Hell is a sticking point for so many people. And why not? It IS distressing and it IS difficult. I never know quite how to respond when someone raises the issue. “How could a loving creator allow his children to suffer eternally?” And actually, not all Christians understand hell that way, but that is beside the point for this post. I can’t give you a neat, it-all-makes-sense-now explanation for hell; but as inconclusive as my current stance is, it has brought me a certain measure of peace (anyway, as much peace as one can feel when the issue at hand is hellfire ;)) that I hope will encourage someone else.
I don’t know what hell looks like. I do believe it is real. I believe it is separation from God, which we can freely choose. I believe that it is terrible. Some theologians and Christians might argue even those points and biblical references to hell are difficult to understand. Scripture has inspired many well-researched theories about the nature of hell and there are so many cultural and historical factors that color our perception. Just one example might be the compelling translation studies about our present understanding of the word “eternal” versus the way it was used in the Bible.
I think the hardest thing for me about these kinds of theories is separating what I WANT to be true from what IS true. Objectivity is never easy in spiritual matters, but it is especially difficult for this overly emotional bleeding heart. :). Bottom line, I think there are things we can know about hell (and to study it is fascinating), but there are things we are simply not given.
I have lots of questions and will continue to study the issue, because I’ve found that prayerful persistence can bring clarity. That being said, I’ve felt less confusion and doubt about hell lately. Because God’s goodness has been made so very apparent to me in other areas of my life, I’m able to have some trust. I know not everyone is in that place; however, if you are someone who is seeking God and feeling a pull in his direction but the hell issue trips you up – maybe set it aside for a while. I’m not saying you shouldn’t wrestle with it and even come to some conclusions about it, but see if you can trust Christ with the small stuff first and you might find yourself more able to trust him with the rest.
Ecclesiastes 12:7: “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”