Q. Scripture says that humans who do not conform to God’s salvation plan (i.e. unbelievers) are consigned to incredibly terrible torment in hell for all of eternity. For unbelievers to be separated from God for eternity is totally understandable, but the extreme punishment of hell does not seem to fit.
Let’s take into account: (1) the sinful condition (natural-born inclination) of all humans is inherited, and (2) no one can come to Jesus (believing in Him for salvation) unless Father God draws the person (John 6 and John 17). How could a loving God who teaches us to be loving, merciful, compassionate, forgiving, etc. send humans to such an extreme place of torment forever? Is this consistent with God’s nature?
A. Absolutely. God is not self contradictory. He can’t express any of His attributes at the expense of any other. They all have to be in harmony. Before He could express His extreme love His need for justice had to be met. Somehow His unrighteous children had to be made righteous. We couldn’t do it for ourselves so He did it for us, by dying in our place to pay the penalty for our sins.
Arbitrarily deciding who gets to be saved and who doesn’t is not just and therefore is not consistent with His character. The passages you cited have to be understood in the context that He knows the end from the beginning. Paul explained this in Romans 8:29-30. The sequence is foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying, and glorifying.
From the creation of the world, he knew which of us would accept the pardon He offers to all and which would not (foreknowing), so at that time He guaranteed those of us who will accept the pardon a place in His Kingdom (predestining). At the appointed time in our lives, He calls us and we respond favorably, just like He knew we would (calling). As a result, His shed blood is applied to our debt of sin (justifying) and we receive eternal life with Him (glorifying).
Most people who can’t understand why God would allow some to suffer extreme punishment have no trouble at all understanding His extreme love. They also don’t understand that God doesn’t want to punish anyone, but when someone refuses the pardon He went to such extremes to make available, there’s no other alternative.
You see, God doesn’t decide our destiny, we do. In order to suffer His extreme punishment we have to refuse His extreme love.