Is there a Hell?

I’m not the first person to ask this question, but I think it is part of a larger interesting discussion going on right now in modern Christianity.

Here’s what we know from the Bible, and in particular the New Testament.

God is infinite unconditional Love.

Man is spiritual, made in God’s image and likeness.

Life is eternal.

If we strive to follow Jesus teachings in our time on earth, we will have an opportunity to join him in a life after death where there is no more pain, sickness, or sorrow.

If we choose to follow some other path, there is still a life after death, but it is similar to the life lived by those who have publically turned their back on God and refuse to accept His love.  This life has been described as tormented, tortured, burning, etc.  The Bible uses the word Hell.

Hopefully we are all on the same page at least this far.

From a Biblical perspective I’m not sure that we can go much further, because anything beyond this point is speculation based on how you view what we can glean from the Bible.

Given that caveat, I’ll share my view of what makes sense to me.

I don’t believe that an all-knowing God who is the source of all love (not just loving) would create someone who ultimately would be consigned to an eternity of pain and torment from which there is no escape.

I also know that there are many who don’t see any contradiction between an eternity in Hell and a loving God.

I do.

My sense of the relationship between God and man is that God so loved us that He gave us the ability to choose whether or not we want to accept His love.  Those who pass from this life to the next having accepted God’s love, are capable of experiencing God’s full embrace – a life where love is all there is.  For those people, life will be about just learning to love more.  Since God is infinite, that is the work of eternity.

Those who have rejected God’s love may experience something very different.   They will know, as they have always known, that God’s love is there, but they won’t be able to accept it after death because they had rejected it in their lives.  They won’t be able to accept it because they created barriers in this life to keep God out and those barriers won’t magically vanish just because they no longer have a body.  It will take at least as much effort to take those barriers down as it took to put them up in the first place.

What they will feel instead is a huge empty void of nothingness which they themselves created.  They will now have to confront and overcome all of the obstacles that they put between themselves and God, all the while knowing that the pain they are experiencing is self-inflicted.   The journey for these people is also about learning to love more, but depending on their starting point, the effort could be quite hellish.

So then we get back to the fundamental question.  Is there a Hell?  I believe that we all create our own Hell and our own Heaven based on our willingness to accept and fully embrace God’s love.

23 Responses to “Is there a Hell?”

  1. Ron Krumpos says:

    Which Afterlife?

    In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

  2. Keith says:

    Ron,
    I prefer The Book God wrote, The Bible, to Ron Bells thoughts.
    The Bible stands thousands of years later Rob Bell’s thoughts are fleeting statements.

  3. Keith says:

    Jeff,
    I’m ok with Hell being something other then fire and along the lines of what you discribed. What you’ve discribed is Hell. Biblicly though I dont see where there is any chance to escape.

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the ETERNAL FIRE prepared for the devil and his angels.

    46 “Then they will go away to ETERNAL PUNISHMENT, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Can you define eternal in a way that changes my thoughts?

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Ron,

    Nice to hear from you.

    I am a Rob Bell fan too. He’s a Michigan guy, so that makes it all the better.

    I believe he is asking Christians tough questions. That’s what John the Baptist and Jesus were doing for the Jews too. Some were willing to listen and others felt threatened and retaliated. I don’t think that Ron will meet the fate of John, but there are alot of people who are unhappy with his growing popularity.

    As far as your quotes, I think that we are on the same page or at least the same chapter.

    I do believe that there is one God and that God isn’t our construct.

    I also believe that if we were able to assemble all humanity and take a picture, that would be the closest we would come to what God might look like.

    Finally, I also believe that we humans construct our own reality. I thought your quote on Mystics was right on target. We are currently living the “Adam dream” of a mortal life that has a beginning and and end. Death frees us from that dream, but that’s all. What’s left? Whatever reality we’ve constructed for ourselves and the remaining journey from that understanding to the only true reality which is God.

    I’ll go look for your ebook.

    Sounds like an interesting read.

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Kieth,

    As I’ve said, none of us knows for sure. All we’ve got is what Jesus told us since He did die and come back.

    So my sense of the “eternal”, is that it refers to the punishment rather than the duration for the punished. Yes, everyone who turns away from God will suffer for their bad decisions for as long as they continue to insist that they can exist without God’s love.

    I also believe, though, that every one of God’s creations does ultimately return like tired children to their creator.

    The other thing to keep in mind in when you use terms like “eternal” is that time is irrelevant to God. A being who has no beginning and no end also has no need of time. Time is just another one of those things that we create for ourselves to give ourselves a comfortable frame of reference.

