Summary: Questions: 1. What is hell like? 2. Is hell forever? 3. How can a good God send people to hell?
It is captivating to watch the movie industry and their fascination with spiritual issues — twisted as they may be at times. There are any number of films dealing with angels, the spiritual world, and even heaven and hell. One of the most graphic of these was the film Ghost starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. They play the characters of Sam and Molly, an upscale Manhattan yuppie couple who have moved into their first apartment. They have it all. But as they return home one night, Sam is mugged and killed in what, at first, appears to be a robbery attempt. The intense chemistry between Sam and Molly makes his death feel profoundly tragic. But Sam’s “ghost” rises from his body and justice must be done before he is allowed to leave this world for his appointed place in the afterlife. In some of the most graphic scenes I have ever seen, Sam’s murderers individually meet their demise in the movie, and at the time of their death, shadowy demons appear from the underworld and commence to drag their screaming victims into hell to meet their doom.
While the secular world seems more and more interested in the spirit world and the afterlife, the church is often astonishingly silent. We talk about morals, and even how to succeed in this life, but we say very little about heaven, and almost nothing about hell. We are supposed to be people of another kingdom and rooted in eternity, but we spend too little time thinking about any world other than the one in which we now live. At the same time, people outside the church are concerned with what eternity will be like. They want to know about heaven, and they want to know about hell. For many, the very idea of hell seems mysterious, but incongruous with the concept of a loving and merciful God. Some even walk away from the Christian faith because they don’t like the idea of a God who would send someone to hell. Bertrand Russell, the atheist, was fond of saying, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.” He is not alone in his objections.
I would like to address these issues today, and try to answer some of the main questions that people have about hell and God’s justice. There are many questions people have, but one of the most central questions is: What is hell like? To put it in simplest terms, hell is separation from God. It means that for all eternity we will live apart from God and all that is good. Those in hell will be banished from the presence of the most wonderful and loving being in all the universe. They will also be excluded from everything of value and beauty, and everything that ultimately matters. They will live in a crush of people, but be terribly alone. They will be plagued by desire and know nothing of fulfillment. Hell is living forever in the presence of shame, regret, anguish and conscious failure. Never again will a person experience a meaningful relationship or know anything of love.