Question: How can God allow nice people to go to hell and bad people to go to heaven?
Answer: We all know people whom we value, who seem like genuinely good, kind people. But the Bible makes it clear that even these people have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standards.
“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
God sees a person’s whole heart, sees all of their actions, and knows all of their words and thoughts. So God has a lot more information to use when judging someone. It is with this complete knowledge that God can judge us righteously. The Bible says that “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1Samuel 16:7).
So how does this affect the whole heaven and hell question? It puts everyone on an equal playing field. People we think are good are in the same position as people we think are bad, because, from God’s perspective, no one perfectly follows his commands. There is, in every one of us, that inner drive that says, “I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.”
In fact, the Bible says that “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). In big and small ways, all of us have forsaken God and gone away from Him.
The antidote is to return to God. The Bible calls this “repentance.” When a person truly turns back to God, there is no sin that is too big for God to forgive. God provided the means to forgive sin through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. And God offers His forgiveness and eternal life to anyone who will believe in Jesus. Heaven is a free gift offered to anyone who will ask for God’s forgiveness and ask Jesus to come into their life. Here is how the Bible describes someone who turns to God in this way:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world …All of us also lived …gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of [God’s] wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. …in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)
All through the Bible God makes it clear that we gain heaven, not by our “good works” or “good life,” but that God offers it to all as a gift. Rather than pretend that we are good people, He asks us to admit that we sin against Him.
We can focus on life after death, but what about our life right now? We can interact with God and be guided by Him right now, and experience the life He created us to have. There is no relationship on earth as fulfilling and important as knowing God. If you want that after death, you have to start it now.