Why hell will be hellish

Will there be love in hell? I tend to think not. If hell is eternal separation from God, and God is love, then it seems to follow that hell is a place without love. Which is why it will be hell.

The concept of hell is a stumbling block for many, for at least two reasons. 1) It’s described in the Bible as a “lake of fire” that does not burn up and destroy those thrown into it, which while not strictly illogical…we know of some things that fire does not consume…still seems nonsensical because fire does destroy human flesh. And 2) If God is the paradigm of love and knows all things, why would he create beings he knew would spend eternity in torment?

Regarding the first reason: the Bible contains a lot of imagery…descriptions that are not meant to be taken literally but instead to convey a truth using a word picture evocative of some aspect of that truth. I believe this is the case with the “lake of fire” as it evokes pain and torment which will be hallmarks of hell, though not in the form of continuous combustion. Instead, hell will be hellish because of factors other than literal fire but conceivably as bad or worse than the physical pain we can imagine being engulfed in fire would be.

It seems clear in Scripture that whatever and wherever hell is, God is not active there. His omnipresence and omniscience necessitate that he be aware of everything that goes on there, but he has deemed it a place void of his actual presence and influence.

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:23

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. – Matthew 25:41

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, – 1 Thessalonians 1:9

Without the direct activity of God extending mercy…providing help, encouragement, comfort, etc…the souls in hell left to themselves will be imprisoned by their sin and will suffer its effects unremitted for all eternity. The most evil among us might think that a place where evil reigns unrestrained by goodness would be heaven to them but that’s because they don’t understand the providence of God who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” They’ve never experienced an existence void of any goodness at all, which surely is what hell will be. Those who are separated from God are cut off from the source of all goodness, love, kindness, patience, comfort, joy, and peace. So all those blessings they’ve known to some degree in this life they will be deprived of completely and forever in the next.

I think we’re getting a glimpse of hell in our day as more and more people effectively separate themselves from God in disbelief. As I referenced in this recent post, suicide has increased dramatically in the last few decades, often precipitated by extreme depression and hopelessness which are natural and logical responses to a Godless universe. Have you ever been severely depressed? If you have, you know better than most the unimaginable torment that a continual, unrelenting, unending experience of deep depression would be. It would be hell. In the Godless world that is hell, people will long for death to put an end to their misery, but that will no longer be an option for them.

As for my second reason why some find the concept of hell difficult to accept, that’s a subject for another post, but I’ve touched on it in a number of posts such as here, here, and here.

There are good reasons to believe that hell is a future reality awaiting occupation by those who reject God’s offer of salvation from it, primarily because Jesus had a lot to say about hell and we have good reasons to believe that the Gospels are reliable records of his words and deeds. Those who skeptically reject the notion would be wise to weigh the risk of not seriously investigating the possibility that an eternal existence of utter and complete despair and unimaginable torment is awaiting them.