This post from ten years ago has been getting some attention from a whole new set of commentators, so I am redating it.
One of my firmest theological convictions is that a perfectly good God would do everything possible to enable people to be saved. A God who, before the foundation of the world, determines that some will suffer everlasting punishment, simply because this would be to his own greater glory (why would it be to his own greater glory anyway?) is as God whose motivations I absolutely do not understand. It isn't just that there is something mysterious here, it is that this kind of conduct is completely opposed to any ethical values that come from God's own commandments. God expects people to care deeply about the salvation of the people of the world, yet God could save a lot of people but just decides not to? Imagine the tortures of the Nazis extended through all of eternity. To say that this kind of torment will go on not because the damned make choices that make it impossible for God to save them, but rather simply because God has chosen this fate for them, is to attribute to God characterstics that, to my mind, conflict utterly and totally with the character of God revealed in Christ. The Bible does not say "For God so loved the elect, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." And so when I read "God is not willing that any should perish" in II Peter 3:9, I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
But Scripture also seems to indicate that the way people come to be saved is by being evangelized. They come to salvation by hearing the Good News of Christ and believing. And if this is how God saves people, then it seems that an Omnipotent being is, in the face of things, slacking on the job of bringing people into his Kingdom. I know that there is a lot of evangelism going on. But if we make the assumption that the people who die without accepting the evangelistic message have been lost, while those who have accepted it have been saved, we reach some disturbing conclusions. If Satan wants everyone to be lost, and God wants everyone to be saved, then Satan is winning the numbers game. This two-bit fallen angel (everyone is two-bit compared to the Almighty) is getting more people into his kingdom that the Omnipotent one is getting into his. And this can get really upsetting for Evangelicals who have to bury their unconverted loved ones, since the most obvious conclusion they have to draw is that the person who has died has gone to hell.
It is here that some kind of second chance after death seems like an appealing idea, an idea fictionalized (but not actually endorsed) in Lewis's The Great Divorce. People can escape hell if they are willing to give up their greatest sins. But I think maybe you can accept the underlying idea here without actually having to believe that there is a real second chance after death. We assume that time works for people who are dying in the same way it works for the rest of us, so if one minute has elapsed when a person has passed into eternity, then presumably that one minute would not be long enough for God to do anything in that person's soul. But do reports of near death experiences, for example, support this idea of simultaneity? Could God pack years of evangelism into those final seconds, and offer everyone a chance to be saved, if only they will give up their most precious sins, while the person is still alive? If this were so, this would reconcile "Salvation only through Christ," "No second chance after death," and "God is not willing that any should perish."
All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options.