Many people have asked how it is that a loving God can send anyone to Hell. The response is usually that evil-doers send themselves to Hell by their own actions, whether bad deeds or lack of faith, depending on who you ask. Still, many people are uncomfortable with the idea. How can a temporary life of sin earn an eternity of torment? Why would a truly loving God even create such a place?
Here are some possibilities:
Hell doesn’t exist: One of the most common answers given is that Hell is only a myth created by the professional clergy to scare people. This is possible, but unlikely. Not having been there yet, I can’t say with certainty that it exists, but since Jesus himself has been recorded mentioning such a place, it seems probable that something like it does.
Death is just that: Others have suggested that what is interpreted to mean a place of eternal torment is actually just the grave. Those who die are simply dead, and have no conscious existence apart from God’s salvation. In other words, all things naturally run down from entropy and what God does is offer a way out, but no one is forced to accept his offer.
It beats the alternative: Another explanation is that Hell is simply the absence of God and therefore of anything good. Many people have difficulty accepting the truths that they have done anything wrong, that another entity (God) rules over them, and that they will have to forgive others and share Heaven with those they consider inferior. These people would be absolutely miserable if forced into Heaven. For those who hate God and everything good, Hell is actually a more hospitable place for them. It is not designed to be torturous, but without God’s intervention the people living there will likely make it that way for each other given enough time.
Hell is temporary: Some people have hypothesized that Hell might be only a temporary situation, and that many of those initially sent there will still have a chance to get free when they finally accept God’s way of doing things. There are hints in scripture to support this. Critics of this idea have claimed that this suggests that Heaven might be temporary too, and that those who screw up might be cast out. Since this second idea is contradicted by the Bible, they reject the first idea as well.
Purgatory: The old idea of purgatory is similar. Perhaps those who die pass through a realm where their sins are first purged before passing on to their permanent home. Critics of this theory point out that purgatory is redundant and unnecessary since our time on Earth serves much the same function. Hell (and Heaven) may also refer to a state of existence rather than a place, so that it is Hell-on-Earth (and Heaven-on-Earth) that is temporary.
Time travel: I had a weird idea once. What if Heaven is simply the ability to pass up and down our personal timelines and make different choices over and over until life comes out perfectly? Our actions of course allow us to alter history by reaching others with God’s message of love, which allows them to escape Hell the second time through, which allows them to travel back and further refine history. Eventually, the whole world is perfect and we have Heaven-on-Earth. This idea is compatible with some of my other ideas about time.
What do you think?
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.