Does God send people to hell? Or, do they simply not prepare for heaven? There is a difference.
3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.
It never ceases to amaze me that people accuse God of being brutal and unfair because He “sends people to hell” when they are not interested in doing anything God’s way or even having anything to do with Him. Could it be that God simply allows them to “have it their way?” There are two scripture passages that I would like to string together:
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— John 1:12
I did a little research on the word, “right.” It is a feminine noun, which means that it is passive (it needs outside power). The Greek word is eksousia and means “privilege, granted authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment, authorization.” Notice that each of these terms receives power from outside itself. Jesus gives us the privilege to become children of God. When we are born again, we are born with this inalienable “right.” It is the Holy Spirit who makes it happen. This right includes all the power and authority, protection and provision afforded by our heavenly Father.
It is never God’s intention to lose anyone to hell, but He does offer free will, and that free will requires complete free will. The choice to have nothing to do with God must be one of the choices. The righteous anger of Jesus Christ with the religious leaders had much to do with God’s love for them. The hinge verse for me is Matthew 23:13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” In the midst of their arguing with Him, He offers them the opportunity to believe, “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father” John 10:37-38. If the kingdom of heaven (of God) is in our midst, or within us (Luke 17:21), then it follows that we receive entry into the kingdom while here on this earth. To leave this earth without the kingdom of heaven within us leaves us nowhere to go but to a place that was originally created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). It doesn’t sound like God created hell for people at all!
Yes, there is a time of sentencing, so to speak (Matthew 22:11-13 and 25:41, 46), but it is really just the honoring of the choice made in life, the choice to have nothing to do with God. I include three quotes from C.S. Lewis,
“A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam.”
The Quotable Lewis, page 292
“I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.“
The Quotable Lewis, page 292
“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. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
The Quotable Lewis, page 293
We must never forget that “God so loved that world that He gave His one and only Son.” Those who treat that great sacrifice with contempt will not want to stand in His glorious presence in heaven. They will look for any place else to be. Mercifully, God grants them their request: Hell. Does God send people to hell? Yes, at their insistence.
Abba, I know Your heart, that You desire no one to go to hell. I also know that you created us to choose. I choose You. Please work through me to “rescue those being led away to death” (Proverbs 24:11) by “snatching them from the fire” (Jude 23). You are the LORD Most High. All creatures will bow before You and confess “Jesus is LORD” (Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11). I pray that many will choose to bow BEFORE they see You face to face. Amen.