Does God want people to go to hell?
It has been said that God selects, or in other words, elects people. As a result, those whom He does not elect, go to hell. It is further argued that if God did not want people to go to hell, He would save them, would He not? Scripture is used to defend this viewpoint, or doctrine, but the problem that one has is that you cannot defend a position by ignoring what the rest of Scripture says. Additionally, God’s nature and character add to the understanding of how He operates. It is my personal perspective, based on my understanding of Scripture and God, that to assume God willingly desires that people go to hell makes Him out to be brutish and unjust. God is righteous and perfectly just, and all His judgements are true and righteous. He understands what we cannot, but through His Word, He has given us understanding too!
Does God select/elect?
- Yes, He does.
- Three examples: The nation of Israel, Jeremiah the prophet, Paul the apostle.
- However, election is not an issue of salvation, but service. It is for God’s purpose in bringing forth a message or work for the purpose of bringing repentance and salvation to the people.
- God chose Israel as a channel through which He would demonstrate to the world who He is, His power and might, provision and mercy, and ultimately as a means to bring the Messiah (Saviour, Jesus Christ) into the world. The Passover was a clearly established feast that demonstrated the sacrifice of Christ and the shedding of His blood to take away our sins. It was through Israel that the Scriptures and the Saviour were received.
- Israel’s election/choosing was for the express purpose of fulfilling a purpose that God had.
- Jeremiah 1:4–7, “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained (appointed) you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me: ‘Do not say, “I am a youth”, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.’”
- Here we have a man ordained/selected before he was even formed, but for what purpose – salvation? No. It says that he was appointed a prophet to the nations…to say what God commanded him to speak.
- Jeremiah’s election/choosing was for the express purpose of fulfilling a purpose that God had.
- Acts 9:6,15, “So he (Paul), trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord (Jesus) said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” “But the Lord said to him (Ananias, after Jesus had asked him to go to Paul, and he was concerned), ‘Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.’”
- Again, for what purpose was Paul selected/elected? Was it salvation? No. It was for service to bring the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. If Paul’s salvation was “elected/chosen”, it would mean that he would not need to be concerned about it. If this was so, why did he say in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”?
- Paul’s election/choosing was for the express purpose of fulfilling a purpose that God had.
Sin, Salvation and God’s Selection:
- Ezekiel 18:23,30,31, “‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’ ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” If God has no pleasure in the death of one who dies (this is spiritual death), why would he want anyone (even just one) to go to hell?
- God, in fact, asks the question, why should you die? The answer is, there is no need! God confirms this in Ezekiel 18:21, “‘If a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.’”
- In Jeremiah 18:1–12, God tells Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house to receive the message God will give him there. God uses the working of the potter at his wheel to describe an aspect. God says to Jeremiah that He (God) can do the same with the house of Israel. However, one interesting point: the clay would not mould as the potter wanted it to, so he had to make a different (less ornate and useful) pot. This reflects the stubbornness of Israel not being prepared to allow God to work with them the way He wanted to, and they never became what He had intended them to become. Furthermore, God again says the same as in Ezekiel above, “‘If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. (Note: Nineveh is a perfect example – see the book of Jonah, what happened and what God had to say to Jonah at the end).
- A great warning, in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah, is that the opposite is also written down – if a nation/person is doing what is right and turns to evil, they will be punished/die (Ezekiel 18:24–26; Jeremiah 18:9,10).
- Both situations tell us that man’s responses to God can influence His hand.
- Read, however, what God continues to say to Jeremiah (18:11,12), “‘Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, “This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” But they will reply, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.”’”
- Here we have the answer once again. God tells of the judgement to come – He will destroy them. He explains to them beforehand that even though He may have decreed destruction, if they repent He will relent from carrying it through. He then pronounces that He is preparing disaster on them and calls them to turn and reform their ways and actions. How many does God call to repentance – “each one of you”! God calls them all. He does not want to destroy them, He wants them to repent and turn away from the impending judgement, and turn to life. However, what does God say their answer will be? They will not listen to God. They will follow their own plans, and the stubbornness of their evil hearts – each of them! They perish of their own choice!
