There’s been an idea on my heart for a little while. It ain’t an easy one though.
I feel, like I need to share a few thoughts on a particular place called hell.
We don’t really talk about hell these days. I guess it’s not a very popular topic. If we do bring it up, its normally just as part of a joke because no one can really handle the thought of it’s reality.
I think a lot of people, even Christians, deny it is actually a thing. We like to believe in a God that loves us and wants good for us and will send us all to heaven.
Unfortunately our own wishes don’t necessarily coincide with what is actually true. The Bible makes it pretty clear in multiple places that there is indeed such a thing as hell. And yes, people will be sent there.
There are a number of issues people have with hell and in particular, the one that probably stands out the most is why would a good God send his creations to a place of eternal suffering?
This is even an idea I have struggled with myself, especially when so many of my non-christian friends are such good people. Surely they don’t deserve that.
However, we have to remember, as much as God is love, God is also just. He is, himself, perfection and that’s a standard that not a single human being (apart from Jesus of course) can live up to. No-one can live a morally perfect life. Some are pretty good, but God is pure holiness and cannot tolerate any deviation from that. To do so would be against his character, the very fabric of who he is. If God is indeed who he says he is, completely pure and completely righteous, he cannot allow even the slightest rebellion. To do so would be unjust. God cannot and will not compromise.
This can be hard for us to get our heads around. Particularly because it also infers that every single one of us are destined for hell because we can’t live to a perfect moral standard. That’s not a comforting (or popular) thought.
The next question I suppose would be, what is hell then? We seem to all be destined for this place of ‘eternal punishment’ but most of the ideas of hell we have are from movies, games, books, you name it. I think when most of us think of hell we think of devils with pitchforks, flames and maybe even pizza.
The Bible definitely refers to hell as a “lake of fire” but whether that is literal or figurative no-one could really know. One thing is for sure, the devil doesn’t rule hell. There’s this kinda funny idea floating around that the devil and God are opposite equals and at the end of the world or whenever it is, they’ll retire back into their respective corners and be rulers there. This is not true. It’s made pretty clear that once this world ends, so does the reign of the devil and he’s going to be given a solid hiding from God. He won’t be ruling anything.
So far, we have clarified that there is indeed a hell and it might or might not have fire. We don’t know much else yet. The funny thing is, I think that’s kinda the thing about hell though. The whole deal with hell is less about what hell actually is and so much more about what it’s not.
You see, we were formed by a creative God with the intention of being in relationship with him. In him we find our identity. In him we find our purpose. When we live walking in step with him as Adam and Eve did in the early days in the Garden, just abiding in him, we are truly living. We are made with a God-shaped hole in our hearts.
Because we have been separated from him by our selfishness, our pride, our wrong choices, the sinfulness that has passed down through the generations of our fallen world since Adam and Eve, that hole hasn’t been filled. We are all looking for someone or something to worship, to adore and to love with all of our heart.
If we were in perfect unity with God, we would be complete. We would be satisfied. I can’t even describe what it would be like because my sin-tainted mind can’t even comprehend it.
However, it’s pretty clear that we’re not. We’re hollow and we run to all sorts of things in an attempt to fill us up. Some of us chase experiences. Some of us chase relationships. Some run after material possessions, approval from others, recognition, success, comfort, happiness, relaxation… the list could go for days. These can be outworked through things that seem harmless, sports, shopping, social activities and the like through to more dangerous habits like porn, alcohol, drugs and many other things.
Whatever it is that you are chasing. It will NOT satisfy you. It may give you pleasure, it may give you happiness. But you have a God-shaped hole inside you that these things just cannot fill.
Hell is described in the Bible as separation from God for eternity.
So rather than saying “hell is fire, hell is torment…etc” I think what I want to say is that hell is all your longings, wishes and desires, never being fulfilled.
Hell is constant craving and never receiving. Hell is eternal dissatisfaction. Hell is never being made complete.
Hell is your heart’s God-shaped hole, remaining just a God-shaped hole.
And this is our destiny.
Until we consider Jesus.
Because He came so that we could have a way back to God. He said that whoever believes in him can live for eternity.
I choose to accept that Jesus Christ who was God in human form, died on a bloodied Roman crucifix some two thousand years ago. I choose to accept that he spoke the truth when he claimed to be able to forgive sins. I choose to believe that he rose again from the grave and defeated death once and for all.
Because of Jesus I can come back to God and have my heart filled up. I’m a bit leaky you see, my choices aren’t always good and my selfishness and pride still battle inside me. But now I can come to God again and again trusting that Jesus destroyed the power of sin’s curse and have the hole in my heart topped up.
Now everything else I pursue gives me so much joy, not because it satisfies me, I know it won’t, but because my identity and purpose are defined by the creator of the universe itself and I recognise that these things fit in around that. I can do the things I enjoy without needing them to define me.
The thing is, I don’t believe in focusing too much on hell. Not because it’s an uncomfortable topic but because it is really the eternal absence of a relationship with God. What’s the point on focusing on the lack of a good thing? Why not focus on the good thing itself?
Jesus wants relationship with you. He wants to fill up that deep hole in your heart. Sometimes it’s so deep down it’s something you actually haven’t recognised. Your deepest longings aren’t something you’ve taken into much consideration. I urge you to stop and be still. To consider what true satisfaction, true love, true, deep, purpose for your very being looks like.
I hate the thought of any of my friends leaving this world without discovering their value, purpose and eternal hope.
Jesus always has his arms open.
Find yourself there.