My next statement is certain to raise a lot of eyebrows. I would politely ask that you continue to read the remainder of my thoughts before condemning me as a heretic. I am certainly not as such, but something shocking needs to be said. It may be asked, what a wicked God to condemn people to hell for not believing in him, but I would counter that it would be wicked for a God to force his presence for eternity on a person who had fled that presence in their finite life. Here it comes....At the end of our lives, God gives to us everything that we have ever wanted. If we have wanted nothing more than himself, then we are rewarded with an eternity in his presence. If, on the other hand, we have sought to distance ourselves from his presence, then he will give us the eternity apart from his presence that we have demonstrated that we wanted more than anything. If we have demonstrated that we have wanted nothing more than pure autonomy from our Creator, then he will give us that autonomy for eternity.
We must admit to ourselves, that there are some for whom a single moment before the Creator of the universe would be an experience so distasteful, that they would flee from it. We are taught that men love darkness rather than light. The presence of God would be a brilliance that would expose every bit of our own darkness. We all fear our own exposure, but there are some who are so steeped in their own wickedness, that exposure to the brilliance of God would be an extremely traumatic experience.
The base of all human wickedness is pride, as we feign autonomy. This can be demonstrated several different ways. Some may see virtue in themselves, and believe that it is enough to cover their vices. Some find it difficult to accept a loving God, amidst a world of wickedness. Some have a deep seated hatred of God. This too is a sin of pride. How could the creature dare to stand in judgment of their Creator? Many of these will spend their entire lives avoiding God and standing proudly against him. The thought of submitting, to the brute that they see God as, would be something which they could never endure. These same people will then stand in judgment of God for condemning, those who will not submit to Him, to Hell. This argument is completely ridiculous. They have spent their entire lives in an attempt to escape the presence of God. They have fought tooth and nail to avoid submitting to the authority of their Creator. Why would someone, like that, find it cruel when at the final judgment, God gives to them everything that they have ever hoped for? They have begged and pleaded, in order to be left to themselves. When their Creator finally leave them to themselves, then how could they possibly accuse God of injustice?
In God's mercy we are permitted our free will. Were we exposed to but a moment of God's overwhelming presence, then even the hardened atheist would be stripped and cast prostrate before His throne. Some men have shown through their entire lives that they desire nothing more than their autonomy. Were they allowed into heaven, then their own free will would be obliterated as the first ray of God's glory were cast upon their face. The one thing that they had lived for would be gone in an instant. Wouldn't this overshadowing be far more barbaric and unjust, than to finally relent and give to them all the freedom they had fought for throughout their life? If a person has fought in this temporal existence to avoid and overthrow the rule of God, then why would they wish to spend an eternity with who they despised?
They just wouldn't. For this person to be forced into the presence of God would be to them a personal hell. To have their autonomy swallowed up in God would be more than they could bear. God, in his mercy, will never force allegiance, and he will never demand a relationship, that he rightly deserves. In his great mercy he allows us to choose between ourselves or Himself. In his mercy, those who choose separation from him will be damned, and given everything they had ever hoped for. Eternal separation from the presence of God.
As C.S. Lewis said, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'thy will be done', and those to whom God says, 'THY will be done'.