One of the most common questions you will hear from people when contemplating Christianity is, “does God send good people to hell?” This question is also parroted by atheists who love to throw this in the face of Christians as a way to demonstrate the unjustness of the Biblical God. They say, “How can a just God throw someone in hell who has never heard about Jesus Christ? What kind of God would do that?”
This happens to be a question that also plagues many new Christians. They struggle with this question and rarely find an adequate answer from Pastors and Bible teachers that address this issue properly to the point of satisfying the intellect and heart of a person. So it just hangs there, and nobody seems to be able to resolve this question without resigning to meaningless Christian platitudes like, “We won’t know until we get to heaven.”
If the Bible is truly God’s Word then every question that we encounter in life can be resolved and has been addressed in scripture. Nothing is just hanging out there, the Bible covers every issue pertaining to human spirituality and living.
To answer this question we have to look at a few key concepts. The first concept we need to look at is called in philosophical terms Natural Law, or what I like to call the Law of the Heart. The second we need to look at is what I call the Three States of Man. A thorough rendering of these two Biblical concepts, I feel will give us an adequate answer to this question of whether or not God will send good people to hell.
The Law of the Heart
Natural law or the Law of the Heart is basically the acknowledgment that mankind has written on our very being a moral law or code. Some call this our conscience, and it silently tells us what is right or wrong in our innermost beings.
There are a couple factors at play here when thinking about The Law of the Heart. The first is that our conscience tells us that we are created beings, that the laws of the universe and the biological means of life are simply far too complicated of a process to be happenstance; this realization tells us a Creator must have set things in motion.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans, that mankind can clearly see the handiwork of God, and they that deny His manifest power within creation will stand before Him without excuse,
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Romans 1:19-20
Paul is saying here, we don’t need to have any type of religious framework to know this as fact, our eyes and hearts observe it all and know it to be true. We feel that there must be a designer behind the design of the universe, and the complexity and order verify that feeling as a simple, yet profound Truth.
Secondly, we understand that we have a Moral Law written on our heart, a conscience that is constantly measuring our thoughts and actions against an inner standard of right or wrong. Paul talks about this later in Chapter 2 in Romans also,
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law (Law of Moses), do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:” Romans 2:14
He means that the Gentiles, who were not given God’s Law through Moses like the Jews, still follow the Law because it is created in their nature from the beginning. Simply put, all the Law of Moses did was write out what is already on our hearts naturally be virtue of being created as a human. Paul goes on to say, that this law is written on their hearts, and their conscience bears witness to one another’s actions as to whether or not they are right or wrong in the eyes of all men.
“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;” Romans 2:15
Then in verse 16 he says that the Law of the Heart is the measuring rod at the final judgment, where all men will be tried by God who will determine if their life was lived righteously upholding this heart law, or did you violate this law written on your heart.
“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2:16
We see here that all men are first held accountable to this Law of the Heart; and their actions, and their innermost secret thoughts will be judged according to this law. This natural, moral law that humankind has written on their heart is the standard by which all men on earth will be judged by when we die and stand before God one day.
So we see two things here. First The Law of the Heart inwardly tells us that it is an obvious fact there is a Creator God, and that this Creator God wrote a law on our heart that compels us to do good over evil in our daily affairs.
This is the default position that all men find themselves in, they are a natural man, with a natural knowledge of God, and a natural knowledge of what God deems good and evil. Now depending on what we do with this knowledge whether we reject it or accept it will determine if we fall into two other categories of man that are talked about in the Bible as well.
While the Jews believed themselves to be superior to the Gentiles because they had Moses’ Law, what we learn through God’s word is they were not superior, but inferior instead. They were such a fallen, back-sliding, and disobedient people that God literally had to write out line by line the do’s and don’ts of the law because they were too stupid to ascertain it by their hearts alone and do the things their nature told them was good to do. Instead, Scripture tells us they preferred evil. Paul say’s this very thing in his epistle to Timothy,
“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” 1 Timothy 1:9-10
The ancient Hebrew people were only used by God to bring about the right conditions to fulfill the promises God made to Abraham and the prophets concerning Jesus as their Messiah (Galatians 3:16). They were so wicked, God had to chastise, guide and almost force this process to unfold due to the wicked nature that they exhibited at every turn of the century. In the end they rejected their Messiah, crucified Him and the City of David, Jerusalem was destroyed completely as a result by the Roman Titus in 70 AD.
This brings us to our second point, when addressing the question, “will God send good people to hell.” We have to ask, how this Law of the Heart is used by God to determine our righteousness and ultimately what kind of judgment can we expect at the end of days. How does it separate us into three categories of judgment?
The Three States of Mankind
I believe that the Law Written on our Heart is how God will determine our final judgment. How we think and act in this world is recorded for all time. Scripture tells us this emphatically, that God judges us based on not only our actions and inactions but also by the very thoughts of our heart. There are so many verses that state this throughout the whole body of scripture it can be thought of as a doctrine in-of-itself. For example,
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14
“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10
Jesus in the New Testament also brought this to light in the Sermon on the Mount when talking about anger and lust, to which the people listening were astonished at his doctrine. This seemed new to them despite this concept being replete throughout their Old Testament scriptures. They that heard Him that day, should have been familiar with this concept of God seeing the intents of the heart, but they were not, demonstrating the lack of instruction by the Priest class in His day.
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
This is very important to recognize, God determines a “good” person not just by our deeds, but also that God knows how righteous or unrighteous our thoughts are internally. It is these things that I have already addressed that begins to separate us out into the three categories or three states of man.
