I had the privilege of writing an article for the newly released Apologetics Study Bible for Students. This bible was released on July 1st, and is a great resource for your students. Here is just one of over 130 answered questions.
Does God send good people to hell?
This may be hard to take in, but it’s necessary to recognize that there are no good people. Jesus states in Mark 10:18, “No one is good except God alone.” Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” And the Lord looked down to the earth in Genesis 6:5 and saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Therefore, the first step in responding to this question is to recognize that we are broken, sinful beings and that only God is good.
We only need to look at the last century to see many examples of human evil. 20-26 million died in camps in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. 300,000 were tortured, raped, or killed in Nanking, China. Another 20-43 million starved to death and 46,000 scholars were buried alive under Mao Zedong in China. 1.2 million Armenians were killed by the Turks from 1915-1923. Six million Jews were killed in concentration camps and another six million of Slavic decent under Adolf Hitler. And in the United States there have been over 55 million babies killed since 1973. This list could keep going because these aren’t rare occurrences. This is what humans do!
These atrocities were not committed by just a few individuals. As Dr. Clay Jones, professor at Biola University says, “It is the average member of the population that commits genocide.” The police battalions that were responsible for capturing, transporting, and executing Jews in Nazi Germany were composed of ordinary men. These men had ordinary jobs with families before joining the Nazi police battalions. You have to ask yourself this question, “If my life had turned out differently, could I have been a guard at Auschwitz?” The answer is “Yes”, because they were ordinary humans just like you and me that committed these acts.
Now you may be thinking, “I am not the same as Hitler, Mao, or Stalin. I do good things.” Well there is a difference between a good person and a person that does good things. We have created the idea in our culture that if you do good then you’re good, and if you do bad then you are bad. However, this is not the view that Jesus held. Jesus was very clear in that only God is good. Therefore, doing a good act doesn’t make you a good person. It only makes you a doer of good.
A better question is, “Do bad people go to hell?” That answer seems obvious. The more important question to ask is, “How could anyone possibly enter heaven?” We are broken and don’t deserve to be with God forever. Hell is the place of eternal punishment for those who have sinned against God, and we all deserve to go there. But this is where we recognize the tremendous grace and compassion of God when He sent Jesus to die for us. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Recognizing our brokenness makes Paul’s words sink in that much more deeply. It is a miracle God pursues us, heals us, forgives us, reconciles us, and brings us into right relationship with him.