Because He is just.
Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in a court room, observing the trial of a man who abducted, raped, and murdered a young child who lived next door to you (I am using this scenario because I think we would all agree that this man had committed horrendous sin). Now, what if the judge announced his ruling by looking the offender and murderer in the eye and saying, “You are free to go, just don’t do this again.” How would that sit with you?
I am guessing it would make you absolutely sick. In fact, our hearts would scream out for justice….that the convicted rapist and murderer would receive punishment for his crime, and would never be let out for fear that he would do the crime again. It just wouldn’t be right that someone who did something so awful would not have to be punished.
Now picture God as the judge. If we served a heartless, unaffected god that appeared to be an emotionless robot like the judge in the above scenario can you see how utterly frightening that would be? But we don’t. Rather scripture tells us that the Lord feels emotions! For example He is compassionate, He is tender, and He feels anger when He sees injustice. Furthermore, the Bible tells us that God grieves over our sins…
The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
Our sin affects God. So much so that the Bible tells us our sin separates us from Him (Romans 3:23) in the form of a spiritual death sentence (Romans 6:23). It has to be this way because sin cannot be in the presence of a holy God. Sin must be cast out of heaven, and no sin can enter heaven (Revelations 21:27).
By now you might be thinking as I used to - Wait a minute, wait minute I haven’t done anything that bad….I haven’t murdered anyone for goodness sakes! But the Bible tells us we are all sinners (1 John 1:8). Have you ever lied? Then you’ve sinned (Romans 3:9-13). Have you ever participated in wild living and drunkenness? Then you’ve sinned (Galatians 5:19-21). This poses quite a problem for us. In our sinful humanness we find ourselves facing a death sentence, awaiting punishment.
But because God IS LOVING (John 3:16) He did something unheard of. Something crazy. Something that has dumbfounded scholars and theologians and kings and the entire human race for years. He sent His very own Son into the world to die a criminal’s death IN OUR PLACE. God’s Son, Jesus, took the punishment WE deserve for OUR sin, so that we don’t have to serve our spiritual death sentence ~ hell.
God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Sin cannot go unpunished. And God is just. But God is also loving. So He sent His Son to take the punishment for us. Justice AND love. Justice AND love. Justice AND love.
The Bible tells us that if we reject Jesus Christ, then we reject the payment for our sin (Hebrews 10:26). Which means that on our own judgement day (2 Corinthians 5:10) our sin will stand. It will condemn us (John 3:18). And we ourselves will have to pay. In hell. Forever.
Does God want people to go to hell? No. The very evidence of that is Jesus.
Will hell be a buddy-buddy party and celebration of moral badness and rebellion? No. The Bible speaks of being thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, and of being tormented day and night forever and ever. It will be a place of sorrow, devoid of happiness. The Scriptures talk of worms (literally maggots), of an intense darkness, of people weeping and gnashing their teeth in extreme anguish, of being parched with thirst, and of remembering this life and of wishing for no one to join them. It’s a place of lonely suffering (The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, pg 68).
The truth is that our loving God made a way for us to be saved from this eternal destruction - hell. His name is Jesus, and He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and to heaven itself (1 John 5:11-12).
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.