How can a Good God send people to hell?
I have often heard this question asked.
The problem is that this question assumes that God sends people to hell against their will. But this is not the case. God desires everyone to be saved. (2 Peter 3:9). Those who are not saved do not will to be saved. Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37).
As C.S. Lewis put it, "The door of hell is locked from the inside." All those who go there choose to do so. Lewis added: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'Thy will be done'. All that are in hell choose it." Lewis believed "without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and continuously desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."
Furthermore, heaven would be hell for those who are not fitted for it. For heaven is a place of constant praise and worship of God (Revelation 4-5). But for unbelievers who do not enjoy one hour of worship a week on earth, it would be hell to force them to do it forever in Heaven! Hear Lewis again: "I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully 'All will be saved.' But my reason resorts, 'Without their will, or with it?' If I say 'Without their will," I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be involuntary? If I say, 'With their will,' my reason replies, 'How if they will not give in?'"
God is just and he must punish sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Revelation 20:11-15). But he is also love (1 John 4:16), and his love cannot force others to love him. Love cannot work coercively but only persuasively. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. Hence, God's love demands that there be a hell where persons who do not wish to love him can experience the great divorce when God says to them, "Thy will be done!"