Election and salvation

Is it God’s will for some people to go to hell? If I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in God, and the only reason I have faith is because the Holy Spirit gave it to me, did God choose me over other sinners? God loves all people, and Jesus died for all sinners, so why do some go to hell? I know that sometimes God makes bad things happen for good reasons, but how do I know that it’s not his will for me (or anyone else) to go to hell? How does free will fit into all of this? Thank you.

The Bible teaches that the antecedent will of God is that he wants all people to be saved (Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4). The Bible teaches that the consequent will of God is that he will condemn those who reject him (Mark 16:16).

While God desires the salvation of all people (2 Peter 3:9) and has provided a Savior for all people (John 3:16), the Bible also teaches that God has elected some to salvation (Ephesians 1:11-14). Those are teachings of the Bible that we human beings cannot harmonize. We entrust them to the counsel of God (Romans 11:33).

When it comes to free will, our free will by nature is limited to making decisions about our earthly lives. Regarding spiritual matters, our free will by nature consists only of sinning and rejecting God. That natural condition underscores the truth of what you wrote: “I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in God.” Saving faith is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8). Saving faith is the result of God’s election to grace (Acts 13:48).

The doctrine of election can create questions in our minds. That is understandable. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). What we want to keep in mind is that the doctrine of election was intended for our comfort. The comfort is that our salvation is in God’s hand—from beginning to end. He chose us in eternity. He sent a Savior. He gives us saving faith and he preserves us in that faith to the end of life. If salvation were up to us in any way, there would be reason for doubt and uncertainty. Because salvation is entirely God’s work, it is a sure thing.