Most people don’t like to talk about Hell. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unclear. More often than not, when people do talk about Hell, it’s to manipulate and scare someone to Christ. Not a good idea. So, Hell is typically a subject that people avoid and there is no need to feel uneasy about it or to use it as a weapon. Let’s take a look at Scripture to see what it says.
Who will go to Hell?
No one wants to hear that their dearly departed is in Hell, so most people just stick with “they’re in a better place” and with good cause…that would be just plain rude to imply the opposite, but some people do, in fact go to Hell. Who?
Matthew 25:31-46 implies that all who love toward those less fortunate will gain eternal life and those who reject them will receive eternal punishment. Revelation 21:8 says that the “cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” However, the lake of burning sulfur is NOT the Hell (or Hades) that people go to at the first death. That is the second death. Hades is thrown in the lake as well.
So, wait…being a good person gets you into heaven? No, not exactly. Acts 16:31 tells us that simply believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord will save you.
So, who goes to Hell? Everyone who does not believe that Christ saved them will. If you simply accept your salvation, you’re golden. Literally.
Now that sparks the question of “well what if they had lived a few more years? What if they would have eventually accepted Christ, but they died too soon?” That will not happen. If a person has not yet reached an age of accountability, or was simply taken before they were ready, then He will send them wherever they would have chosen to go. He is GOD after all, He is all-knowing. He knows where you would have placed your faith had you been given the chance.
As unimaginable as it is that someone could have a true God experience and still turn away from Him…well I do not have an answer for that. I can’t imagine someone coming face to face with Him and not falling to their knees in awe, but the Bible says that it will happen.
What is Hell like?
Well the Bible says that there will be flames and moaning and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do I take this literally? Heck to the no!
Flames are used several times in the Bible to represent judgment. God is a fiery God. Jesus returns to Earth engulfed in flames. These are symbols of judgment and because Hell is the result of your judgment…it makes sense for it to be referred to as fiery. I do not think people will actually burn for eternity. God puts people in Hell because they don’t want to be around Him. It would be quite childish to say “well, since you don’t want to be around me, you can just burn! Ha!”
What about weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth? Well…I can imagine that if you spend your life condemning He who gave you life and ultimately land yourself in Hell…once you have realized that you really messed up…you’re going to be pretty upset! People weep and moan and gnash their teeth when they mourn the loss of a fellow human, a loved one, so can you imagine the mourning that would occur after realizing that they lost God, lost all love? God is love, so it’s safe to say that there is no love in Hell.
Pretty depressing, really. People don’t need to be whipped and burned and tortured for eternity to make Hell scary. Just being away from God is scary enough all on it’s own.
Why does God use an infinite solution for a finite offense?
Well…there is actually a really simple explanation for that. The length of time it took to commit a crime has no bearing on how severe the crime was. For example…if you were to rob a bank, it would probably take days, maybe even weeks or months to plan and perfect your escape and then, eventually, to pull off the heist. In the state of California, that would earn you three to nine years of prison. However, let’s say you kill someone. No planning at all. You just pull out a gun and shoot a man and it takes you all of ten seconds. In most every state that would be a minimum of 25 years, but you’re really looking at life in prison. So the crime that took months gets you 9 years and the crime that took ten seconds gets life.
Because the time it took is not relevant to how heinous the crime was. What is the worst thing a person can do? How about to mock and dishonor the One being they owe absolutely everything to? Not to mention the influence they may have had on taking others from God. Not a finite crime when you look at it that way, is it?
Why doesn’t God just force people to go to Heaven?
Well honestly, that’s just dehumanizing. God had given us the power of free choice and nothing speaks of His love and respect for us more than his willingness to send us to Hell. He respects our decision to be apart from Him, no matter how much it grieves Him. What a gentleman! To think…if you want nothing to do with Him, He will respect that and stay away from you! Wow!
Why doesn’t God just destroy people who don’t choose Him?
Well come on now…that’s worse than forcing them to go to Heaven! That’s totally immoral! He respects your choice. Period. End of story.
Why doesn’t God give people a second chance?
Well now, here’s where things get tricky. Many people think that once you go to Hell, well then that is that. Others, however, think that Judgment Day is the final say. I happen to fall into that second group. Let’s look at the Scripture now and make sure I’m not just spouting fantasies…
Revelation 20:11-15 talks of the judgment of the dead. It says that all dead come forth to be judged based on what is written in the book of life. Now there is much disagreement on the book of life and the Lamb’s book of life. I, myself, believe that they are different.
The book of life contains the names of every single person who has ever lived. The Lamb’s book of life contains the name of every individual who is born again, and only those who are born again. That can be argued seven ways to Sunday, and we will never really know the true answer until we die, but for now, this is what makes sense to me.
Now, every person will be judged based on what is written in the book of life. The name implies that what is written is from your life, but let’s not assume, we all know what that does. I believe that what you did in death is also recorded. The amends you made and the forgiveness people may have asked for whilst in Hell. At this point of judgment all of that will come into play and every soul will have the choice to accept or reject God and His son. Those who reject will be thrown into the lake. Will anyone reject Him? Seems highly unlikely, but the Bible says it will happen. Also, anyone who’s name is not written in the book of life will be thrown in. Who is this? These are the “people” Satan has created in his pathetic attempt to imitate all that God does. I could go on into much more detail and pull on all sorts of Scripture, but I already put my husband through that, and quite frankly, if you want the verses, leave a comment and we can chat.
The bottom line:
Everything that anyone will ever tell you about Hell is just speculation. This entire post is just my speculation. You can study Hell until kingdom come and you will never truly know any answers. God is blatant about many things in His word and Hell is not one of them. Some things He gives you a taste of, but nothing more. Why? Because He knows we are imperfect and we will misuse information and become arrogant. Maybe. I don’t know. That’s the point.
No one knows.
So then what do you tell people when it comes up? You tell them just that. “I have an idea. I have something I believe in, but I don’t know.” We know that God is perfect and holy and ultimately good, and so with that knowledge we trust that Hell is necessary and that it is not a cruel or evil way of dealing with a sad situation and we accept that we just don’t know all there is to know.
You know Hell is only mentioned in the NIV translation 14 times. Grace is said 123 times, Faith 254 times, and Love 232 times. So you tell me…what should we be talking about more? What is the message God is sending?