Q. I have two questions, please. First, I have a certain amount of sympathy for non-Christians who say they can’t get around the thought of Hell. Many sincere unbelievers ask: Why does God punish a few decades of sin with an eternity of torment? And Second, How do you think God feels about people in Hell? Will He love and grieve for them forever, or does He actually hate them?
A. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. People don’t go to hell as punishment for their sins. If they did we’d all be there. They go to hell for not accepting the remedy God provided for their sins. God wants to be part of our life, but we have a sin problem which prevents that. In order to solve our sin problem He sent His son to die for our sins so we can live with Him forever (John 3:16-17). By not accepting His remedy people are telling God they don’t want Him to be part of their lives and they don’t want to live with Him forever (John 3:18).
When we die there are only two possible destinations for us. One is Heaven, where God is and where He wants us to be. The other is Hell where God is not, and where those who have rejected Him will be. So it’s not a punishment for “a few decades of sin”. It’s the only place where people who have rejected God can be. We have a whole lifetime to decide which destination will be our eternal home. When we die the opportunity to choose expires. Hebrews 9:27 says man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.
I don’t know about grieving over the people in Hell forever, but God does not hate them, even though you couldn’t blame Him if He did. He offered them the most expensive gift mankind has ever been offered, paid for with His own blood, with no strings attached. All they had to do was accept it. He gave them an entire lifetime to do so, and they turned it down. How would you feel?