Trinity Lutheran Church McAlester

Is there a hell? What’s it like?


Origins of hell

Revelation 12:7ff describes the ancient war in heaven, in which Michael and his angels fought the dragon and his angels. Defeated, the ancient serpent and his angels were cast out of heaven and thrown down to earth, where they will be tormenting humans until the final judgment to hell. No longer sinless, the evil angels and their leader had to be separated from God’s presence. Something of a parallel, the humans God created and placed in the Garden of Eden were perfect and knew no evil until they ate the forbidden fruit. After that, they knew evil and sin, and they were destined for death. God banned them from the garden lest they eat of the “tree of life” and live forever in that state of separation from God – akin to eternal death (hell). He protected them from that fate to afford them the better future of heaven and being with him forever.

We expect that hell came to be either as a result of the war in Heaven or when humankind received it’s curse for sinning. Before that time, all creation was peaceful and united with God in holiness and perfection.

Names for hell

Other names for hell include sheol, hades gehenna, abyssos and the lake of fire. Hades is the place mentioned for where Capernaum will go for not accepting Jesus as the Christ. It is also where the rich man went after he died as a place of anguishing torment and flame. That story by Jesus (Luke 16) is seen as a parable. It also describes a “great impassable chasm” that exists between Lazarus and his paradise place with God and the “rich Man’ in the torment place. It is most often used as the name for where those destined for hell go when they die to await the second judgment and their final place, the lake of fire – eternal hell.

Hell described

Following the description from Lazarus and the rich man story, we realize that hell is total separation from God. We get that same picture from Jesus suffering on the cross and his enduring hell as he says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus suffered hell as total separation from the Father. Also, similar to Satan and evil angels separated from God in heaven.

When you take to heart the worldview that “all good things come down from above.” And then consider that the world is only evil, broken, and belongs to the devil, the picture of separation from God is a scary, tormenting place of suffering with God not there holding off evil. That world matches the Bible’s descriptive words like: burning sulfur smell, lake of fire, pain, thirst, screaming, crying. These are all the things that God wants to keep anyone from experiencing endlessly in the afterlife.

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