WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HELL?
As children we learned very early that if we were bad we would be denied something we really wanted or punished in a way that could either be momentarily painful or mortifying to our sense of pride. If we disobeyed our parents we knew we would be denied our favorite television programs or perhaps lose our precious allowances. And today as adults we know if we do not pay our taxes, Uncle Sam will find us and make us pay. If we steal we know we are going to jail. If we kill someone we might be sentenced to die or at the least receive a long term sentence. We all know that. The rules and laws set forth by our government are much like the recompense God expects from all of us, for He also expects us to pay for our actions here on earth. The Bible tells us if we choose to make our own laws and live our lives in sin without seeking Gods forgiveness for our actions we will be sentenced to Hell for eternity.
So what exactly is Hell?
It seems today we have a modern adaptation of that place called Hell. We have renamed, redefined, and packaged it to suit our sense of propriety, thus sparing our delicate senses. It has been labeled in such acceptable terms it leads us to believe if we do go there it really might not be all that bad. And the roads pointing to Hell have been made so attractive that we are inclined to take chances hoping we will be able at some point to repair our souls in the time left to us. Heads of church speaking on the issue of Hell may say it is not necessarily a place but a state of mind or better yet do not even discuss it unless pressed. It is often presented with vague and shadowy meanings if mentioned at all.
Is this avoidance of clarity presented because people do not know what Hell is really like? Or because our modern life styles do not allow us to believe in a primitive lake of fire as the Bible terms it? It seems we forget the grave penalty of sin that the Bible speaks of should we sin and break the laws that God gave us. We hear about Heavenly love God extends to all of us but we do not hear reinforcement concerning the judgment He speaks of over and over again should we break His commandments. We placidly go our own way because someone tells us that the Hell written about in the Bible, the penalties that God has set aside for sinners is nothing more than a suffering of the mind or the loss of something desired which will last for eternity. Or the extreme sorrow that we will be separated from God forever. If this is true no one will suffer the literal fires of Hell.
So many things are labeled symbolic by our Church. I personally prefer to pray about this and feel with faith that if I choose to believe the Bible as true through and through, it can be neither harmful or detrimental to my soul. The Bible is the inspired word of God and not always open to human interpretation, no matter how we human beings decree it to be. We cannot pick and choose what we want to in the Bible.
It is true that the extreme sorrow one would feel if excluded from the Book of Life and the joy of being with the Father would be a "Hell" of endless pain; a torture to be endured forever. But this is only part of that place called Hell. Is this sorrow sufficient to pay for the great sacrifice God made by sending His Son to die on a cross in shame for mankind? Or pay for thousands of years of sinful disobedience? How does this compare to the word of God Who throughout the entire Bible tried to warn us of the calamity of Hell? Does this mean if we choose not to accept Gods laws and go our merry way, falling into grave sin, we go to a Hell of the mind and that is ample suffering? Or that the loss of something desired is horrendous enough that it is a forever and ever Hell? Maybe should we take the fundamentalist point of view and believe that God in His wrath for sinners sends those persons into a lake of fire where they will burn forever.
Some feel that if God is so merciful with an endless abounding love for us, He would not send us to Hell where we will suffer for eternity. This does not seem in keeping with the mercy of God, we cry. Then why, one might speculate, did He destroy whole sinful nations or send His anger upon those who disobeyed Him in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible? God gave us the free will to choose where we will spend eternity. He offers us a ticket to His Heaven or we can choose Satans ticket to Hell.
There are many references throughout the Old and New Testaments that speak of Hell. Christ speaks of it in Matthew. He tells of being cast into Hell, thrown into Hell, Hell fire, the condemnation of Hell. In 2Peter2:4, again Hell is a place into which we are thrown or cast. Also read Luke 12:5, James 3:6. Revelation20:14 speaks about the lake of fire. Anyone not found written in the Book of Life is cast into a lake of fire. This is called the second death. Read Luke3:9 in which John the Baptist speaks of the chaff which refers to sinners whom God will burn with unquenchable fire. Psalms9:17 states that the wicked shall be turned into Hell. From the Books in the Bible one might conclude that Hell is a very real and physical punishment. So real that God wants to spare us all an eternity of suffering and torture so horrendous that He was willing to take that part of Himself in the form of His Son and die in order to spare us unworthy creatures. That is how much He loves us.
How much do we love God? Years ago, the Church used to speak a lot about Perfect and Imperfect Love in relation to how we love God. Imperfect Love is self centered and largely based upon fear in many cases. Out of this fear of punishment, we try to live up to Christian duties because we do not want to forfeit heaven. The fear of losing Gods love has kept many on the straight and narrow path trying to please in order to avoid Hell. However Perfect Love is that love which is so pure that we feel distraught when we disappoint Our Heavenly Father. Self has nothing to do with it. We want to be good because He is good. We want to be like Him in every way we can, not for ourselves but because we love Him. We want to shine for Him. This is Perfect Love in its highest form.
Theologians have wrestled with the interpretation of Hell for centuries. Whatever we Christians believe about the reality of Hell as a burning pit which consumes us but cannot destroy us, or the suffering we would feel because of the separation from our Heavenly Father which some say is the eternal Hell, we know that it powerful enough that God does not want this calamity to befall any of us but chooses to give us an alternative, a way to gain perfect existence forever. The answer being Jesus who says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one gets to the Father except through me."
And with this, we Christians do not have to worry about interpretations of Hell for this does not affect or concern us. We know it is a place where we do not want to go because God has sent prophets throughout the ages to warn us, finally sending His Most Precious Son to show us how to avoid this terrible fate. We know that through our faith and belief in Jesus, He will take each of us by the hand and lead us to His Father. We shall avoid this eternal Hell and live in glory forever.