- If God wanted them to perish and go to hell, why did He bother warning them? All He would have needed to do was say nothing and leave them to continue in their sin and wickedness, but He desires that none should perish, so not only did He warn them, but also called them to repentance, and said that He would not carry out His judgement if they would turn. That is a loving God, despite knowing what their answer would be. Man will never be able to lay the blame of his demise and destruction (being sent to hell) on God. Man goes there of his own free will, his own choice.
- Acts 17:30 (Paul speaking to the Athenians about their idols), “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.” What does Paul mean by “all people everywhere”? It means all (not one excluded).
- 2 Peter 3:9 (this is a scripture used to argue in favour of God’s selection – referring to the word “you/us”, however, let’s look at it), “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” What is meant by anyone and everyone?
- A direct translation of 2 Peter 3:9 in the Greek is, “Not is slow the Lord of the promise, as some slowness deem, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any to perish, but all to repentance to come.”
- Key aspects – a) towards us; b) not having purposed any to perish; c) all to repentance, d) everywhere.
- Us: is Peter speaking about those to whom he is addressing, or “us” in the sense of “mankind”? Peter starts his second letter by saying, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” He is writing to those who have received salvation through Jesus Christ. They are born again believers. If these are the people he is referring to as “us”, why would God need to be patient (long-suffering), not wanting anyone to perish, for they are saved, they are not perishing? If they have repented and “received a faith as precious as ours” (for they would not have received it if they had not first repented), why would they need to come to repentance? The word “us” in the Greek (hēmas): just means us, we, our.
- The word “any” in the Greek (tis): is an indefinite pronoun – some or any person or object. It is not specific. In other words, if Peter was only referring to those whom he addressed in his letter, he would be specific, and would not use the word “any”.
- The word “all” in the Greek (pas): in all its forms – all, any, every, the whole. The same word is used by both Paul and Peter, and it is not selective, but inclusive. It means all people (everyone), not a select few, or a specific group.
- The word “everywhere” in the Greek (pantachŏu): universally – in all places, everywhere. This again is not specific to those addressed in the letter. God wants everyone, everywhere (universally, in the whole world) to come to repentance. He is not being selective, He does not want one person to go to hell.
Who was hell prepared for?
- Matthew 25:41, “‘Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”’” Hell was not originally intended for man. The scripture above, 2 Peter 3:9, confirms this: “not wanting anyone to perish”, and in the direct Greek: “not having purposed any to perish.”
- Hell was prepared for Satan and the demons, but mankind will be sent there through their disobedience, stubbornness and evil. It is not God’s will, but man’s choice!
Adam and Jesus:
- Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
- Romans 5:15,17,18, “But the gift (salvation through Jesus) is not like the trespass (sin of Adam). For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”
- Key aspects: how much more; overflow; abundant provision; all men.
- If the sin by one man was enough to condemn all men (that is every person ever born – past, present, future), then Jesus’ sacrifice would have to be enough to save all men (every person ever born – past, present, future). Paul confirms that it was enough by using the words marked in the key aspects (how much more; overflow; abundant provision; all men).
- If Christ’s sacrifice was not enough, or could only save a few “elect/chosen”, then man and Satan would have triumphed over God, for it would mean that Christ’s work was not sufficient, nor could it overcome the outworking of sin in all people (all sinned through the one trespass). This is not possible, and Paul tells us clearly that the gift (salvation through Jesus) is far greater than the trespass. In other words, man’s failure is not greater than Christ’s redemptive work. Colossians 2:15 confirms this, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities (Satan and his demons), He (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
- The word “all” (in Romans above) that is used in the Greek is the same word that was used by Paul and Peter as mentioned above (Acts and Peter), no difference – it means all, any, every, the whole. It means all people (everyone). Sin has condemned all people, but God has provided redemption (salvation) for all people. God does not desire that men (anyone) should perish; He has made a way for all men! He has made this clear by providing an atonement through His Son, so that no-one ever needs to perish. If men perish, they do so needlessly, and do so because they continue (as the Israelites did – see Ezekiel above) with their own plans, each one following the stubbornness of his evil heart.
