What, then, does the Bible mean when it speaks of hell? That is, what does God mean by hell? He means the punishments for sin in the life to come. He doesn’t mean the punishments for sin in this life, the miseries of suffering and death that we experience now because we’re sinners. No, He refers to the punishments for sin after we die, before we’re resurrected, and after we’re resurrected. If we know ourselves to be sinners, we must take seriously what God says about hell in the Bible. So, what does He say? Let’s summarize.
First, hell is a place more frightful than we can imagine. The Bible gives us many very graphic descriptions of hell. Each image, by itself, is terrifying enough, but the combination of images is even more horrifying than we can imagine. It’s a place of utter darkness (Jude 13), a place of outer darkness where weeping and gnashing of teeth are all that will be heard (Matt 8:12). It’s the lake that burns with fire and sulfur(Rev 21:8), a prison of eternal chains from which there is no hope of release (Jude 6), a fiery furnace of torment where the fire is not quenched, a place of misery where the worm does not die (Mark 9:28). The suffering in hell is beyond all comparison to the suffering experienced in this world. It’s a reality more frightful than any one of the Bible’s images for it. In other words, hell is worse than we can ever imagine.
Second, hell is a place where God is present. Yes, God is present in hell. We’re not to think of hell as a place from which God is absent. It’s not a place where sinners are forever separated from God. No, hell is a place where sinners are forever separated from God’s comforting presence. God is present in hell in His holy wrath and just punishment. The punishments of sin in the world to come will include everlasting separation from God’s comfort, but not from God’s wrath. The punishments there will be beyond the most grievous of suffering imaginable and will occur without interruption. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that hell is a place from which God is absent. God is now and will be present in hell in His holy wrath and just punishment, and, as a result, hell is a place more frightful than we can imagine. Read More»
Fowler White | “Taking Hell Seriously” | August 18, 2022
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The concept of hell is one of those subjects with widely varying interpretations and opinions all across Protestant Christianity. Most mainliners seem to lean toward a disbelief in hell, assuming that a “loving God” would never send anyone to such a place of eternal torture. Some well known moderates don’t like that idea, either, so they prefer the idea that unbelievers are simply annihilated. Then there are many evangelicals who understand the Biblical concept of hell, but seem to think of it as a place where the wicked and unbelievers simply exist in the absence of God, i.e., eking their way through eternity without God’s providence. Fowler covers all of these points well – God is indeed present in hell (after all, would have had to create it), presiding over the suffering and torture. But it’s difficult to convince many people of that.