- Hell is not as bad as it seems.
- Hell is also the preferred destination for most.
- Hell is not a silly superstition. In fact, there is a perfectly good reason for it.
- Up until a certain time in my twenty-first year of life I would not have wanted to go to heaven and be with all those holy types - not what I wanted.
What is hell?
There was a time1 when there was no hell. Jesus pointed this out in Matthew 25:41: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"2 Those "on his left" ignored and rejected Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, but my focus is on the word "prepared." There had to be a place where the devil and his angels, the unclean spirits or demons, must dwell forever.3
Notice however, there will not be a time when hell is not - it is now eternal.4
Hell is described as "outer darkness,"5 a Jewish idiom essentially meaning a place of aloneness without light or any good thing.
Hell is also described as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth," which is another common Jewish idiom and was doubtless well known to Jesus and His hearers. The phrase describes something utterly horrid: a mindful, emotional terror unbounded.6
So then, what is so good about hell?
Hell is the preferred destination for many, heaven the preferred destination for a few. This we know from what Jesus said, as found in Matthew 7:13: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
It is only obvious: heaven for those who are eagerly looking forward to being in His presence and hell for those who despise such an eternity. In this way, hell is more than fair and gracious treatment.
Why should this be?
Hell is an existence where all ungodliness is banished right along with the devil and his angels. But, and this is a huge BUT, sin will be there in its entire twisted perverseness. In stark contrast, there will be no evil in heaven, since it cannot and will not be in His presence.
God is completely holy, and anyone not made holy, who thus hates and dreads holiness, would absolutely not want to be in the presence of God.7
A personal note
Prior to my conversion, I did not like even being around Christians. I could barely tolerate them. In a way I cannot explain, I preferred my good old buddies to the few Christians I knew. These latter made me feel bad, made me feel I was being judged by them, though there was nothing said to indicate it. In college, I had to write a philosophy paper that meant I attended several churches. Just sitting through a Sunday morning service gave me fairly high anxiety. This all changed upon my new birth and the opposite happened. From then on I enjoyed, even loved being with other Christians.
What is so bad about heaven?
We commonly see cartoons depicting holy types in white robes with halos, playing harps and sitting on clouds in heaven doing little and even complaining about their lot. And we laugh at these. It conveys to the popular culture distorted ideas about heaven. However, heaven is the deepest desire of the human heart and mind. Being in communion with the Creator, being at perfect peace, with joy abounding, and love supreme and everlasting, not to mention the complete absence of death, disease, sin, devil or demons, and much more than words can convey - this is real paradise.
Heaven is the fulfillment and realization of all that is possible. But this only for those who love their God and Savior. Otherwise, heaven would seem awful and fearful. To stand in guilt and shame forever before the One who righteously judges sin would be more than anyone could bear.
It is either fear or love
Following their law breaking Adam and Eve hid from God, which is only natural. We hide from God as well, because we are law-breakers and fear His presence. Somewhere hard-wired into us is a fear of judgment, a fear of standing naked before a holy and righteous Judge who knows everything about us. We stand condemned without defense. Though we might laugh at such a thought, it will not go away quietly. There is something awful about heaven and good about hell.
No one will love being in hell. There the power of evil is unrestrained, with no shield from the most horrible of abuses.
Christians love the name of Jesus; we love what He has done for us. We delight in singing His praises and expressing our love for our God and Savior - something we never tire of. And in heaven, in His presence forever, the forever will be one of unbounded and unrestrained love. What a difference!
1 Hell may have existed prior to the creation of the universe. This all depends on the initial rebellion of Lucifer. It is a controversial subject, some holding that the demonic rebellion occurred before the creation itself and some contending afterward. Which is which lies in the mystery of God, but that hell exists now and is eternal is a settled biblical doctrine.
2 My emphasis.
3 It is not certain, but mysterious, why such created beings will not be merely terminated. It is tempting to think they would be, just as it is tempting to think that those who reject Jesus Christ should die and that would be the end of it. Some do think that, but such a doctrine is not biblically viable.
4 The double negative is intentional.
5 See Matthew 8:12, 22:13, and 25:30.
6 See Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; and Luke 13:28.
7 When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God's presence, whereas before they were in communion with Him. See Genesis 3:1-13.