If you’ve been a Christian for more than five minutes, you will know that one of the big questions the church gets asked on a regular basis is ‘why would a loving God send people to hell?’ That’s a daunting question to answer, and if it’s not something you’ve spent much time thinking about, you may walk away wondering the same thing.
If we look deeper into biblical truth, we see that another question we should rather ask is ‘how can a righteous God accept sinful people into heaven?’ The short answer: as they are, He won’t. Romans 3:23 tells us ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (ESV).’ Every child, grandparent, adult and baby. As soon as we are born, we fall short of His glory. There is no way that any of us can escape the clutches of sin through anything we might try.
The God Factor
There is no-one like God. We only get tiny glimpses of how incredible He is. If we take a step back and consider who God is, one characteristic is shown again and again: His holiness. Isaiah 6:3 says ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory (ESV).’ Being holy means that He cannot tolerate the presence of sin. This is not a character flaw but an important attribute of His Being. Sin has no place anywhere near His majesty and glory. He is eternally set apart as perfect and righteous. When we look at our sinful brokenness in contrast to His holiness, there is a vast difference. If God cannot tolerate the presence of sin, then logically He cannot accept the presence of sinful mankind either.
The Sin Factor
One of the ways God reveals His holiness is how He judges sin. How does He do this? Sin is judged through eternal separation from God’s presence. His wrath towards sin emanates holiness because it displays how good and glorious He is. He is not tainted by even the smallest amount of sin, and all it brings with it: rage, jealousy, hatred and unrighteousness (see Galatians 5:19-21).
Some people argue that it is unfair that everyone is judged equally, as they believe that not everyone has had the same exposure to God. Let’s take it back to scripture. We read in Romans 1:18-20 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men [and women], who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (ESV).’ It’s pretty clear that no-one can stand before God with an excuse. Mankind cannot meet the expectations of God, and are condemned because of their inherent, sinful nature.
Be Holy As I Am Holy – The Jesus Factor
Although God will judge sin, this is not His desire for mankind. Although sin will receive the condemnation it deserves, there is another way. Although sinners cannot change what the fall brought about, they can still be holy. This is only possible through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we can overcome the grip of sin. Through Jesus we can be released from the bondage we have always faced. Through Jesus, we can be holy, as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, taking every sin on Himself, and breaking the hold sin had over us. God’s holiness is magnified in how He judges sin, but it’s also displayed in the drawing of sinners back to Himself.
– Rachel Windram