    I’ll also anticipated the question about the devil or evil. Isn’t that one of God’s creations too?

    I’d say no.

    That’s because God is all good and all powerful. So how could the essense of good create anything that was bad and how could the entity that is the sum of all power create an enemy?

    “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” Hab 1:13

    So what does that leave for evil or the devil? In my understanding, it is our construction. It is our thought that there must be something opposed to God because we simply can’t bear the thought that God is all that there is. That’s because if God were all that there is then this “theatrical production” as Ron calls our current understanding of reality must be an illusion. So in the end, the devil is our own insistence that this life that we experience with our senses must be real.

  6. Keith says:

    Jeff,
    Before I respond I must understand your final comment just above.
    To be clear, are you suggesting that evil is not foud in the bible. Evil is something we humans have made up? Surely I’ve misunderstood.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    Clearly the bible DOES talk about evil, the devil, and hell.

    The Bible is also God’s word come to man, but it is God’s word translated through the lens of how humans looked at the world thousands of years ago.

    But perhaps you can explain to me how a God that is all powerful, all loving, all knowing, and that fills all space with good – how that God could create anything evil when, as it says in Genesis – everything He created was good?

    The choices seem pretty clear to me. Either God isn’t all that the Bible says He is, OR what we see as the evil that seems to surround us and seems in a constant battle with good, is not what it appears to be.

  8. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    If you can articulate what President Obama should be doing, or not doing, to bring the price of gas down, perhaps I’ll have something to complain about. As it is, he has been campaigning to wean ourselves from oil since he started to run for president and has taken a fair bit of heat for it from the drill baby drill crowd.

    As far as Libya, there are two points. First, I’m not sure that he had a choice. France, Britain, and Italy were prepared to act. If they acted without us, we would have looked as though we were supporting Gaddafi. Second, the mission isn’t clear because it isn’t clear what the rebels are capable of and how we will respond if they continue to falter.

    If you read further down, over 60% feel that Gaddafi will leave power as a result of this action. That, more than anything else, appears to be the objective for this mission, so a majority of Americans appear to feel that it is likely to succeed.

    If I’ve missed something that I should be screaming about, let me know.

  9. Keith says:

    Jeff,

    It was retorical. To the progressives the following was true;

    -Bush, haliburton and enron were close.
    -Bush wanted to support his friends
    -Oil prices went up startingin 2004ish
    -Bush did it.

    How could Bush be responsible for higer oil, as the price apperently
    served at his pleasure, and Obama not be responsible for todays price?
    I’m guessing the answer is it didn’t serve at his pleasure, which would indicate the progressives were just playing politics, or, Obama isn’t as good as Bush as he hasn’t demonstrated the ablility to name the price of oil as he wills.

    I’m using the obsurd to point out the contridiction of progressives.

  10. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    The issue with Bush wasn’t the price of gas, it was that we didn’t have a rational energy policy.

    The world is running out of oil and we don’t have a viable alternative.

    HSBC economist Karen Ward was quoted recently as saying that there are approximately 50 years of oil left and that assumes no growth in demand.

    Unfortunately this problem appears to be taking on the same political flavor as the global climate change discussion. The scientific community provides their research which is widely supported, and the conservative political community disputes those findings because they don’t like their choices.

    It is time to start to build a new economy that doesn’t require oil to operate.

    There is no contradiction in that statement.

  11. keith says:

    Jeff,
    I love our conversations!!!!!!

    The left tried to hang Bush over oil prices “to help his friends.”
    Surely you haven’t forgotten that. I was only posing why no
    outrage over Obama’s high oil prices? Surely he is at fault
    for oil prices as Bush was…. (the answer is neather are)

    Also, I remember the protesters every saturday where i live
    the day the first bomb was dropped in iraq. This continued until
    Bush left office. Now 27 months later and the protesters
    are no where to be seen…….its laughable Jeff. Just agree with
    me on that ppint alone. The solgans of 1 life is 1 life to many
    is probably still in the basment some where. Why aren’t they out in
    the street protesting now……..PLEASE at least see the ironey in that.

    And as a conservitive i will agree with you that we ARE RUNNING OUT OF OIL. go to YOU tube “the most important video you’ll ever see”

  12. keith says:

    I’ll respond later to the evil question…..

  13. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    You seem to keep trying to maneuver me into a position of defending all left wing positions.

    I don’t.

    My criticism of Bush’s energy policy was that it was directed by the oil companies when it is oil that we both agree we must wean ourselves away from.

