Unlike those in days past, I think it is hard for us moderns and postmoderns to comprehend the reality of hell. Some of that, I think, stems from wrong or distorted images we’ve come to associate with hell. Demons in red tights with pitchforks are hard to take seriously. The scriptural images of hell, however, are horrible. The word Jesus used for hell was Gehenna, the valley outside of Jerusalem used for the perpetual burning of garbage. Like smoldering ashes, hell constitutes an eternal dying that severs all ties with life.
- Hell is separation from God and so from the source of everything that comes from him….love, joy, peace, kindness, wisdom, mercy, goodness.
- Hell is separation from people. Because of the absence of love, all that remains is hatred, anger, vileness. Mark Twain’s quip that he would take “heaven for climate but hell for sociability” is sadly mistaken. There will be no “camaraderie” in hell.
- Hell is separation from ourselves. Remember the demon-possessed man who said his name was Legion? His name means many. Even the integration of self is dissolved in hell.
If we are to avoid such dire consequences, it is vital to see that hell begins now. Whenever we make a decision to sin, we are choosing hell over heaven in a very real sense because hell is sin coming to full fruition. C.S.Lewis says that in each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be hell unless it is nipped in the bud. While that something remains, there can be no heaven. Or as George McDonald put it, “Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.”
Let’s deal drastically with sin today. No one put it in stronger words than Jesus.