How Could a Good God Send Someone to Hell?

This is an excerpt from a book I’ve got coming out in a few weeks, 12 Truths and a Lie: Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. It’s a collection of the toughest (and most common) questions I’ve gotten during my last couple decades of ministry. Whether you’re a new Christian or someone who has walked with God for a lifetime, 12 Truths and a Lie is for you.

12 Truths and a Lie officially releases December 5, but you can receive a free audiobook with your pre-order. Visit for details!

–Pastor J.D.


Let me just jump right into it: For many, the idea of hell is the proof that what Christians believe about God is not true. In fact, they see hell as some sort of “aha” contradiction within Christianity that overturns the whole system. You talk about a loving, forgiving, graceful God, but then you say your God sends people to hell? Impossible!

For many, hell makes God seem like a cruel, sadistic being who delights in our torture. It feels unjust. A few mistakes in life, sure. Nobody’s perfect . . . but then hell? The punishment exceeds the crime.

Some people resolve the issue by saying hell is a relic of the Old Testament God—when God was mean and cranky—God in his middle school years—before he went through his PR makeover and re-presented himself as Jesus, Meek and Mild. Or, more likely, hell was something powerful Christians made up to keep people in line. It surprises many to learn that Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. In fact, he spoke more about hell than he did heaven!

People ask, “But I thought God was love? Where is the love amid this hell business? Hitler, I get; he’s in hell. Someone who raped and killed a child, definitely. But cheating on my taxes gets me eternity alongside Charles Manson? I’m a good person!”

Hold on a second. The Bible says the essence of sin is something we are all guilty of—rejecting the Godness of God. The really wicked part of sin is not the grotesque things that make the 6 o’clock news, but defying God’s authority and usurping his role as most important Being in the universe. How we express that rebellion—whether in polite, socially acceptable ways or monstrous, raging ways—is less important.

If our lives are lived in that posture of rebellion, then even the so-called “good” things we did in our lives don’t seem to be all that good. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you found out your husband was having an affair. A private investigator tips you off. You follow him to a hotel lobby where he is meeting his mistress, and as you peek out from behind the hotel plants, you notice he tips the bellboy. A genuinely good deed. But in the context of something horribly bad, it’s hard to call this act “good.”

Or let’s say you have two terrorists building a bomb to blow up a bus full of schoolchildren. As they work, one realizes the other forgot his sandwich, so he shares his sandwich with him. Again, another genuinely kind deed. But in light of the horrific circumstance in which this “good” deed takes place, it’s hard to call it “good.”

The fact that we don’t center our lives on God and worship him is cosmic adultery worthy of the severest punishment. Romans 5:10 actually calls us “enemies” of God, like those terrorists are to us. Even our genuinely good deeds on earth are done in the context of a life of unspeakable injustice and wickedness.

But you say, “Okay, I understand we’re all guilty. But why the infliction of eternal torment? Isn’t that too harsh a retribution for what I’ve done?”

It helps here to think less about what you’ve done and more about who you’ve done it against. Certain sins increase in seriousness relative to who they are committed against. For example, kick a dog, you could be fined. Kick a guy on the street, you might go to jail for a few weeks. Walk up and attempt a roundhouse on the King of England, and you’re likely to be in jail for years and years and years. Hell is infinite because our sin is against an infinite God of infinite glory—the King of all kings—so justice demands an infinite punishment.

Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. Many theologians think they’re doing God a favor by lessening hell, but really what they’re doing is diminishing the greatness of God.


We think hell is severe because we don’t think trampling on the glory of God is that big of a deal. We think the biggest deal in the universe is us. I know this is horribly offensive to us humans who think the universe is all about us, but it is not. The whole of creation is a theater to the only true, good, all-powerful One, God. He is the big deal in the universe, and everything works to his glory. Hell itself is a permanent monument to the greatness of his name.

If you lessen hell, you lessen God’s holiness and righteousness. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is.

You say, “Where is the love in that for us?” The love is in God allowing us, if we choose, to enjoy and share in his glory by receiving his mercy. God loved us enough to endure hell and wrath itself on the cross, in our place. God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners—enemies of God—Christ died for us.

Hell should make our mouths stand agape at the righteousness and holiness of God. It should make us tremble before his majesty and grandeur. And it should make us weep with gratitude that God, in his grace, provided a way of escape.

In the end, God doesn’t just want to get us out of hell. God wants to take the hell out of us—and he does that by offering love to us. We have to choose one or the other—self-will and sin or surrender and Jesus.