The Reality of Hell

*This piece continues my Reality of Life series, and will be finished with my next posting*

“Eternal Darkness”
“Fire and Brimstone”
“Unending Punishment”

These are all terms people have used to describe Hell. Hell is the dark pit, the place of sinners and those cast away from God. But is hell real, and if it is should we be conscious of its existence?

In my last article I talked about the reality of death. Well if death is real, then what follows it? This is a question as old as time, and many have tried to answer it. Some believe that there is nothing after death, and that when we die our conscious mind simply fades into oblivion. Others believe in reincarnation of the spirit, that when we die we are reborn into a new body. For the traditional Christian, there are two possible outcomes after death. One is heaven, and the other is hell. Let’s focus on that latter alternative.

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Surprisingly, hell is not often directly referenced in the Bible. In the ESV translation there are only 14 instances of the word “hell”. Matthew warns his readers to cut off their hand before they let it sin, least it send them to hell. Later on Peter is told that he will prevail against the “gates of hell”. In Mark, hell is described as an “unquenchable fire”. While these allusions are sparse, hell seems to be a place of both fire and darkness, of unending pain and suffering. Hell is depicted as a real place, one that sinners will eventually end up in if they don’t accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Some scholars have proposed that hell is a place of complete and utter loneliness, an empty dark space for those who reject the King of Heaven.

I have met Christians before who don’t believe in hell. The argument I usually hear is “how could a loving God send anyone to hell?” To this I state that our God, while loving and caring, is one of justice and righteousness above all else. God is simply too holy to be in the presence of sinners, they cannot withstand His Glory.  The only way we could bear to be in the presence of God is through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, which covers our inequities. Those who reject that forgiveness cannot be in Heaven, and must pay the penalty for their sins. The punishment is hell, and it is an eternal condemnation.

I don’t think our minds can truly grasp the concept of an unending life of punishment and suffering. Then again, I don’t believe we can understand the idea of everlasting bliss. In our present state we are chained to the concept of time. It is always passing by, one tic tok at a time. Yet this is a topic for a different article. Needless to say, hell is a lasting punishment.

So what does that mean for our everyday life? Should we live in fear of hell, much the same as death, and terrorize our unsaved friends with stories of the fire and brimstone waiting for them? I do not believe this is the best way to tell our friends about the love of Christ. The reality of hell should add a sense of urgency in our mission to spread the gospel to anyone who will hear it. There is no room for lazy complacency in the battle for the souls, and your effort (or lack thereof) can have eternal implications. We have a duty to those around us, to share with them the Good News of Christ, and save them from the damnation that awaits those who reject Jesus.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be like Peter and stand in the face of the gates of hell. For our God is greater, and we have defeated its evil clutches.

*Please leave me your thoughts and comments about the reality and nature of hell, and if you believe that non-Christians will truly be condemned to it. I appreciate any sort of meaningful conversation!