If God is as loving as people say, why does He condemn people who don't keep His statutes? Why are nonbelievers banished to spend eternity in Hell? These questions are pondered by many, but Christian apologist Lee Strobel says God doesn't send people to Hell — they send themselves.
Strobel tackles these and other questions in detail in his recently updated New York Times best-seller The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus.
"Jesus teaches more about Hell than anyone in the entire Bible," Strobel writes. "Doesn't that contradict His supposed gentle and compassionate character?"
"In a sense, people send themselves to Hell," Strobel told The Christian Post in a recent interview. "The message of hope, grace, forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus is offered to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and faith."
Of course not everyone will accept Christ's offer of salvation. Strobel told CP that he recently interviewed an atheist who told him that he didn't like the God of the Bible and didn't want to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. He would rather go to a place where his friends are going — Hell.
Strobel says, "Hell exists because there are people who decide their whole lifetime, 'I can live without God, I don't want anything to do with God.' There are people for whom Heaven would be Hell because they don't want to be with God, they reject God, they don't believe in God and they hate God in many ways. And to be with God for eternity in a worship setting — for them — would be Hell."
"When they die, God seals that decision and says, 'Okay, well, for eternity you'll be separated from Me.' That — being separated from God for eternity — is what Hell is."
Strobel asserts, however, that Jesus has mercy even upon those who choose Hell. He told CP, "The Bible suggests that there are degrees of suffering in Hell, that not everyone's experience will be the same. That some will have different levels of suffering than others. I think that's important in understanding the mercy of God."
God's perfect plan, however, is that none should be lost. "I believe anyone, anywhere, in any culture, at any time, that seeks after the one true God will have a way of finding Him and coming into His family and being saved from damnation.
"I think that opportunity of [salvation] is available to every creature on planet Earth in one way or the other. Those that reject it, those that don't care, those that walk the other way — God will confirm that decision on their death and that will be their eternity."