If you’ve ever seen the list of church bulletin bloopers, you know about the one that says “Our pastor will be preaching tonight on ‘What is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice!”
Don’t you feel sorry for that church choir? (Then again, if it’s true, you might want to feel sorry for the listeners!)
Tonight though, I would like to address that. Some of you might be disappointed to hear that I don’t hold to a literal interpretation of Hell. If you think of Hell as a literal raging inferno where people will be continuously burned and eaten by worms, then I’m going to disappoint you. I think Billy Graham had a great insight on this though when he said “If Hell isn’t a raging inferno, it’s worse.”
I think if we have a fiery furnace view of Hell, we, in fact, miss the real pain of Hell. The real joy of Heaven is everlasting joy in the manifest presence of God. If that is the case though, then it would seem that the suffering of Hell would be the opposite. It would be having to receive the everlasting wrath in the presence of God.
Now my view on Hell is a bit unique and I get it from thinking a lot about Lewis’s idea in “The Great Divorce.” There have been theories on maybe Hell being an alternate dimension of reality of some sort. Now that could be the case. I’m one who is willing to change my view if I think the evidence is strong enough to change it. Perchance someone who is more skilled in the astronomical aspect could answer any questions I might have.
My idea is that it could be that those in Hell are in the re-created cosmos as well, but it is not the reality that is different but their interpretation of it. They are surrounded by the manifest presence of God forever and while we experience that as the love of God, for the unbeliever, it is instead experience as the wrath of God.
The unbeliever is one who has lived their life avoiding God and not wanting to have anything to do with him. God though is love, goodness, beauty, truth, etc. The Psalmist said there was no way to escape from God and even if unbelievers are in another dimension or unaccessible area of the cosmos in some way, they would still have the presence of God around them.
The love of God to one who wanted nothing to do with it would be experienced as wrath. Now I do believe there are still degrees of suffering. One who hardened his heart more will be more hardened in the afterdeath. They will experience the love of God as more wrathful than one who did not harden themselves so much.
Also, as I believe God values the choices of people and does not snuff them out as that would be treating their good above his good, then he lets those people live. It does not mean he likes it, but he lets it happen and seeing as they still reflect his nature insofar as they have being, then there is still some good and God loves that good.
Again, if I am wrong on this, I am wrong. It’s something I’m willing to accept. I leave this view for your consideration.