When you ask, “Did God create hell?” The simple, short answer is yes. I don’t know if that causes you relief or grief because I know the idea of hell seems incongruent with a loving God for some people. Many people have asked why a loving God would send good people to hell. That question takes a lot to unpack, which I can’t do here (although J. Warner Wallace and Joel Beeke have some resources below that help answer that question).
However, because the Bible speaks of hell, we must confront the reality of hell’s existence. I aim to help you understand what hell is and why God created hell.
One important note for clarity. I know the Bible mentions different terms that we often connect to hell. They are:
You can learn more about each term at the links above. For this article, I will use the word hell as an all-encompassing term for each.
Why Did God Create Hell?
“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.” (Matthew 25:41)
To understand why God created hell, you must understand the pride that led to rebellion. Before Satan became what we know him to be today, he used to be Lucifer, the star of the morning. In his arrogance and pride, he desired to remove God from the throne and sit on it himself. His foolish endeavor was motivated by his desire to be the object of worship. Consider how Isaiah records it.
“You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14)
Because of this action, God cast Satan and a third of heaven’s angels out of heaven. Satan and his demons now operate in this earthly realm as Satan is known as the god of this world.
He and his demons know their judgment is coming. God created hell as a place of final judgment for Satan and his angels, and he will one day cast Satan and all his demons into that eternal fire.
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)
Did God Create Hell for Humans?
God did not create hell for humans. Unfortunately, there will be those who will end up there. Ultimately, the reason is very similar to why Satan ended up there. It comes down to belief, rebellion, and lordship. In John 3, Jesus said something that needs to be highlighted, especially concerning hell and judgment.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18-19)
In this verse, you see the same seeds that lived inside Lucifer’s heart before being cast out of heaven also live in humans. Many choose to live for their desires and reject Jesus’s Lordship.
Does God Send People to Hell?
God does not send people to hell. People go because they choose to go. Some people are not aware of the choice they are making. When a person chooses not to believe in Jesus and lives after their own desires, hell is their choice. For some, like Lucifer, it comes down to not wanting to allow Jesus to sit on the throne of their life. They think, “Why should God sit in this place? I deserve to sit there.”
After all, many believe, as poet William Ernest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.” Those who follow this path fail to recognize there is a consequence for making that choice.
4 Things that Define the Reality of Hell
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 22:13)
1 - Hell is an eternal place
Because we are finite beings, we can’t fully comprehend eternity. If you have ever tried to think about it, you have reached a point where it stops making sense. In our current existence, everything has a beginning and an ending. That is not the case in eternity. Once it begins, it will not end. This is true for those who end up in heaven and those who end up in hell. My old pastor used to say, “10,000 years from now, where will you be?” For all of us, we will either be enjoying God’s presence or eternally separated from it.
2 - Hell is a place of darkness
Perhaps the worst aspect of hell is that it is devoid of light and absent of God’s presence. Regardless of how bad this life gets, you have never lived one day separated from God’s presence. The sun rises every morning and sets every evening, and God’s mercies are renewed each day (Lamentations 3:22-23). However, in hell, God’s presence will not be there. There will be no opportunity for new mercy, as hell is a place of darkness reserved for judgment.
3 - Hell is a place of regret
In Matthew, Jesus speaks about hell and mentions weeping. As I ponder this, I believe regret will be one significant reason for such weeping. In that place of eternal separation from God, regret will consume the hearts of those who find themselves there. They will lament their choices throughout their lives, realizing the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, it will be too late. The weight of missed and rejected opportunities will burden their souls. For all eternity, they will reflect upon the times when they could have believed in Jesus but turned away. The haunting realization of what could have been, along with the knowledge they had the opportunity for salvation but chose another path, will fuel their deep sorrow.
I don’t know how you feel, but this serves as a somber reminder of the importance of embracing God’s offer of grace and forgiveness in this life. When you receive his grace, you will avoid the eternal regret that awaits those who reject His love and salvation.
