We believe those who have remained faithful to Jesus will reign with Him through all eternity and those who reject Him will be eternally separated from Him.
God’s judgment is one of Christianity’s most offensive doctrines—especially to people living in Western cultures. (In other societies, the idea of a forgiving, compassionate God would be cause for offense.) So the question is: Will God really judge people and send them to Hell?
The answer is yes…and no. Let’s explore what’s going to happen on judgment day.
Separated from God. The Bible describes a time when God will finally judge the earth and rid it of all evil (see Psalm 145:17-20; 2 Peter 3:1-11; Revelation 20:11-15). This shouldn’t surprise us; after all, how could we call God “good” if He allowed injustice and oppression to go on indefinitely?
The whole idea here is that sin ruins God’s reputation by ruining His image-bearers (us). Our toxic state tarnishes His glory and separates us from His life-giving presence. Remember how Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were exiled from His sanctuary in Genesis 3? From that point on, people had to be made pure before they could enter God’s presence. (This was done through animal sacrifice in the tabernacle/temple; see Exodus 29.)
Sin separates us from God’s life-giving presence. Later, Jesus became the “Lamb of God (i.e., a sacrificial lamb) who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Because of His sacrifice, people can be made pure and enter God’s life-giving presence again (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 10:22).
But for those who reject God’s offer of love and life, he honors their choice and excuses them from His presence. People may accuse God of being unfair, but Tim Keller writes, “All God does in the end…is give them what they most want, including freedom from Himself. What could be more fair than that?”
So, those who reject eternal life will receive eternal death. Imagine for a moment all the terrible atrocities committed in the world today. Now imagine everything getting worse and worse…forever. This is “life” without God—it’s hell! No wonder John describes it as a “lake of fire” (see Revelation 20:15).
It’s important to remember that God doesn’t “send” people to hell: People choose hell (death) when they rebel against the life-giving ways of God. And let’s be clear: This isn’t God’s desire for people! He wants everyone to have eternal life in Him (2 Peter 3:9). God is a God of love, and judging the world/getting rid of evil once and for all is a loving thing to do. So what’s the alternative?