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How can a loving God send people to hell?

I don’t think that God sends anyone to hell, because Jesus said:

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son
—John 5:22, NIV (Jesus speaking)

You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.
—John 8:15, NIV (Jesus speaking)

We see this most clearly in the story of the woman taken in adultery.

We know that the woman was truly guilty of adultery, because there were witnesses to the act, the woman did not deny the charges, and Jesus said, “Go and sin no more,” which only makes sense if He believed she was guilty.

We also know that the people who sought to stone her were guilty of sin, because when Jesus affirmed the sentence with the provision that whoever was sinless could begin the stoning, they all examined their conscience, convicted themselves, and left.

So in the end, the sinful woman remained in Jesus’ presence, while her equally sinful accusers separated themselves from Him. So we see how the Last Judgment works. Some sinners are able to face up to their sins, they admit them and repent of them, these are the ones who remain in fellowship with God in His glory. Others are unable to face up to the truth about themselves, they shun the light, they cannot admit to their faults, they flee from God’s glory and cast themselves into hell.

Then the scriptures come true that say:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
—Luke 6:38, NIV (Jesus speaking)

As for the person who hears my words, but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come into the world to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
—John 12:47-48, NIV (Jesus speaking)

So we see that our God of love sends no one to hell. Hell contains only volunteer residents and, as C. S. Lewis said, the gates of hell are locked on the inside. Perhaps in some way hell itself is a provision that God makes in love for sinners, so that their condition cannot get worse.

Now you are probably wondering why anyone would choose hell, but you can watch people doing it if you just look around. I can think of three ways in which people choose to go to hell.

The first way I’ve already described. It’s a general principle that no one can forgive you of something if you don’t admit it is your fault. When people refuse to face up to their sins, when they repress them instead of confessing them, they cannot endure it when their sins are revealed in the light of God’s glory. In their shame, they flee from God’s glory and from the company of saints and hide in the darkness, where there is nothing but the torment of regret.

The second way is when people think that because they have a choice of opinions, they have a choice of facts. For example, if I don’t believe in the theory of gravity, I’ll still die if I jump off a cliff; and if I do not understand aerodynamics, airplanes will still fly. It is possible to have an opinion that is just plain wrong. In other words, you have the right to be wrong. If people abuse their intellectual freedom by misreading the “priesthood of all believers” as if it were the papacy of each believer, in which the criterion for truth is subjective and “whatever works for you” is true, then they turn the Church and the Bible into a make-up-your-own-religion kit. They find that they cannot even speak to each other, because there is no common language, and they cannot have fellowship with each other, because there is no common ground. Or to put it a different way, if everyone chooses their own conference room, they cannot have a meeting, because they aren’t in the same room. They each go in a different direction, like people chasing butterflies, each choosing their own reality. They do not choose to live in the heaven in which there is a Truth independent of anyone’s opinion, in which God is the authority, and in which we all live in fellowship with each other. Instead, they choose to live in their own private universes in which the truth is whatever pleases them, in which they are the ultimate authority and thus their own gods.

It comes down to this: you can conform the gospel to yourself, or you can conform yourself to the gospel. You are allowed to do either one. The first possibility isolates you in a private world; the second transforms you into the image and fellowship of God.

The third way has to do with forgiveness and reconciliation. In heaven, everyone knows everything about everyone else all the time:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
—1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV

Therefore, if two people are not on speaking terms, they both can’t go, not because one of them is sent away; but because one of them refuses to go. That is why Jesus says:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
—Matthew 5:23-24, NIV, (Jesus speaking )

Those are three ways in which people choose their own rubber rooms in the insane asylum known as hell.