4 - Hell is a place of torment
Revelation informs us that the eternal experience of hell will be one of torment. Jesus refers to it as the gnashing of teeth often associated with someone who is in a great deal of pain. Just as God’s grace in heaven will be an experience that we cannot imagine, the horrors of hell go beyond anything we could ever imagine too. The difference is instead of experiencing grace, you are facing judgment. The warning of hell serves as a sobering reminder of the potential result of a life lived in rebellion against God, which will eventually put Satan there and why God created hell in the first place.
In years past, people would preach messages of hell, fire, and brimstone to warn them and, in some cases, try to scare people into following Jesus. That doesn’t usually work. As I wrote this article, I wanted to inform you of hell’s reality and its traits. More importantly, I hope you understand what Jesus came and suffered for you. He took punishment so you would not have to. The punishment he took is evidence of the reality of how horrible hell will be. If you are reading this, know God did not create hell for you. He has made a way in Jesus, so you don’t have to go there. This reveals how great his love is for you. I pray today you would embrace his love found in Christ because his arms are open ready to welcome you into his kingdom.
Here are some perspectives on related questions about God and hell.
Why Would God Send Good People to Hell?
I’ve been blogging recently on the existence and nature of Hell and, unsurprisingly, I’ve received tremendous response from Christians and non-Christians alike (much of it hostile). The topic polarizes believers and unbelievers. Many Christians struggle to correlate God’s mercy with a place of permanent justice, while others prefer to believe God would annihilate rebellious souls rather than assign them to Hell eternally. Non-believers often point to the apparent unfairness of God related to those who either reject Jesus or haven’t heard of Him. After all, there are millions of good people in the world who are not Christians. Is it fair for God to penalize people who are otherwise good? A good God would not send good people to Hell, would He?
Here’s the good news: God will not send good people to Hell; of this we can be sure. But, here’s the bad news: “good” people are far rarer than most skeptics (and many Christians) are willing to admit. The Christian worldview describes the true nature of humans and the incredible sovereignty of God, and once these truths are understood, no one will expect their own “goodness” to merit Heaven:
People (By Their Very Nature) Are Not “Good”
We don’t have to teach our infants to be selfish, impatient, rude and self-serving; infants must be taught just the opposite. We don’t come into the world equipped automatically with sacrificial “goodness”. We must be taught how to love, how to think beyond our own needs and desires, how to share and how to appreciate others. The daily news headlines are filled with examples of young men and women who were not taught how to love and respect the law. When young people are not nurtured and trained in this way, they default back to their innate nature. And if we are honest with ourselves, each of us must admit we often have difficulty controlling our anger, our lust, or our pride. We are inherently fallen creatures, trying our best to constrain our fallen nature. The Bible simply recognizes the innately fallen nature of humans (as described in Romans 3:10-18).
Heaven (By Its Very Nature) Is “Perfect”
If there is a God, He is responsible for creating everything in the Universe. This means that God created matter from non-matter and life from non-life. If this is true, God has incredible, infinite, and unspeakable power. With muscle like that, God surely has the power to eliminate imperfection. This is why, as Christians, we believe that God is perfect; He has the ability to eliminate imperfection. The Christian God is not a “good God” after all. He is a “perfect God”. His standard is not “goodness”, it is “perfection”. The real question that each of us has to ask ourselves is not “Are we good?”, but “Are we perfect?” Can any of us answer in the affirmative here? Even if we reject the teaching of the Bible, but accept the possibility that there may be an all-powerful God, we must acknowledge that His standard will be perfection and that we will ultimately fall short of this standard.
God doesn’t send good people to Hell. In order to consider ourselves “good”, we typically have to overlook much of what we think about and a lot of what we have done. Conversely, God doesn’t send good people to Heaven either. “Good” is simply not “good enough” in light of Heaven’s perfection. A loving God rescues creatures who are “practically” imperfect by offering us the free gift of forgiveness (Romans 6:23). When we accept this offer, we become “positionally” perfect (Hebrews 10:14) by clothing ourselves in the perfection of Jesus.
(“Why Would God Send Good People to Hell?” by J. Warner Wallace published on Christianity.com on September 13, 2017. Used with permission.)
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith. Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email
How Can A Loving God Send People to Hell?
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.