By Rev. Ray Atwood, Prince of Peace Cluster
“Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41).
When I think of Hell, I think of a fiery furnace, smoking lava pits, and red demons with pitchforks screeching and howling as they run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Hell is a dark and scary place.
The modern person does not like to hear about the subject of Hell for one simple reason, namely, that the modern person denies sin. If you deny human guilt, then you must deny the right of a state to judge a criminal, or to sentence him to prison. Once you deny the sovereignty of God, you must deny Hell. The existence of Hell is God’s eternal guarantee of human freedom.
The punishments of Hell are twofold: first there is the pain of sense, which is spiritual suffering for our sins. If you disobey nature’s laws, you suffer a corresponding punishment. For example, if you abuse alcohol, you end up with a headache called a “hangover.” Nature rebels against abuse. So too, the fiercer the grip that sinful pleasures have on a soul in this life, the more fiercely will the fires of torment are in eternity.
The other punishment is called the pain of loss. This is the loss of Divine Love. We are separated from the One who created and loved us. Hell has indeed been called “the hatred of the things you love.” Like a sailor who drinks salty ocean water when he becomes lost at sea (hating the water as poison but mad with thirst for it), so too, the soul hates God whom it is meant to love above all things. Hell is eternal self-hatred. When you do evil and never repent before you die, you will end up becoming something God never meant you to be, namely, his enemy. You will live forever in the state of rebellion against God.
Hell is a difficult topic, but a reality for humans, who are made to love and serve God. Someone once said: “Hell is at the foot of the hill of Calvary, and no one of us can go down to hell without first passing over the hill where there is a God-man enthroned with arms outstretched to embrace, head bent to kiss, and heart open to love.” Hell is prepared by us in this life, when we refuse to respond to the Lord’s love and reject the love shown on the cross.
May we dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell and repent of sin.