"Would a just God send good people
to hell just because they don't believe in him?"
God's justice is higher than our sense of justice. To illustrate this, guess
which famous American philanthropist lamented:
"I have spent the best years of my life giving people the
lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the
existence of a hunted man."
It was Al Capone. We know him as a gangster and a murderer. But Al Capone,
who considered drugs and prostitution, "lighter pleasures," thought himself
to be a
pretty good person.
Your standard of justice is most likely higher than Al Capone's, but God's
standard of justice is much
higher still. In fact, the Bible says that God's standard of
justice is absolute perfection and defines sin as anything that falls short of it, including
seemingly innocuous things like jealousy (Exodus
20:17), lust (Matthew
5:27-28), or being angry without reason (Matthew
5:21-22). The Bible adds that everyone has sinned (Romans
3:22) and that the penalty mandated for sin is death (Romans
6:23). That's the bad news.
The Gospel, which means "good news," is that God in His love decided not to wipe us
out. But neither could a just God simply let sins slip by since
turning a blind eye to crime isn't just. So what did God do? He came and took our
death penalty upon Himself.
If that is tricky to understand, imagine you've been found guilty of a crime
death penalty. At your sentencing, you stand before the judge, who happens to be
your father. Because your father is a good judge who needs to uphold justice, he
confirms your penalty of death. But then, as you start to panic, your father
rises from the bench, walks down to you, takes off the judge's robe, and tells you that because he loves you, he will take
upon himself your death penalty so that you can be spared, and he does.
The cross of Jesus (John 18)
was where justice of God collided with the love of God,
and Jesus - the sinless Son of God and God Himself (John
1) - was the only one qualified and able to absorb the impact of that collision.
The Bible says that people who are "good" as defined by God go to
Bible verses about Heaven), and the rest of us go to hell
unless we truly recognize ourselves as falling short of God's standard of
perfection (i.e., are "sinners") and believe:
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the
world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but
he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)