- At the beginning of this work, in defence of God wanting people to go to hell, it was stated/asked that if God did not want anyone to go to hell, He would save them, would He not? The answer is, He did provide salvation for them. The problem is that men do not accept it, and do not repent and turn from their evil ways. Man goes to hell of his own choice. God has made the way, told him what to do, and called him to repentance. If man obeys, he will live!
An example from Israel in the desert:
- God brought Israel out of Egypt, out of bondage, and led them towards the Promised Land of Canaan. He intended for them to make the journey (about 10 days) across the desert and enter the Promised Land without delay – all those whom He brought out of Egypt! It was never God’s intention or desire that they spend 40 years in the Wilderness and perish there.
- If God did not want them to perish there, surely He could have “saved” them? Why then were they excluded from entering the Promised Land (which is symbolic of God’s Kingdom), and why did they perish if it was not God’s will?
- Numbers 13:30–32 – “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ but the men who had gone up with him (to explore the Promised Land) said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored (the land God had promised to give them).” The people then complained and grumbled against Moses and Aaron (basically complaining and grumbling against God).
- What was Joshua’s answer (after tearing his clothes) to the Israelites?
- Numbers 14:8,9 – “If the LORD is pleased with us, He will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people.”
- What was the Israelites’ response?
- Numbers 14:10 – The whole assembly talked about stoning them (Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb).
- What was God’s response?
- Numbers 14:11,21–24,30–33,34b,35 – “The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?’” “‘Nevertheless, as surely as I (the LORD) live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed Me and tested Me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No-one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it. But because My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to.’” “‘Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb and Joshua. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you – your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. You will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have Me against you. I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against Me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.’”
- God had provided the Promised Land to the Israelites, all they had to do was go in and take it. All they had to do was believe God and obey Him. But they perished through unbelief and stubbornness. God got to the place where He said so far and no further. When they tried the next day to take the land they failed, for God had already passed judgement – it was now too little too late.
- Hell will be full of repentant sinners! The issue is they did not need to go there in the first place, for God never desired that they “fall in the desert”, He desired that all men should enter the “Promised Land”, and His hand had accomplished the work, all they had to do was believe and obey Him!
- Man will never be able to blame God if they land up in hell, and God will never give man the opportunity to be able to lay the blame at His door – He desires that none should perish, but that all come to repentance!
Are you saved? Do you truly know Jesus, and fellowship with the Holy Spirit?
- Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and repented of your sins? If not, you remain separated from God, and will be separated from Him for all eternity unless you do.
- You may be a good person, which you may feel or hope will count in your favour, and many people hold to this perspective. However, being good counts for nothing when it comes to salvation, for it cannot make you righteous, only Jesus Christ can. God wants righteous (not self-righteous) people, and not just good people. In fact, Scripture tells us that there is no-one who is good (Mark 10:18), and that there is no-one righteous (Romans 3:9–12)! Furthermore, Scripture tells us that without holiness, no-one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
- Jesus also said that unless we are born again (born from above), we cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). He said that we need to be born of the flesh (that is our physical lives) and born of the Spirit (that is our spiritual lives) (John 3:5–7). Without Jesus as our saviour, we do not have eternal life, and remain objects of God’s wrath (John 3:36).
- If you do not know Jesus, and have not received salvation through Him, Scripture tells us that Today is the day of salvation, so do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:15). Call upon the name of the Lord, repent of your sins, turn and get a new heart. Believe in Him who shed His blood to make atonement for your sins, and live!