I recall a pastor once saying “Think twice before you tell someone to ‘go to hell,’ because you need to understand the significance of that.”
That’s good advice, as often we take hell lightly, or jokingly.
I once told a co-worker “If you go to hell, there will be a ringing telephone and you won’t be able to answer it.”
I’ve also described my version of hell as round-the-clock polka music with disco on Thursdays; plus tuna and sauerkraut served at every meal.
Those are embarrassingly shallow comments in contrast to what hell really is.
First, let’s consider what happens after one’s death.
One school of thought is that existence simply ends. If that’s the case, we might as well be as selfish and greedy as possible now, because, hey, we can’t take it with us anyway. For those, it will be a rude awakening.
The other option is that life continues in another form.
With that comes the fantasy of reincarnation, where we get to live again as an animal, or perhaps another take another try at life as a different person. It’s the ultimate recycling. But that’s just fictional material for movies.
The actual possibilities are heaven and hell. The Creator of the universe told us so.
The frequency of the word “hell” in the Bible depends on translations, but there are several dozen references to hell. Jesus himself talks about hell often.
Bill Wiese is a former California real estate agent who one night had an out-of-body vision of being in hell. He wrote the book “23 Minutes in Hell,” and later followed up with “Hell,” a detailed study of what scripture says and what we could expect hell to be like.
Wiese gives some simple explanations to make hell quite understandable, such as:
Suppose you went to the most expensive, fanciest house in the country, knocked on the door, and announced to the owner that you are moving in today. Do you think you’d be cheerfully welcomed? Why not?
Because he doesn’t know you. So why would someone expect to go to heaven without a prior relationship?
Wiese answers the question “Why would God create a place like hell?”
God is love. An important attribute of love is free will love cannot be forced or required; it must be a choice. Everything good is associated with God, and God cannot be part of anything bad. So the other choice is the place of torment, fear, pain, stench everything bad and evil.
“Why would a loving God send people to hell?”
God doesn’t “send” people to hell. It is their choice in free will.
Jesus took on the punishment for all sins in the world, including ours, to make us blameless. If we accept that gift (a prior relationship), we are welcomed into heaven when the time comes.
If we choose to blow it off or outright reject it, then . . .