Written By Jeremy Hor, Singapore
Most people don’t have an issue imagining a place like heaven, but the concept of hell is something that perplexes many, even Christians. Some of the most common questions that have been asked include: If God is love, how can He turn people away from heaven and send them to hell? If God is all-powerful, why can’t He just banish hell altogether and make everything heavenly?
These are legitimate questions—assuming we are helpless subjects who play no part in deciding our own eternity. But is that really the case? Before we point the finger at God, perhaps we should first ask ourselves this question: Do we really want to be with God?
Given the choice, I know that deep down, my natural instinct is to rebel against God. Why? Because I would rather follow my own heart and try to fulfill my own dreams and ambitions, and live the way I prefer. If being with God means giving up myself and living life His way, then I probably won’t go for it.
What would God do in such a situation? As a loving Father, He doesn’t force us to return to Him, against our will. Why? Because when God made man in His image, He created us with free will. He didn’t make us like robots that would follow Him automatically, but gave us the choice to decide whether we wanted to follow and obey Him or not. So when man decided to reject Him, God “gave [us] up” to sin (Rom 1:24, 26, 28) and allowed us do what we wanted—including facing the full consequence of our choices.
We may have experienced this in our lives, when we proceeded with our own plans, and suffered the painful outcomes that resulted.
Ultimately, God grants those who reject Him the ultimate dignity of their choice by allowing them to withdraw from Him. But what we fail to consider, however, is how terrifying the consequence really is.
Imagine a place devoid of anything good. We can catch a glimpse of it in some countries where there is no authority, anarchy and chaos reigns, and people are free to indulge in their deepest and darkest desires. Imagine the darkness, pain, and sorrow that we would feel in such a place, without an authority or system that would sustain life and bring in things that are good. That is hell—and that is what we choose when we reject God. When we rebel against God, we cannot be with Him, and therefore cannot enter heaven.
So, if you look again at the question of “Why would God send people to hell?”, perhaps the more accurate question is, “Why do we choose to go to hell?”
An Alternative Choice
So, do we have an alternative to hell?
The Bible starts and ends with the picture of a garden. The original Garden of Eden was perfect, but man’s rebellion corrupted it. Since then, we have been living in an imperfect world, in which the consequences of sin are seen everywhere—in broken relationships, injustice, violence, and war.
But Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross means that we can now look forward to a day when all these effects of sin will be reversed. Jesus’ sacrifice means that we can enjoy the eternal bliss of being in the presence of God, where peace, joy, righteousness, and all good things abound.
Instead of destruction, we have a choice of entering the presence of God’s holiness, where we will be able to see Him face to face (Rev 22:4). It will be like returning to the comfort of home and the security of our beloved family members after being away on a long trip. What a wonderful thought!
Why do we need to go to hell? Because we choose to reject God. But we don’t have to make this choice. We can decide to make heaven our eternal home; the choice is ours to make.