Some object to the idea of a loving God who also punishes or causes pain in any way. One of the major arguments against God and the Bible can be summarized thusly: The Bible teaches that God is love. A loving God would not punish people in a place called hell. Therefore, either there must be no hell, or God must not be a loving God, or the Bible must be inaccurate.

It should be observed that many of the people who present the above argument offer it either because they know little about the God of the Bible, or because they do not desire to serve Him, and therefore they wish to deny the idea of eternal punishment. In this article we want to explore the matter of God’s love, justice, and eternity.

IS GOD LOVING? – It is impossible to deny that the God of the Bible is represented as being full of love and has the desire for His people to live peaceably. 1 John 4:8 clearly states that “God is love.” Jesus is the great representation of God’s love for mankind (John 3:16). When Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that appear in the lives of Christ’s followers, the first thing he mentioned was love (Galatians 5:22, 23). Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:28).

God loves His Son. God’s eternal love has an eternal object, and that eternal object is Christ (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 1:18; 5:20; 17:24). God loves His Son’s followers (Romans 5:5). This suggests that, through Christ, God has blessed His spiritual children with an abundant amount of love (Romans 8:38, 39).

God loves the lost world (Romans 5:8). It was “agape” that motivated Christ to die for the wicked. It was a sacrificial love that caused Christ to want what is best for us, and His love is unchanging (James 1:17).                                             .

God’s love is difficult to comprehend. In Ephesians 3:14-18, Paul indicated that he bowed his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, asking that we might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge.

IS GOD JUST? – It is impossible to deny that the God of the Bible is represented as being full of justice, demanding that the price of sin be paid. Since the beginning of time, and in every dispensation, God required sacrifice for sin (Genesis 4:3, 4; Exodus 10:25). If God is a good God, He cannot tolerate, nor have anything to do with, sin (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Sin, by its very nature, is against God (Isaiah 59:2). Scripture clearly state that on the Judgment Day, many will be condemned (Matthew 25:41; Jude 14, 15). The Apostle Peter wrote that the ungodly will be judged (2 Peter 3:7).  Because God is righteous, he is viewed as a God of vengeance (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). It’s easier to see the vengeance of God in the Old Testament, when He often carried out His judgment upon people immediately, but that does not take away His future vengeance.

CAN THE LOVE AND JUSTICE OF GOD BE RECONCILED? – Some believe that God is akin to a benevolent grandfather who constantly gives generous gifts, but is extremely hesitant to discipline. Others see God as a miserly dictator that rules with an iron fist and is just waiting for one of His followers to misstep so He can send fire from heaven and consume the sinner. In view of this thinking, can we find balance in the way we perceive God? It is interesting to consider that when people decide that love and justice are mutually exclusive attributes of God, they typically throw out God’s justice, but cling to His love. Sadly, the concept of love often is misunderstood. Love does not always demand that people be spared every pain or discomfort. Children often must be punished, but the pain caused by proper punishment will help them in the long run (Proverbs 13:24).

It is possible for God to love as He expresses His hatred of sin (Proverbs 6:6-9; 2 Peter 3:9). The reason man needs to repent is because they did something that God hates. God delays the second coming of Christ not because He is undependable or incapable of fulfilling the promise of judgment, but because His love and mercy motivates Him to give sinners more opportunities to repent (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:9). God’s very place of communication with the Israelites was the mercy seat (Exodus 25:22; 30:6; Hebrews 9:5). Love allows people to make their own decisions.  God’s love dictated that He create free moral agents, not robots who have no decision-making mechanism (Joshua 24:15). It is when people make independent decisions to disobey God that justice must be carried out (James 1:14). However, some still suggest that eternal punishment is far too harsh and that a loving God might punish people in the short-term, but not “for good.”

The concept of justice often is misunderstood. Justice demands that each person gets what he or she deserves.  Even those who deny that God’s love and justice can co-exist must acknowledge that justice is positive.  If a judge allowed murderers to walk free in the name of love, even those who deny that God is a just God would cry out for justice to be served. Similarly, God must administer proper punishment for sin. Punishment often lasts longer than the crime. A shooting may last only a moment or two, while the accompanying sentence may demand years of incarceration.  The Apostle Paul wrote that God is the righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8). It is within God’s purview to determine how long the punishment of sinners should last. If we sin during life, and the sin goes unforgiven, it will be on our souls forever. It makes sense, therefore, that sinners should be punished forever. Surely no saved person would enter heaven and complain that the rewards of heaven last too long. Similarly, saved people are not going to complain about the justice of God. They will appreciate it.

IS GOD QUALIFIED TO BE THE JUDGE OF ALL PEOPLE? – God’s thoughts are higher than the thoughts of men (Isaiah 55:9). He is the One that is qualified to judge all mankind. God is not a one-sided being. Just as many people possess both love and justice in their nature, God is multi-faceted. We never should limit God in ways that we would not limit people.

The fact that God created all humans is proof that He possesses the authority and knowledge to judge all people. God has manifested His love for us by providing a way for us to    avoid His judgment (1 John 4:9). By applying His Son’s blood to our souls, we can be purified and “perfect” in the sight of God (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 5:10). If we reject Christ, and continue to live in a state of rebellion before God, we deserve to be punished (Hebrews 2:3). Thus the responsibility is ours.

A perfect God can be perfect in both His love and justice. As humans, we may not be able to comprehend fully how an infinite Being can balance perfectly His love and justice. However, we can trust that because He created us and knows us intimately, His judgments will be loving, just, and ultimately    righteous. Would you be surprised to learn that “mercy” and “justice” are      found in the same verse? (Psalm 89:14). Our problem is not that we cannot be sure of God’s love for us. Rather, our problem is that we do not love God. God did not tolerate the sin of Adam, Cain, Saul, or David, and He certainly will not overlook sin in my life or in yours. On the other hand, since God is a “righteous judge” we can be sure that He will give us Heaven if we obey Him (2 Timothy 4:8). Abraham said to God just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He did not destroy any righteous people, and on the Day of Judgment,  God, because of His love and justice, will not destroy those that are in Christ.