by Matt Slick
Does God send people to hell, or do people send themselves to hell? The question can be answered differently depending on what sense the concepts within the question are understood.
God sends people to hell
God is the Righteous King who executes judgment upon the lawbreaker. All who have not trusted in Christ to deliver them from judgment will be sent to hell by God. An analogy would be when a judge sends a person to prison. The guilty man does not send himself there in the sense of driving a car to the prison and walking in. Instead, it's the judge who passes judgment and sends the person to prison. In this sense, God is the one who is sending people to hell because he is acting as the righteous judge. He is performing the action of sending them. So in this sense, we must acknowledge that God actually sends people to hell.
People send themselves to hell
When Christians say that God does not send people to hell but that sinners send themselves, they are ignoring the sense in which God is the judge and are putting the emphasis upon the sinner instead of God. They are emphasizing the rejection of Christ by unbelievers and in not believing they are sentencing themselves to eternal damnation. In this sense, they are sending themselves to hell. But this is a completely different sense from that of the preceding paragraph.
God is the Judge
It is biblically true that God sends people to hell. There are too many verses that show God's active involvement in executing judgment upon people. Let's take a look.
- Matthew 25: 41, "Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.'"
- 2 Peter 2:4, "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment."
- Revelation 14:10-11, "he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
So, in one sense, God sends people to hell and, in another sense, people send themselves there. It all depends on the sense in which the action of sending is understood as it relates to God's righteous judgment or as it relates to man's rejection of God. The former is God's direct action of sending, and the latter results in condemnation due to a person's rejecting of Christ.