Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is Hell, Exactly?

Hell is not a topic most people like to talk about. It is not even a topic most churches talk about? Why is this? I believe it is because the idea of hell is appalling to most people. The idea of hell is that it is a terrible place of intense heat and pain and torture. Why would a place like that exist? How could God allow something so terrible?

According to Jesus, Hell does exist. I'm not sure EXACTLY what hell is, but I do have a relative idea based on the teachings of Jesus. In the gospel of Luke, chapter 16, Jesus tells the story of a beggar named Lazarus who begged at the gate of a rich man named Abraham. Lazarus had faith, but Abraham did not. They both died. Lazarus went to heaven and Abraham went to hell (or hades). Then Jesus says this in verses 23-24, "In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham (the Father of all Nations who is in Heaven) far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'"
Apparently, there is torment and great need in hell (he was needing even a drop of water). He goes on to ask God to send someone to his brothers to tell them that hell is real so that they will believe in Jesus and be saved.
So let's look briefly at these issues:
Why does hell exist? Hell exists because Satan exists. Ever since Satan (who was once an angel of light) got himself thrown out of heaven by trying to overthrow heaven, he has been bent on trying to steal people from God. As 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Satan wants to devour you by taking you away from God, and all the blessings God wants to bring into your life. Hell has been established for Satan and all of his followers.
Why is there torment? There is torment because the truth is, hell is devoid of all love. If God is love, and only because of God love exists in the world, then once you are out of the presence of God, you will be out of the presence of love. Imagine for a moment having "NO" love, or peace, or goodness in your life. That would truly be a world of torment. Hell at its worst is the fact that you will be forever out of the presence of God!
Why is Abraham (the one in hell) in such great need? People search for meaning and purpose in so many things: money, fame, success, possessions.... Yet, none of these things will ever satisfy. Without Jesus as our Savior, we will always find ourselves in need, because our spirit will never be at peace. In hell, you will forever be without peace; you will forever be in need.
So, don't think that hell is a great place to party with all of your non-Christian friends. Don't sing "I'm on a highway to hell" as a trumpet call. Give yourself to Jesus, and receive the wonderful gift of love, salvation, and forgiveness. Blessings.