This is the third part in a series, and this post is dependent on the information given in parts 1 & 2. The series deals with common questions posed by those who disagree with people going to hell.
Question: How can a good and loving God torture people in hell?
To answer this, we must again reiterate that we are dealing with the concepts of heaven, hell, and the human condition as presented in the Bible, and not as might be imagined in the common culture. There are several answers to this question.
First, the question has a logical flaw. The question assumes that God tortures people in hell, which is not the case. Nowhere does the Bible say that anyone is tortured in hell. The Bible says that people are in agony and in torment, but nowhere does it say they are tortured. Someone can be in agony and in torment for many reasons — a drug addict can be in torment due to his addiction, or we can have an overwhelming sense of guilt that leaves us in agony. But torture implies that someone else is inflicting pain upon us. Nowhere does the Bible describe hell as torture.
Second, nowhere does it say that this torment is inflicted by God. The Bible says the people are in agony in hell, but it does not tell us that God inflicts this agony.
Third, related to the second, while it is true that God puts people in hell and keeps them there for eternity, the agony is due to the fact that hell is separated from God, not because of some condition that God created in hell. Hell is NOT like a torture chamber that God constructed that He throws people there against their will. Rather, hell is the absence of God; heaven is described as light, because God is light (Rev. 22:5), therefore when people are removed from God’s presence, they are in darkness (Matt.8:12). In heaven, Christians will be in God’s presence, where He will give comfort and wipe away every tear (Rev.21:4), so when non-Christians are removed from God’s presence, they are in agony and will weep (Matt.13:50).
Fourth, if the question is How can a good God allow people to go to hell instead of heaven? Then we must realize what heaven is like. Heaven is not sitting around in a nebulous, undefined state of bliss. Rather, people in heaven spend their time worshiping Jesus (Rev.5:11-14) and singing praises to Him. Both our experience and the bible tell us that many people on earth find worshiping Jesus to be something they hate to do (John 1:11; 3:19). Many people today cannot stand the idea of worshiping Jesus for one hour a week; what kind of a God would force them to do so, and do it all day, forever? If people wanted to do heaven-like things, they would be spending time today listening to God’s words and worshiping Him, but they hate to do these things. Instead of forcing people to go to heaven against their will, God allows them to do what they want to do, which is be separated from His presence for all eternity. Just like the drug addict who is in agony but still hangs on to his addiction, people in hell are in agony, but would hate God’s presence even more.
Fredrich Nietzsche is often quoted as saying “Better to reign in Hell than serve in heaven.”
Fifth, if God did not judge evil by destroying it, He would be an unjust God, creating still another evil act (this was dealt with previously, see here).
And yet again, we are only dealing with heaven, hell, and people as described in the Bible. If we invent some other definition of what these terms mean, we have changed the problem that generated the original set of questions.
There are more reasons, but we will include these in answers to other related questions in the next post.