How Hot is Hell?
I've been thinking about hell. The fire department burned down an abandoned house on our property last week. It was fun to watch. They used it for training; they lit a fire in one corner and a group of volunteers marched into the darkness of the smoke with the hose and masks and heavy oxygen tanks. Then they started another fire in another corner, and another group of volunteers put out that fire. It gave me a good sense of appreciation for what firemen do. This went on for 7 hours. While the fire was fun to watch, it was the coals that blasted the heat. The longer it burned, the further I had to retreat. I've never experienced that amount of heat, and that made me think of hell.
Heaven is like hell in one sense: it cannot be adequately described (2 Cor 12:4), which is why Jesus used so many different metaphors for both places.
- Fire (Matt 5:22)
- Darkness (Matt 8:12)
- Wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:12)
- Destruction (Matt 10:28)
And worst of all, apart from the presence of Christ (Matt 7:23).
As I stood watching the fire burn and felt the heat of the coals increase, I had to ask myself if I really believe in hell. Do you really believe in hell? If we do, it will deeply affect how we live our lives. Hell is the only non-remedial punishment taught in Scripture, inescapable pain without the hope of repentance. Have each of us grappled with that fact? It is, after all, one of the most clearly taught doctrines in Scripture.
My mother was always quite direct. I remember her asking a friend who was also a well-known biblical scholar if he believed in hell. He replied that he most certainly did. Mom responded that she didn't think he did. When the man looked at her with a puzzled expression she responded, "If you really believed in hell, I don't think that you would have bought that new car." Like I say, mom was direct.
But do we really believe in hell? As I stood as close as I could to the heat, I tried to imagine what it would be like for some of my friends who are headed there, apart from the future work of God in their lives, and one who has already gone on ahead. It is one thing to discuss the topic academically; it is another to put the face of a good friend in the midst of the flames.
I'm not saying that we can't buy a nice car, but I am wondering out loud how much I really do believe in hell.