The Natural Man
This is the default state we are all born into the world. Jew or Gentile everyone finds themselves naturally operating under the Law of the Heart. We instinctively know what is right or wrong. Our parents train us to understand good and evil, and enforce this moral standard. Society also generally reinforce this idea of good and evil. Government and society are built around the upholding of this standard, praising and rewarding the good, while punishing the bad as a means to keep a just society.
“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:” Romans 13:3
Obviously though given the state of our nation this natural law is not enough to compel us to be forever righteous, and obedient to God. The Jews couldn’t even maintain this standard and they had a heritage of Godly intervention. Scripture says we all fall short of that standard and thus the wickedness we see all around us.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23
The Wicked Man
People who ignore this inner law, and do things contrary to our inner nature, are what the Bible calls the wicked. There are literally hundreds of verses dedicated to the animosity for the wicked people in this world who ignore the Law of the Heart in favor of their own rebellious, sinful desires. God hates them, he hates their inner thoughts and he hates the unjust actions they commit continually. They are said to have seared their conscience from the knowledge of God.
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;” 1 Timothy 4:2
God literally says that he turns these people over to their own wickedness that he might judge them according to their evil, that they become so backward in their nature that they even embrace things such as sodomy and abortion. Sodomy and abortion being rebellion against the natural state of humankind is thus, rebellion to God. These things are in the same category as murder, theft, adultery, etc. They are grievous sins that send people to hell.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:26
This category of people are found at every level of society. They are the murders, the liars, the thieves of the world and God hates them with a righteous passion. These people are always looking to gain power within government and society and use their influence to turn society on its head. They want everyone to be just as evil and ungodly as themselves, and push wickedness and corruption at every turn. These people are called reprobates in scripture, they have forsaken God, the things of God and even work to pervert everything that is naturally good in this world. Paul tells us in scripture that he has allowed them to be blinded from the light of Christ. Anyone who associates with them, and is caught up in their misdeeds is guaranteed a place in hell, being children of Hell themselves.
“in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
In America, these people are in power now, and our society is going along with their evil and even embrace it as cool, fun, and fashionable. God will judge the American people along with the wicked in power. Once dead, God will separate the wicked from the good, but all will be judged, but because so many “good” allowed such evil, ask are they really good?
The Saved Man
The saved man is the man that sees by reason of nature there is a Creator God. They know that there is a law written on their heart by this Creator God. They are then convicted knowing full well they have violated the laws on their heart in rebellion to God, and thus seek a savior. This inner knowledge compels them to seek after Truth, in which God’s Spirit leads them to the Truth of scripture, or a Christian friend that gives them the Gospel message and then they believe upon Jesus. Becoming saved is the realization that we are sinful creatures by nature, that we deserve punishment as a result, and in our fallen state we reach out to God and His son for forgiveness.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9
It is this person that God takes pity on, it is this man that is certain of His salvation trusting that God will work in them a full understanding of who he is in Jesus because who he is in the world is nothing but trash destined for the fire pit.
In conclusion, we have to answer this question whether God will send “good” people to hell in terms of the Truth of scripture. In God’s mind, there is nothing good outside of Jesus in this world and those who have submitted Himself to the Cross. Nothing. The animals aren’t good, creation is no longer good, the stars of heaven, the oceans, all of nature, and certainly humankind is no longer good. In the economy of God, this world is slated for destruction. It is like a trash bin being filled up, and at the appointed time it will be taken to the firepit and burned. Nothing is worth saving apart from Christians. This is what the Bible teaches without question.
God only used the phrase “and it was good” before the fall of mankind in the first part of the creation story in Genesis. Think about this for a second, in the opening passage of Genesis, we read that God said that creation was good, then after the fall of mankind, creation itself was distorted into a wicked thing. Now nothing is good. There is no such thing as goodness in this world anymore. It is gone. Scripture says our good deeds are filthy rags, which literally translates to menstrual rags in the Hebrew, he doesn’t even want to look at it, much less continue with it for eternity.
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
Jesus says there is none good but God, in Mark 10:18, and Peter His disciple talks about this world being burned up in fire to make way for the new creation.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10
To put this matter to conclusion, and answer plainly will God send the “good person to hell?” The answer is yes, he would in an instant knowing that there is no man on earth that can even conceive of what good actually means in the context of the perfect knowledge of God. The works of a good man do nothing to prevent him from going to hell. But with that being said, we also know that God is a righteous and just God who would even spare Sodom and Gomorrah if Abraham had found 5 people in that city who were righteous in Genesis 16.
So, that person who never heard of Jesus, who was never given the Gospel will be judged according to the Law of the Heart as a Natural Man. Which asks, in life did you recognize the Creator of nature? Did you realize that there is a standard of righteousness written on your heart, did you work your best to live according to this knowledge? If the answer is yes, then I believe that God will give this person a chance at the final judgment to acknowledge Christ face to face. Remember Paul in Phillippians states that everything in earth and in heaven will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” Phillippians 2:10-11
This may, I stress may be the opportunity a man who has never heard of Jesus or the Gospel will be given to submit Himself to Jesus which is at the final judgment. While the devils and wicked will not be given this opportunity I believe God is truly just and the supposed “good man” who never heard of Christ will be given a last chance. That is the just thing to do. Is that how it will truly unfold, well I guess we have to resort to old Christian platitudes again saying “only God knows.” Does this mean that person will go to heaven? Or they will go to hell? Truly only God knows how that will unfold and what that will look like at the end of time and the White Throne Judgment.
But remember this, if you want to be sure of your salvation then believe upon Jesus, put this question to rest immediately. The time of ignorance has passed, Jesus has come and we will all meet Him very soon. In Truth the only thing in this life that makes us “good” is our belief in Jesus, anything else is wicked in comparison.
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,” Acts 17:30
Article posted with permission from Jason Charles