Sometimes I struggle with the concept of hell. As in, a place of eternal suffering with a lake of fire and demons tormenting you, pitchforks and the whole shooting match. It’s beyond horrifying, and I can’t quite understand why it exists. Created by a loving God that died for me? Huh?
Many scholars have determined that Jesus Himself said more about hell than He did about heaven. It was a serious topic that He addressed time and again, and the descriptions are not good. He described it as a “fiery lake of burning sulphur”, “The realm of the dead”, “everlasting destruction”, “eternal fire and destruction”, “a blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”, and many, many more horrifying depictions.
I read an account once of a guy that died in a drug overdose and claimed to go to hell. I had read stories of people that claimed to have gone to heaven, with the bright light and the feelings of peace, but had never read one about going to hell. It gave me goosebumps. An excerpt: “And I began going down and down and down like in a deep pit and I started smelling the stench of hell. It’s the most rotten thing that you could ever smell in your life. In fact, you can’t even imagine it. I began to feel a tugging and pulling like the Bible says the demons tug and nag at you. They were calling my name. ‘We got you. We got you. We got you. You belong to us now.’ I saw souls. Lost souls that were in torment in the lake of fire. They were crying and calling on God. Endless calling. They were hopeless. I was hopeless, and I knew it was eternal.” It goes on and on with his descriptions of demons cutting at him, people naked and writhing in the pit of fire, and about how they began his time in hell with his very own crucifixion.
I have no clue if his version of hell is accurate or a drug-induced oddity, but really, I don’t think it matters. With the ways that Jesus describes it, I want no part of it. The entire concept of hell is something that I think is really hard to grasp. Most of us don’t even really think about it, but if you spend some time really considering the reality of it, it’ll send a shiver up your spine. C.S. Lewis said of hell, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.” I’m with that guy – the concept of hell is a harshness that I cannot fathom, and wished that it had never been created. The concept of punishment is one that all humans can comprehend, however, punishment always has an end, even if it’s death. How can a punishment NEVER end? How can the human mind ever possibly endure an ETERNAL damnation? And perhaps most profoundly, how could my behaviors and rejection of God in one measly little lifetime warrant that destruction?
I don’t suppose any of us on earth will ever be able to truly answer these questions until we get to heaven, and let me tell you, I’m certainly choosing heaven over hell. I suppose that the only knowledge I can take away from the horrors of hell is this: God really, REALLY loves us.
Think about it – He came to earth to save us from this very place. He died to save us from it. He told us about it. His words were put into the Bible, the most widely read book in the history of human existence. He warned us about it. Again, He died so that you would never have to experience it….all you have to do is choose Him. The anguish that He must feel for lost souls has to be agonizing. Can you imagine warning your own child about not doing something lest they be eternally damned, and then watching them choose that very thing you warned them against? Or the love you would feel for your child if you died in attempt to ensure they never have to experience something truly awful?
But as CS Lewis said, while we might want the entire place stricken from existence, it is still there and it is very, very real.
You know that feeling when the cops pull in behind your car and you tense up, terrified that you might get pulled over? And then when they pull away and you breathe this big, silly sigh of relief and kinda laugh at yourself? That’s the best way that I can describe my thoughts as they pertain to hell: terrifying in a way that I cannot even begin to understand, but then I can remember that I’m saved. Eternally saved.
And that brings about one giant sigh of relief.
Life is short – sometimes it’s so short that you’re walking down the sidewalk one day and you are run over by a dump truck. Your life can end in 9 minutes or 90 years. Take the hand extended to you from God above and save yourself the eternal agony and instead enjoy the eternal happiness. The choice is simple, and it’s yours.