What does the existence of hell tell us about God’s nature? Most of us have difficulty reconciling a loving God with a deity who wants to mete out eternal punishment. Those who reject the notion of hell often put it this way: “I believe in a loving God, and a loving God would never send people to hell.”
This is an important question, and when we look to the Scriptures for an answer, we find that no one wants people to go to heaven more than God does. No one wants people to avoid hell more than God does. This is the heart of the Bible message–God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). In 2 Peter, we read that God’s desire is that no one would perish, and in 1 Timothy we are told that God desires everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In Ezekiel 18 God asks, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their evil ways and live?”
I have often heard God described as “the God of the second chance,” and I know that to be true because of the many second chances He has given me. God has been incredibly gracious toward me and you and everyone else, so it is not surprising that many of us believe that our loving God has made arrangements for all of us to go to heaven.
Some of us are convinced that evil people are made ready for heaven in some kind of purgatory. Others believe we are in a karmic loop and are reincarnated until we get it right.
The idea behind the belief in a second chance after death is that hell is full of people saying, “If I only I knew then what I know now. I was so blind. If God gave me another chance, I would repent and do whatever He says.”
What happens to us after death? Will some part of us go forward? Where will we go? What will we do? In the last episode of Life in Christ, we learned a surprising truth about death. In this episode, we will explore what the Bible’s says eternity will be like for followers of Jesus.
God intended our lives to be journeys into the unknown. Like Abraham, we are called out of the life we have known to a life we could never have dreamed existed. And I’m not talking about heaven or the afterlife. I’m talking about here and now. And even folks who don’t believe in an afterlife, at least believe in an “after now.”
All of us need something to look forward to, even if it’s just tomorrow. When we have nothing to look forward to, we end up in despair (a word that means “without hope”). We need hope like we need the air we breathe. Hope pulls us into the future, and when we realize how incredibly uncertain the future is, we can see why hope is so valuable. Yet, as essential as hope is for life, we live in a world that is constantly trying to rob us of it. Because of this, hope has become a rare commodity in our culture.