This is admittedly a hard question. As far as I’m aware, the Bible does not give an explicit, complete, or satisfying answer, so I have to wonder if it is something we must figure out before we can believe in and trust God? If he is omniscient and we are not, surely we would expect him to know many things about his own purpose and will that we do not, unless of course he has chosen to reveal it (Deut. 29:29). We know the God of the Bible is sovereign, the creation is for his glory, and he is therefore worthy of honor and praise.1 For believers this ought to be sufficient, but for skeptics not so much.
The Destiny of the Majority?
How does anyone know the majority of people will spend eternity in hell? If the opposite were true, if the majority would spend eternity in heaven, would that affect the impact of this question? The Bible does affirm that most accountable persons tend to choose the path leading to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14), but this does not constitute the majority of people who have ever lived or will live. If we concede the spiritual innocence of young children,2 what about the multiplied millions throughout history who have died by way of miscarriages and stillbirths, disease, war, famine, accidents, neglect, abuse, the death of pregnant mothers, infanticide, pagan sacrifice, exposure to the elements, and abortions? Add to this other innocent souls who have never reached the age of accountability, the mentally disabled, and all who have been justified in faithfulness to the Lord, it would seem that most human beings would in fact be in heaven.3
What About Relationship?
The fact that humans are relational beings seems to indicate that God, in whose image we are created, is relational (cf. 2 Cor. 6:16-18; 1 John 4:8). If he desires a relationship with his human creation that remotely compares to the depth of love and joy my wife and I share with our daughters, despite the inevitable disappointments and heartaches, I might have a slightly better understanding of the divine purpose. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).4
Love, Freedom, and Justice?
Freedom without choice is a logical impossibility. A loving God gives us free will and instructions for making the right decisions (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He desires all to be saved and none to perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), but those who reject God’s way ultimately choose their own destiny in following the devil to his.
The essential message of the Bible is that all accountable persons have sinned and are therefore separated from God’s holiness, but in his love and mercy and grace he provides a way through his Son to be reconciled to him and be saved from condemnation (Rom. 3:23; 8:1). I’m content to let God be the final judge and am confident he is righteous and fair, judging according to each person’s accountability, opportunities, and response (Luke 12:48; Rom. 14:12).
A Better Way?
To think any of us could have improved on the way God has chosen to do things is naively presumptuous. I might have chosen to destroy the devil (if a spirit being can be destroyed? cf. Luke 20:36), or not create any humans, or create only humans submissive to the divine will, or take away the opportunities to be tempted and make bad choices, thus creating a world where I show favoritism, not allowing everyone a chance at life, and no freedom. But since I don’t know everything about God’s mind and purpose, how can I be sure that my “ideal” world would be better than the one he created?
If I can appreciate my limitations and accept that God’s ways are far superior to mine (Isa. 55:8-9), I trust that he knows what he is doing, even if I struggle to fully comprehend or adequately explain it.
--Kevin L. Moore
1 See 1 Chron. 29:10-13; 2 Chron. 20:6; Isa. 43:7; 45:15; 46:9-10; Dan. 4:35, 37; Psa. 18:1-3; 96:7-9; 100:3; 115:3; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11; etc.
2 See K. L. Moore, “One of the Worst Things About Hell,” Moore Perspective (9 Dec. 2012), <Link>.
3 See Kyle Butt, “Did God Create People—Knowing That Many Would Go to Hell?” AP (2012), <Link>.4 Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
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