There has been a lot of discussion in social media about hell recently. I admit, don’t like to meditate on the reality of death and dying much. However, the reality of our own mortality cannot be avoided and should not be avoided for it provides context to our short lives. It encourages us to prioritize, to be selective with our time, our resources, adding value to every moment because of it’s brevity. Death is the dark border surrounding our life like a frame placed around our image in a portrait. It shows completion. Nothing can be added, nothing can be taken away once that final frame is placed around us. Our entire vapor of a life is a captured moment in eternities gallery.
Hell is even more unpleasant of a reality to meditate on then death. If meditating on death and dying is morbid, then meditating on the reality of hell is extremely socially unacceptable in our culture. It is a concept that in the majority’s view is to be put out of our mind altogether and blocked from ever returning. It is disturbing and insensitive to even mention. However, there are spiritual benefits to meditating on the reality of hell for those who are willing and brave.
First, the acceptance of the reality of hell reveals our level of trust and submission to God’s truths. We are tempted to pick and choose the doctrines of Christianity we like best, those that benefit us now, those which make sense to us and are found to be agreeable in our eyes and culture.
However, there are some doctrines taught in the bible that completely go against our nature and challenge us to trust God anyway. Hell is only one of those doctrines. The existence of hell is a reality to be reckoned with as much as the hope of the glories of heaven. Jesus clearly taught the reality of both. If we truly believe the teachings of the Jesus, then we cannot be selective in what we believe. God calls us to submit to this truth as much as any other. Not all God’s ways and truths are easy for us to understand or embrace. They challenge us. They humble us to bow before them and to trust him.
Hell is a truth I submit to but I cannot in good conscience embrace nor do I want to. There is no comfort in the reality of hell now or in eternity. Just think: if the dark shadow of hell is unsettling now to us so that we would attempt to avoid it even with our thoughts; can you imagine how miserable the reality of hell will be that will not let us escape? No, genuine Christian finds comfort in the reality of hell or the thought of anyone suffering in it. God himself finds no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. The truth of hell is repulsive but that does not alter it from being true regardless of how it appeals to us or makes sense to us. I don’t believe in hell because it makes sense, or because I particularly like it or understand it. I believe in hell simply because God teaches it and warns us of it and I trust God and believe his word to be true even if I wish it weren’t.
Second, meditating on the reality of hell stirs us to take sin and it’s consequences seriously. The bible promises that sin will not go unpunished. Death itself is a consequence and result of sin. Christ died for our sins, yes? Yes, but Christ did not die to enable us to sin boldly without fear of consequences which is an abuse of grace and to be punished even more severely. (Romans 2:4-5,6:14-15)
1 John 3 tells us that Jesus appeared to take away sins and to destroy the works of the devil. The false belief that we are able to sin freely without judgement is itself of the devil and encourages his work of lawlessness.
“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who -are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. -1 John 3:7-10
Hell is a place prepared for the devil and his angels. The danger is the man or woman who spend their short lives working alongside the devil and his angels.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. – Matthew 25:41
We know angels are ministering spirits. Angels of God are sent to strengthen, comfort, encourage, guide and counsel man in ways that are righteous and benefit their life. In contrast, angels of the devil are sent to weaken, discourage, misguide and mislead men into ways that are wrong and often lead to emotional, spiritual and physical harm of an individual and others. Anytime, we are unloving towards another, slandering, gossiping,murdering, we are about the devils work and we will receive the devils reward: hell. God’s grace has limits and many times it is limited by the very grace and mercy we show others.
“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 42:46
We all need grace because no man is perfect. However, if we willingly choose to continue in sin without hindrance and without repentance then we are not truly even seeking the grace of God, nor have we come to the cross of Christ to have ourselves crucified with him.
Finally contemplating the reality of hell compels us up to pray in intercession and to overcome our fears in sharing the gospel with the lost. There is something more frightening then rejection and humiliation in sharing the gospel with a stranger, friend or loved one, that is the idea of them being in hell. How can we not pray? How can we not speak up? As far as it depends on us, let us labor to see them in heaven beside us while we still have breath in us. It is a fire that touches our own spirits and tongues with urgency.
These are three simple benefits of contemplating on the reality of hell. What are the dangers of not doing so? Sin has no consequence. There is no judgement. God’s word is not true.
Sometimes the most beneficial medicine is most bitter to drink. The truth of hell is one of of those medicines. The reality of heaven brings us much comfort and much benefit when facing grief. It is sweet to the soul. In contrast, the reality of hell is very bitter to swallow and does make us want to gag and swear it off forever. However, there are benefits to be gained by accepting it.