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Something to Avoid

Many things we don’t know about hell. But Jesus and the new Testament writers used every image in their power to tell us that hell is real, it’s terrible, it’s something to be feared, and something to avoid. In his description of the last judgment, Jesus taught that some would go to eternal punishment, some to eternal life (Matt. 25:46). In other words, hell will be as real and as lasting as heaven.

The horror of hell is not physical pain. After all, the Bible tells us hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), and they’re not physical beings. Rather the fire and outer darkness and the thirst depict spiritual separation from God, moral remorse, the consciousness that one deserves what he’s getting.

Hell is disintegration—the eternal loss of being a real person. In hell the mathematician who lived for his science can’t add two and two. The concert pianist who worshiped himself through his art can’t play a simple scale. The man who lived for sex goes on in eternal lust, with no body to exploit. The woman who made a god out of fashion has a thousand dresses but no mirror! Hell is eternal desire—eternally unfulfilled.

But there’s another side. G. K. Chesterton once remarked, “Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human personality.” Hell, a compliment? Yes, because God is saying to us, “You are significant. I take you seriously. Choose to reject me—choose hell if you will. I will let you go.”

Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1977, p. 34.