Did Jesus Preach About Goodness, While the Rest of the Bible Preaches Hell Punishment? Should Christians only be good to avoid hell?
Sometimes people try to suggest that in the Old Testament God is mean and punishes people and in the New Testament it is different, and Jesus is all about forgiving and goodness. This is not really the case. It is clear that in both the Old Testament and New Testament, God is not only the same, but has the same messages throughout.
We see God’s love for humans many times in the Old Testament. God loved the Israelites, and it hurt him to see them being mistreated by the Egyptians as slaves, thus He appointed Moses to lead them across the Red Sea. He gives commands in the 10 commandments telling us to treat other humans with love and respect (do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness against your neighbor, etc. Exodus 20:2–17).
God also talks about being kind to the poor, giving to the needy, and being honest and trustworthy many times all throughout the Old Testament and New Testamnet. He also mentions that we should be good, and that we will be rewarded by doing so. So it is clear that God is loving.
This same loving tone is seen in the New Testament as well. Jesus preached to love your neighbor. To forgive those that hurt us. To obey the commands of God, etc. So throughout the whole Bible, we have a very clear image that God wants us to follow certain commands, and to have a loving relationship with both God and our fellow humans.
What About Hell? Did Jesus Mention Hell? Why Does God Send Us to Hell?
God warns (in OT and NT) that those who do not accept God’s commands, and choose to do evil will eventually be judged and will enter eternal “hell.” The Bible talks of this place several times, and we get a really clear picture in the book of Revelation. God also repeatedly talks about His judgement that He will make on the world at some point in the future.
Here is one thing Jesus said about Hell:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.
In that passage, Jesus is saying that if you hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It would be better for you to live in eternity with no hand, then to have a hand that causes you to enter hell. He is basically painting a picture that it is a place people do not want to see, and that we should avoid it at all costs.
Why Would a Loving God Send Us to Hell?
This is a great question that comes up a lot. In truth, God doesn’t really send us to hell. We send ourselves there. God gives us all an opportunity to accept or reject Christ. If we have chosen to reject Him, He gives us our wish: An eternal existence in the lake of fire, where there is conscious torment, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. If we accept Christ’s sacrifice, God gives us our choice- an eternity in the presence of God (and goodness).
God doesn’t send us to hell to be evil. He doesn’t want us to go there. God wants us to follow His commands, and wants to dwell with us. But if people choose to reject God, they make the choice to live an eternity away from God.
Think of it like this: Do police officers want us to go to jail? No, of course not. The government doesn’t want us to go to jail. However, to protect society, we have to have prisons. Prisons represent a place where people of society who have rejected the “laws” go to be “punished” or “removed” from the rest of society.
We place people that don’t want to obey the “laws” of society (by murder, stealing, etc.) in this place to keep the rest of society safe. We don’t want people to go to jail, but we have laws they must obey. No one goes to jail unless they break the “law.” By breaking a law, you send yourself to jail.
In that same way, God doesn’t want us to go to “hell.” He wants us to spend an eternity in love, peace, happiness, etc. But if people constantly reject God and His gospel, then he places them in “hell.” Basically, God segregates good from evil. He basically says, “Okay, you want evil? Here you go…Hell.” Anyone who chooses Christ will be cleansed of their sins and they will dwell with God for eternity.
So in the end, God only really gives us what we want anyways, according to how we responded to the gospel. If we accept Christ and repent, we are saved. If we reject Christ, we are doomed to hell.
So Should We Obey God’s Laws to Be Good? Or To Avoid Hell?
The answer is…BOTH. We should obey God’s laws because they all have meaning and purpose. They are meant to keep us safe, make us good people, and to love one another. Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments.
As Christians, we can never be totally sinless. We’re saved sinners. We are saved by God’s grace, not our ability to keep God’s laws perfectly. Nevertheless, it is important to strive to be obedient to the Lord.
Let me give you an example of why it is a good idea to follow God’s laws. Here are a few random laws given throughout the Bible:
1. Don’t worship a false God– Did you know that people back then worshipped a false God named Baal. These people would actually burn their firstborn kids to this God. God did not like this, and that is why he consistently speaks against this behavior.
2. Don’t steal– can you imagine a society where everyone stole daily from each other. It would be chaos. God knows this.
3. Don’t Murder– Can you imagine if we could commit murder and get away with it. The first time someone made us mad, we would kill them!
4. Don’t drink blood– God gave this law to the Israelites concerning diet. How do they think the aids virus started? Drinking animal blood, right? If we do these things, it creates all sorts of crazy diseases.
Those are just a few examples of God’s laws, and what happens when we disobey them. Every time disobey one of God’s laws, we always hurt God. Many times, we also hurt others as well. God’s laws are meant to protect us as humans, and society as well. They are not meant to harm us.
God wants us to feel happiness and pleasure. God is all for that! He wants us to have sex, he just wants it to be in the context of a loving and committed marriage. That way if we have a kid, it can have both a mother and a father to care for it and raise it. He wants us to have money- he just doesn’t want us to be completely greedy with it when there are people starving. He wants us to be healthy, etc. God wants good things for us. He is not a boring old guy that wants us to hate life. He wants our utmost happiness. Being truly happy only comes from accepting God, and living a good life filled with love.
So we shouldn’t just follow those laws to be “good.” We should follow them because they make sense too. Also, we don’t want to go to hell, right? Hell is complete sadness.
Have you accepted Christ as your savior today? Are you forgiven for your sins, or are you dead in your sins? If you haven’t accepted Christ, please do so right now.