Hell A Physical Place?|
Q. Do you really believe in a literal, physical Hell? Would a loving God send good or even bad people to such a horrid, awful place? (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
Thanks for your question because a lot of people share your concerns. Please note that we already posted a 15 page study about Hell on our website. Try clicking on Articles in the left-hand margin of our home page. You will find the article called "Hell Real?" under the category of Apologetics. Maybe that will answer your question in more depth.
My Selective, Wishful Thinking
Sometimes I wish we didn't ever have to talk about hell at all. It's much more rewarding to talk about the grand, literal nature of Heaven including a new universe, galaxies, and a magnificent space-city called the New Jerusalem.
But, just as the New Jerusalem is literal, so, too, we must conclude that God's Word is literal as it reveals information about a place called "hell." If we are going to believe in a literal, floating space-city coming down to rest upon a new earth then we must accept its antithesis - a place of the damned.
Israel literally fills World with Fruits&Flowers
I want you to think about the fact that the Bible's predictive prophecies have come true and are still coming true in very literal ways concerning other subjects.
For example, Isaiah 27:6 says that "In days to come Jacob (Israel) shall take root. Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit."
It took about 2500 years from the time Isaiah wrote this prophecy, but Israel today is the third largest exporter of fruits and flowers in the world! Who would have guessed that Isaiah's prophecy about Israel filling the world with fruits and flowers would literally come true?
Prophecy of Jerusalem's Destruction
Another example concerns Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. Over a million Christians believed what He had said and their lives were saved because they heeded His words. They got out once Jerusalem was surrounded by the Roman armies in 70 A.D. The people who stayed in Jerusalem were slaughtered.
He prophesied, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it" (Luke 21:20-21, ESV).
Israel a Nation Again after 2,000 Years
In another stunning example of fulfilled prophecy consider this: After 70 A.D. Israel was abandoned to weeds and desert areas. Centuries passed and many prophecy buffs gave up and decided that the predictions concerning a rebirth of Israel were just allegory. There were a few, however, who insisted that Israel would become a literal nation again.
But, in the 1930s John Walvoord insisted that Jews worldwide would return to their homeland and become a Jewish state once again. Jeremiah 16:14 and Ezekiel 36&37 are a few of the references he quoted.
Jeremiah declared…"but, 'As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.' For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers" (Jer. 16:14, NASB).
Ezekiel prophesied, "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land" (Ezekiel 36:24, NASB).
Of course, after the devastation of Hitler's Holocaust, Jews returned to their land and declared its statehood in 1948. These prophecies were literally fulfilled. John Walvoord and others like him were proved right.
There are hundreds of other prophecies like these. Some have already come true. Those that have occurred reveal that the Bible's prophecies are "literally" predictive. Extremely literal…
For reasons like these, I sadly believe that we must take the predictive prophecies concerning Hell in a literal way, too. In fact, Jesus Christ warned about hell more than he spoke of heaven.
Not Fully Understanding our Sin Nature
I don't think our problem is understanding that a loving God would send us to hell. I think our problem is understanding just how "bad" Homo sapiens really are. For example, how often have you heard unsaved relatives or friends say, "But I'm a good person. God won't send me to hell."
Good is Relative
What these relatives and friends overlook is that their definition of "good" is a relative term. They compare themselves with Hitler or other evil people and declare that they are "good" in comparison. Their measuring stick is other people.
But, are we really "good" people? Any of us?
Use your imagination and consider this: What would an alien from another galaxy think of humans?
He would observe murders, wars, rape, incest, stealing from neighbors, envy, greed, beheadings - everywhere he looked he would find hostile, warlike creatures and behaviors.
Even within "decent" families he might observe mothers who hate their children, fathers who abuse their spouse and children, emotional child abuse, elder abuse, sibling abuse, problems of alcoholism and drug addiction, hateful gossips, slanderers, haters of God, arrogance (see a list in Romans 1:29-31) - everywhere the alien looks he would see nothing but evil.
"No one is 'Good' - Not even One"
The alien would see that "There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good, there is not even one" (Romans 1:10, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3).
But, in a very literal sense, we HAVE received communication from an extraterrestrial source who tells us what we are really like. The extraterrestrial is God. The information was left for us in His Word, the Bible - written specifically for humanoids on planet earth.
Motives for Good Behavior
For those of us who "try" to do good things we must still battle our rotten psychological nature and make-up. For example, do we do good things from a purely loving, giving nature? Or, do we do good things because we want admiration and approval?
Do your unsaved relatives and friends think they are better than you? Does your faith cause them to resent you? Is their resentment of you logical or justified? (Consider how you feel about them, too).
Sick Motives&Sick Psychology
The prophet Jeremiah warns us, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick…" (Jer. 17:9, NASB).
A DNA Overhaul
After reading through enough Scriptures we begin to realize and understand that we have to continually "renew" our minds with the Bible (Romans 12:2). Left to our own devices we are an evil, sinful, hateful bunch of humanoids. There is nothing consistently good about any of us - not you - and not me. Every single one of us needs a DNA overhaul because Sin is in our genetic make-up. We are S-I-N positive!
Everlasting Life or Everlasting Contempt?
In that context, Daniel 12:2 tells us that at some point during the End-times "many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt." The parallel is unavoidable. The key word is "eternal." Both ways. Eternal life or eternal contempt. No compromises.
A Heavenly Blood Transfusion
Those of us who received our "righteousness" through belief in Yeshua's sacrificial death for our sins, will awaken to eternal life. Those who rejected His spiritual "blood transfusion" will suffer eternal contempt.
Heaven requires S-I-N Positive Illness Cured
Put another way, nothing we do is "good" and can merit eternal life. What would our universe look like if our quarantined planet allowed its evil sin-infested creatures to contaminate other galaxies? We would murder, destroy, and spread our evil everywhere! So we cannot enter Heaven until our S-I-N positive illness is cured.
Our "goodness" is only based upon Christ's atonement for our sins. You can't be righteous before God on your own, and neither can I. Yeshua made this crystal clear when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
Physical Description of Hell
Finally, what does Hell look like?
There is wailing and crying (Matthew 13:42).
There are ongoing flames and a "furnace" of fire (Luke 16:24, Matthew 25:46, Matt. 13:42).
Those in hell are separated from those in heaven (Matthew 25:46).
The damned will observe those in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:28). "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out" (Luke 13:28). (This may be the worst form of psychological torment. Furthermore, is hell in some sort of parallel universe)?
The eternal destruction takes place away from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Hell is a place of torment (Luke 16:23).
It is everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46).
It is like a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20).
In other words, hell is not a place you and I want to visit. Remember, it is a place that Jesus spoke about more often than heaven. So, if He is truly the Lord of our universe, perhaps we should heed his warnings.
Missler, Chuck. 2003. Heaven&hell: What happens when you die? (tape-set). Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House. Available from: www.khouse.org.
Morgan, Christopher and Robert Peterson. 2004. Hell under fire. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Walvoord, John with Mark Hitchcock. 2007. Armageddon, oil and terror: What the Bible says about the future of America, the Middle East, and the end of western civilization. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.