God, what is Hell?

God, what is Hell?


Additional resource “What’s down with Hell” video with James MacDonald.

Many who accept the concept, even the fact, of Heaven do not accept that there is a Hell. But the Bible clearly teaches the existence of both, and from the New Testament we know that Jesus Himself said more about Hell than He did about Heaven.

We don’t want to believe in Hell because we think that a loving God would never send people to such a place. But we need to understand the holy nature of God, which demands a just punishment for the sinful nature and evil actions of men and women. Yes, He is a God of Love, but He is also Light, i.e., righteous and just, and He is angry with sinners every day.

Scripture tells us that whenever God allowed even a faint glimpse of His glory, men fell at His feet as though dead. God told Moses, “No man can see me and live.” Even sinless angels veil their faces before Him. God is Consuming a Fire and no man in his sinful state can come into God’s blazingly awesome presence. This is why the Lord Jesus, as an innocent man, endured the wrath of God in the place of and on behalf of sinners. His cry on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” speaks to us of the desolation in store for the lost sinner.

God’s justice cannot ignore sin. Sinners are to repent and put their faith in the only one who can save them. The alternative is terrible. Hell is a place prepared for Satan and his fallen angels, and for those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the poet Dante called Hell “a painful refuge” from the presence of this holy God whom we cannot appear before in our sin.

We have all heard of the “flames of Hell.” There is intense symbolism in the descriptions of Hell in the Bible, and one is of eternal fire. We shall not have physical, material bodies after death, and flames could not affect souls, but the description is intended to arouse in us a godly fear that will lead to the radical change of mind and direction which the Bible calls repentance.

The Bible also describes Hell as a place of eternal separation from everything that is good. Those who reject Jesus’ offer of salvation often say, glibly, that if they go to Hell at least they will have friends there. But there are no friendships, no relationships, in Hell, only an eternity of isolation and torment, absolutely without hope. Hell is the embodiment of God’s wrath, reserved for those who refuse the call of His free grace: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

If you were raised in the Anglican or Catholic church you may have learned to recite the Apostle’s Creed, in which (in the original) you will find the line “He [Jesus] was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into Hell…[1] That Jesus ‘descended into Hell’ is critically disputed and has been changed to ‘he descended to the dead’ in the modern version of the Creed. This disputed wording gives us good reason to look at what the Bible additionally says and provide another perspective on Hell.

We have read above that God is perfectly holy and cannot allow any sin to come into his presence. To allow such would mar his holiness. While Jesus was on the cross, God poured out on Him all his wrath [righteous anger and punishment] for every sin that mankind has ever committed or will ever commit. Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, and the Bible records:

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour [noon to 3:00pm] darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The darkness described is not just the passing of dark clouds but total nighttime blackness – in the middle of the day. For three hours Jesus endured total separation from God the Father – in other words, Hell. The righteous judgment and consequence of sin.

This total separation from God is the kind of Hell Jesus describes in such graphic detail and earnestly tries to to lead us away from. It cost Him his life! We read that at some point in the future everyone whoever lived, all the dead, great and small, will come before the throne of God for judgment. At that point everyone will see the awesome splendor of God; but for those who did not accept God’s offer of grace, a complete and total pardon offered through the person of Jesus Christ, it will be too late.

This is the torment those who reject God will face: separation from God for all eternity, all the while being aware of what they could have received, that is, eternity in Heaven in the very presence of Almighty God. This is why Jesus describes Hell so graphically ‘…darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Weeping over what could have been and gnashing of of teeth at the anguish of their condition. Have you made a choice yet? Tomorrow it may not be possible.

[1] For those who die ‘in Christ’ there is no purgatory, there is no time spent in Hell. Jesus did physically die and his body was physically buried in a tomb but Jesus ‘gave up his spirit’. As we read in the narrative of the penitent thief who was crucified beside Jesus, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”


5 comments have been left.

  • Calladus left comment on March 21, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    “…compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

    Tell that to the Midianites. Tell that to the 32,000 virgin daughters of Midian who were shared out as plunder to the soldiers.

    BSBS Comment:
    Scripture must always be read in context. You forgot the remainder of God’s words that He was speaking to Moses, “…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:57

    God knew the evil of the Mideanites and “did not leave them unpunished.” Also God imposed rigid rules on how captives were to be treated – God’s ultimate objective is always that people should seek Him and reach out to Him. Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” I am a wittness to this FACT.

  • max radico left comment on April 13, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Jesus was quoting psalm 19 when he asked father why, wilst upon the cross.

    BSBS Response:
    It was actually Psalm 22:1

  • Joe Bigliogo left comment on April 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Any “god” who could condemn nonbelievers to be tortured for eternity is evil beyond imagination. I could only manage profound hate for such a monster. Anyone who would worship this god of torture is a sick and twisted psychopath. Christianity along with Islam are by far the most sinister and evil belief systems ever conceived. These cults need to be destroyed and permanently wiped from the face of the Earth for the sake of humanity. That is my fondest wish—to rid mankind of Christianity and other fraudulent religions.

    BSBS Comment: Joe, you are obviously not referring to the God of the Bible who describes Himself thus, “…the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:6 In the New Testament we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17. This is the God whom we serve, love and worship.

  • Garnet Wolf left comment on May 5, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I doubt this is getting published. However, if God is omniscient then he must know before hand who will and will not go to Hell. Therefore, he created beings he knew would be damned to eternal torture. Why didn’t he leave things alone if he knew that the end result would be the eternal torment of billions of souls? If he’s omnipotent, he should have been able to create a world where that outcome would never happen, but he didn’t.

    BSBS Comment: Bus Stop Bible Studies does moderate and occasionally edit comments but will post any valid comment or question providing it is not blasphemous, derogatory, disparaging, etc. That we may not be able to provide an adequate or meaningful answer should not disqualify ‘tough questions’ from being asked.

    It is commonly understood from Scripture that God is omniscient and that He does indeed know the beginning from the end. The subject of predestination has kept learned theologians busy for centuries. The subject is also referred to on the page How free is my will? We can only guide you to Scripture and let God speak for Himself:

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

    “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10

    “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

    God has given us freedom of choice. Ultimately one has to ask the question, “If God does exist, what is going to be my response to Him?” One’s response to this question, as you correctly note, does have eternal consequences and so it should be worth investing some time to consider.

  • Robel, Matthews left comment on April 4, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    God bless you abundantly, I saw this website addresss on a street car and I am so blessed by the message. I pray everyone will read this and get saved from the enternal condemnation and may the gospel of Jesus Christ be preached in this modern way. Again God bless you for your service to the lord of lords.

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