As I have mentioned before, I believe that God gives us the choice whether to spend eternity with him or without. There are a number of Biblical passages that point to humans having to make a decision whether to follow God or not, and Jesus invited people rather than commanding them. The key is that we have a part to play in God’s work, and we must either accept or reject that part. Accepting God, as you are all probably aware, leads to an eternity spent with God. Rejecting him leads to an eternity apart.
Non-Christians will often ask me, “If God loves us so much, and eternity with him is so much better than eternity without, why doesn’t he just force the matter or make himself known so we can all just be happy with him?” I believe that the question underestimates humanity far too much and, in my observations of humanity, I doubt that a revelation of God would make all of humanity happy.
Working backwards, knowledge of God does not necessarily beget happiness. There are a great many people who know God but, due to some tragedy or a confusion in their lives, they come to distrust or despise God. Moreover, revelation also does not make faith, belief, or adherence certain. The Jews were led through the desert by God in their exodus from Egypt, led by a tower of flame and fed manna from heaven, yet they still built a golden idol near the end of their journey and turned away from the Lord their God.
Just the same, I’ve seen a number of people pray the desperate prayer of “God, if you’ll just let <whatever they need> happen, I’ll believe in you!” And if God should answer their prayer, as I have seen it happen several times, the person will immediately espouse wonder and amazement… and within a week or two, have rationalized it away. Faith is not born of miracles.
The choice is not, to me, so much one of heaven vs. hell, but one of eternity with God or without. Even if God made himself irrevocably known, as the Bible tells us he has done in the past, people will still choose to live without him. Free Will allows us to make this choice, and the only way to “make” everyone happy would be to strip their freedom away. At that point, however, we are no longer human. We could not even be considered happy in this instance, for what is happiness when one had neither a part in the process nor knows anything else?
In God’s love, he gives us the freedom to reject him, but he also gives us the freedom to choose to strive for a life spent in his service. As for why, perhaps it is something one cannot truly understand until they are faced with the prospect of having children, knowing full well that their child may grow to be rebellious, to reject them, to dishonour their family name and spit on their upbringing. And yet, knowing the depths of evil to which a person might fall, and recognizing that their child might be the individual to plumb those depths, they bear the child anyways, full of hope and love and the equal knowledge of the heights to which humanity has ascended since creation.
Freedom is not always comfortable, but it is necessary for humanity. Which is more holy, a man set apart or a chalice? I argue that it is the man, for he is active in the process and must struggle with God and sin to reject evil. Our lives are made richer by the struggle.