Does God Send People to Hell?

This letter was written to a counselee who was burdened about an unbelieving friend and wrote a letter for me to evaluate. While the general content was biblical, the statement was repeatedly made, "God does not send anyone to hell." I responded like I did because the letter seemed to me to place a great deal of emphasis on the free will of man and very little on the free will of God. This is not intended to be a slam on Arminian evangelists as much as it is an attempt to set modern evangelism next to biblical evangelism.


I have often heard and have said myself, “God does not send people to hell.” You made that statement in the letter to Zelda several times. I have had to back way off of that statement on biblical grounds.

While it is true that the “free will” of sinners always chooses (apart from a work of grace) to reject God and so chooses hell, the Bible does teach that the wrath of God abides on unbelievers and that he does in fact consign sinners to eternal punishment (Isaiah 50:11; Matthew 10:28; 24:50-51; Luke 12:5; Romans 1:18; Revelation 20:11-15). The wrath of God is in no way inconsistent with his mercy. The perfect love of God is in no way inconsistent with his perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5-6; 11:5; 106:40; Proverbs 6:16).

I grew up picturing Jesus on the outside of the sinner’s heart waiting to be let in (with the only handle being on the inside)—kind of like we are doing him a favor. I pictured a pale, anemic Savior rather than the sovereign God of the universe who always gets his way. Aside from being a misunderstanding of Revelation 3:20 (it's a church door, not a heart’s door), this view gives depraved man way too much power to make a godly choice.

There is an urgency in this message. Ours is not to pass judgment on whether we should let Jesus in. Ours is to flee the coming wrath. We are on the outside. Salvation is on the inside. We who have been brought inside call sinners to run to the only place of safety. There really is no choice.

Some look at such a theology as unfair, as if there are some innocent sinners who really want to go to heaven, but God will not let them because they are not elect. This is a gross misunderstanding of the precious, Christ-exalting doctrine of election. The amazing thing is not that a loving God would dare judge any of us but that a holy God would dare save any of us. We all deserve wrath. Sinners who repent are not of a higher quality of depravity or smarter than those who do not. We can take no credit for a faith that is “not of ourselves.”


  • The people of Noah’s world suffered well-deserved wrath. God was merciful to some.
  • The people of Sodom and Gomorrah suffered well-deserved wrath. God was merciful to some.
  • The people in Egypt and in the Red Sea suffered well-deserved wrath. God was merciful to some.
  • Every human being is dead in trespasses and sins, fully deserving wrath, but God, who is rich in mercy, has chosen to save some (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Now this thrice-holy God has sent his Son to absorb his wrath toward sinners and thrown the doors of mercy wide open. We call Zelda to the only way of escape and urge her to throw herself on that mercy.

Here are two links to studies that might help you communicate to your friend just who this God is whom she is rejecting:

Romans 9:10-13
Romans 9:14-18

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