with school and other activities on a daily basis.
As the judge is fair and good, should he overlook the crime that was committed? After all, it was only a driving offence and nothing too serious as far as most people could tell. The fact is no matter how much the judge likes Jack, there is no way he can let this ‘good’ young adult go without enforcing some kind of consequence in relation to the crime that he committed. Besides, the judge had just passed sentence on a similar case where a young speedster was involved. If he is a good and fair judge he cannot overlook the crime of the one and not the other. This would make the judge corrupt and unfair.
Take into consideration all of the first three illustrations, but let’s add one more complication to the situation: the judge is Jack’s own father. Jack finds himself standing in a courtroom crying in front of his own dad, telling him how sorry he is for betraying his father’s trust. He vows he will never speed or drive dangerously again and asks his dad to give him another chance. After all, growing up he often did this when he was in trouble. He would cry, feel really sorry for what he had done, and would beg his father for another chance. Usually he would get off without any form of punishment; other times he would receive a hiding or be grounded for a few days. In the end all would turn out well and all would be forgiven, provided he didn’t continue in his wrong ways.
However, this day is different. Jack is no longer a minor who cannot take responsibility for his own actions. He is not in the safety of his own parents’ home, and he is not just pleading to his own father. He is in a courtroom and he is pleading to a judge: a fair and impartial judge. No matter how much Jack’s father may want to let his son go, if he wants to maintain his integrity and impartiality and avoid coming under scrutiny himself, he has to uphold the law and treat his son like every other defendant. There is no room for mercy beyond that which the court system allows. In spite of the tears in his father’s eyes, Jack finds himself facing the consequences of his actions regardless of who his father is.
A Legal Matter
Our predicament before the Lord is a legal one. Hosea 4:1 says,
“Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, For the Lord has a [legal] case with the inhabitants of the land”
While an earthly justice system only acts on available evidence, God’s justice system knows everything and has all the evidence it will ever need. Not even the things we do in secret are hidden from Him, and He knows the thoughts of every single person who ever walked on the face of the earth. If a ‘good’ earthly judge endeavours to judge fairly, how much more will a perfect God judge us in a good and fair way? His judgement is so good that not only will he punish thieves, blasphemers, murderers and rapists, but also those guilty of what we sometimes perceive to be less serious crimes, like lying or entertaining lustful thoughts.
While we would like to think of ourselves as good people because of all the ‘good’ things we do, all our ‘good’ deeds will be of no consequence on the Day of Judgement. Isaiah 64:6 says,
“… all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags …”
Furthermore, when we sin, our sin is towards God and not man. When King David repented from stealing another man’s wife and murdering the man during the process, he declared in Psalm 51:4,
“Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak [Your sentence] and faultless in Your judgment.”
Our case before the Lord is a legal one, and it can only be legally dealt with.Also Read: Sin Is Only A Symptom