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According to the hymn The Love of God, God's love "reaches to the lowest hell":

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell

Does the Bible teach anywhere that God loves those in hell? We know that at present, God loves sinners and wants them to repent, but what if they never repent? Does the Bible ever address whether God will still love sinners even after they are cast into hell?

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  • Will all those who spend eternity in hell be guilty of the unforgivable sin?
    – Kris
    Jan 18 at 16:07
  • @User14 I'm not 100% sure what your question has to do with my question. Is your argument that God doesn't love those guilty of the unforgivable sin, or are you saying something else?
    – The Editor
    Jan 18 at 21:38
  • Was just wondering why you used the tag.
    – Kris
    Jan 18 at 22:46
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    Ah, I see. I included it because those in an unforgivable state are case in point for whether God will love them forever. However, upon further reflection, I see that it probably isn't related enough to qualify, so I'll remove the tag.
    – The Editor
    Jan 19 at 23:08
  • This is the "verse identification" close reason that we've bandied about for years on the meta site. christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4199/… As it stands, this all falls down to your interpretation of the Bible so it needs to be narrowed down to be asked here.
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 20 at 1:32

5 Answers 5

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There is clearly a difference made in scripture between the love of God for all his creatures (regardless of response or lack of it) and the particular love he has for those who are 'chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world' Ephesians 1:4.

Scripture also makes clear that God 'endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction' Romans 9:22.

But the wording you are looking for is absent in scripture. I would say that the hymn is not based on biblical wording (and therefore not biblical concept).

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A belief common among Christians and very ancient is the descensus ad inferos, Christ's descent to Hell between his death and resurrection. It is found in the Apostle's Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 3 says something that people associate with this event:

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Either Jesus preached doom to the victims of the flood, or even set some free.

Ephesians 4 says this:

Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

It is thought by many that Jesus led prisoners out of Hell and up to Heaven following his resurrection.

The most ancient source for such ideas is in Job. Job asks God if there is anyone who can follow him down to the grave to rescue him:

My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
    Yet the desires of my heart
12 turn night into day;
    in the face of the darkness light is near.
13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
    if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
14 if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
    and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope—
    who can see any hope for me?
16 Will it go down to the gates of death?
    Will we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:11-16)

In God's long answer, He supplies a travelogue. The Lord begins by describing the heavens and the angels, then the sky with its birds, then the land with its animals. On land he follows the horse into battle, joined near the carcasses of the fallen by the eagle and hawk, who fly in to consume their flesh. Hiding in the rushes is Behemoth. One theologian compares Behemoth to the Canaanite God Mot, god of death who guards the entrance to the underworld. Plunging into the underworld, the Lord moves on to Leviathan, Satan's champion. If you compare every good thing that Leviathan will not do for you, it describes what Christ will do. The passage about Leviathan has many prophetic details about the crucifixion of Jesus.

The upshot is that God describes his journey from Heaven to the grave to rescue his fallen champion. God is telling Job that He will descend to the grave to rescue him.

I could continue with an analysis of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, but the whole idea that Hell was once divided into compartments for the righteous and wicked, with the righteous held in suspense until Christ should gain his victory, is a large topic with many views among different denominations.

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  • Does the Apostle's Creed, in its original language, refer to "hell" (Greek, Gehenna) or to Hades? Some translations translate Hades as "hell," so I want to make sure which of the two the Apostle's Creed actually refers to in its original language.
    – The Editor
    Jan 18 at 21:37
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Will God love those whom He'll punish eternally?

There are a few misconceptions that must be addressed here in order to fully understand the proper response to this question.

Deus eas caritatis! God is Love!

God loves his entire creation, both visible and invisible, both seen and unseen. Whether in in hell, on earth or heaven.

Will God really punish those in hell?

There is no doubt that the evil spirits and humans that are in hell suffer. But this suffering is brought upon themselves by their very rejection of all that is good and sacred.

The greatest sorrow or pain that those in hell will undergo is the absence of the presence of God. Those in hell are there because they choose to be and the state of being is fixed on remaining evil for eternity. It is hard to comprehend the notion of souls truly desiring not to love God in eternity, but it happens. For these evil individuals and evil sprits, they would sooner be in hell with all the torments they endure than to be in heaven. Their hatred of God and all that is good holy and sacred does not exist within them!

Yes, God still loves them, but that love is nor reciprocated. The Devil and all those in hell hate God.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. - Matthew 25:41 (KJV)

To more fully understood your question, you have to understand that the souls in hell are there by their own choosing. They would refuse to be in heaven with a God of Love because the state of their soul in fixed in sin and they refuse to repent. In this sense they have place themselves in hell. God has no need to punish the evil ones of their crimes, they have done it themselves.

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Love cannot save those who reject God’s love.

Even in hell God loves those who have chosen not to love in return. For this reason the souls in hell have chosen to be there. Repentance is not longer possible, as their hatred of God and his Saints is so great.

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1 Peter 3

Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19 In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20 who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark.

This scripture is open to various interpretations, because "spirits in prison" may mean something other than "spirits in Hell." Also these verses refer to the period before Jesus ascended, and do not deal with spirits currently in Hell. But the quotation does provide a basis for the belief that God not only loves those in Hell but works to save them.

Other verses along this lines include:

  • Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).
  • Romans 14: 9: "For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living."
  • "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth." (Philippians 2: 9-10).

Those who deny the idea that God's love reaches Hell refute these verses on the following grounds: "Hades" is not the same as the Hell (the realm of eternal damnation); and Christ's Lordship of the dead does not include those in Hell. Nor does all those "under the earth" include those in Hell, because they remain in a state of rebellion.

Conclusion: Several biblical verses support the doctrine that God's love reaches "the lowest Hell." However, these verses are also open to other interpretations.

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God is love. The suffering of Hell is caused by the very same power that produces the delight of Heaven, namely, the love that God simply is. And it's important that if there are any people in Hell (you are not obliged to believe that any human is in that state), they are not there because God capriciously “sent” them.

God's love is the same for everyone. In hell the separation from God and his divine love is accomplished forever, making supernatural love, or charity, impossible.

Think prayerfully about the contrast between

This sentence given to Adam:

"By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

And these words of the Lord:

"This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."

Here we are enlightened about His work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.

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