I’ve been a Christian for almost 4 years and I’m 19. Recently I have been having some doubts that I don’t want to have anymore and I really want to solve them…. I know that God is not forcing us to know him and have a relationship with him, and obey him…He has given us freedom to choose, but lately (and I’m actually very embarrassed to ask) I’ve been wondering if by creating hell and heaven in some way he actually is forcing us. I’ve been praying about it because I don’t want to think this way. I don’t really get why does hell even exists. Please help!! Thank you!
You certainly should not be embarrassed, either for having doubts, or for asking questions. Faith without doubt is weak faith. Doubts are essential to acquiring a strong and stable faith! Part of my answer is fairly obvious and easy but part of the answer is harder.
First of all, it is pretty obvious that God has not used hell to force us, given the fact that the majority of people are not saved and, presumably, are going to hell. If we were forced to love God, then all or nearly all people would love Him. Clearly this is not the case, so I can say with great confidence that God does not use hell to force us to do anything.
Besides, to call giving information “forcing” someone is a bit of a stretch. It would be like being in a burning building and knocking on the doors of your neighbors, telling them to get out because the building is on fire. I suppose they could accuse you of forcing them to get out of the building because the information you are giving them is so compelling. Of course, this is ridiculous. To NOT tell them this compelling information would be unethical and immoral. If God is aware of the possibility of great rewards and also the possibility of great harm and if he does not tell us about this, that would be unloving, unethical (if ethics apply to God!) and immoral.
Now the harder part of the question. The question is whether we do, in fact, have real choice or whether God has actually predestined us to either heaven or hell. Is the choice real? To me it seems apparent that the choice is real, as, from what I know of human beings, it certainly appears that we have choice. I see people every day making good and bad choices. They do not seem to be manipulated like a puppet on a string, but perhaps I am deceived about that. There are Christians who teach predestination–That God chooses who is saved and who is lost–but this is false doctrine. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God pleads with his people to choose life and blessings, not death and curses.
In fact, love always gives choice. You literally cannot force someone to love you. A loving person would not even want to compel others to love him or herself. That is why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the garden, so that Adam and Eve could choose. Unfortunately, they made a bad choice. But this gets me back to your question. Adam and Eve had a choice, and they also were aware that the choice had consequences. This is fair and just. It is like with us. We have a choice to love God, listen to him and obey him, or to reject him. This choice has massive consequences. For God to NOT inform us of the reality and of the implications of that choice would not be loving. It would be like a parent who gives out arbitrary punishment without informing the child of the house rules. That is not loving.
So, I appreciate your doubt and agree that it is a reasonable question. Keep doubting. Keep questioning. But in this case, the answer is clear. God is not trying to force us. He is a Father who is pleading with us. That he tells us the consequences of our decision is only the just and loving thing to do. To call this manipulation does not make sense–at least not to me.
As for why hell exists, God is a God of love, but he is also a God of holiness and a God of justice. All of his traits he has very intensely. His holiness demands perfection. His justice demands….. well… justice! The wages of sin (rebellion and hatred toward our Creator) is death (Romans 6:23). Fortunately God’s love overcomes his holiness and his justice at the cross. I love Romans 3:21-26 which explains how God’s justice and his love combined, through the death of Jesus, to allow us to have eternity with God. Is hell a difficult doctrine? Yes! But it is real and it is consistent with God’s holiness, justice, AND his love.