    The last criticism I recall over high gas prices came from John McCain during the 2008 campaign. He claimed that the Obama policies of attempting to wean ourselves away from oil would drive up gas prices. This is where the whole drill baby drill slogan started.

    So I think that a fair reading of history will show that both parties have attempted to use high gas prices, or at least the threat of them, to their political advantage.

    The difference between Iraq and Libya, at least today, is that we haven’t committed ground troops AND Gaddafi was in the act of killing his people. Saddam had a history of killing his people, but wasn’t in the act at the time of the invasion. The Iraq invasion was largely unprovoked. That’s not the case in Libya.

    Now to push that further, I can guarantee that there will be protesters in the streets if this current mission has any significant escalation. If the rebels are unable to bring about the change that the rest of the world feels is necessary, NATO including the US should stand down and let the politics in the region play out. We are on a somewhat slippery slope right now sending CIA operatives in to direct air strikes and train the rebels how to use their weapons. Any effort to expand that force is likely going to result in a serious erosion of domestic support for this effort.

  14. Keith says:

    Jeff,
    Wont drain domestic support just the support of the librals and pogressives.

    As to oil I wasn’t making reference to bushs or obama position. The president is largely irrelevent when it comes to oil prices. Its the hypocricy of the left I am amused by….

  15. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    If you are amused by hypocricy, I suspect that you are fairly regularly entertained, since there seems to be a lot of practiced across the political spectrum.

    Since you do find it entertaining, perhaps you’ll get a chuckle out of Newt’s recent quotes.

    March 7th he tells Fox News that Obama should establish a no fly zone in Libya. Obama does that and on March 23 he tells NBC on the Today Show, “I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gaddafi.”

    Earlier this year he was asked on the Christian Broadcasting Network about the affair that he admitted having with a younger staffer while his wife was in the hospital recovering from cancer and he was in the middle trying to impeach President Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

    “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God.”

    Finally Gingrich was in San Antonio addressing the Cornerstone Church. Rev. John Hagee is the head of this mega church. If you remember, John McCain turned down Rev. Hagee’s endorsement in 2008 because Hagee was preaching that Adolf Hitler was fulfilling God’s will in facilitating the Jews return to Israel.

    Gingrich told the congregation that, “”I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time (my grandchildren are) my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

    He didn’t go into any further depth on how a country that is secular and atheist could at the same time be dominated by a deeply fundamentalist group of Muslims. He was, after all, just reaching for a handful of conservative Christian hot buttons, secularism, atheism, radical Islam, and the loss of American values in our youth. He may have just been depending on the fact that a congregation that sees no irony in Hitler and the Holocaust being the instrument that God used to re-establish the state of Israel for the Jews, is just going to let this illogical prediction slide too.

  16. Keith says:

    So you’re finally getting one of the very few points I’ve ever tried to make with you. You only see “spritual wickedness from a Christian perspective” one way. It’s been your use of Christian which at its foundation has Jesus that has bothered me. Jesus wouldn’t only call it one way. ITS ON BOTH SIDES. I just wish you’d call it both ways. I only do it to point it out with you. As to Newt I think he is an increadibly bright person. I like his thought process in many area’s. I like MANY conservitives don’t believe he is fit to lead morally. His putting Clinton on trial for lying about sex and having an affair himself at the same time. He should not led. However, if he isn’t fit to lead neither was Bill Clinton and very few on the left would say so. Oh, to the contrery. Al Gore’s famous line yelling at the top of his lungs, in the rose garden i believe, “one of the greatest presidents of all time…”

    Get it???

    At least Dennis Kacinesh is credible, as he thinks Obama should be impeached for going to war without atorization of congress, just as he thought Bush should. Just once I’d like to see you, Jeff, MY GOOD FRIEND, put your great ability of nuanced study and smarts to test wheather Obama and progressives have committed spritual wickedness.

    Instead you condem the congration members in San Antonio for what their pastor my have said or thought and fail to see the problems with Obama attending Rev Wrights church for 20 some years. (by the way you’ll remember I gave him a pass as I simply don’t believe he was there often enough to have heard much of it)

    When you stop with the onsidedness, then you and I can have real conversations and agreement. Until then your blogs are really just partisan dribble, from a Christan stand point.

  17. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    I don’t claim to be perfect.

    I’m working on being better like everyone.

    We really are two peas in a pod. You have a conservative bias and I have a progressive one. Neither of us are ashamed of that, but neither of us seem particularly prepared to let go of our bias either.

    One of my spiritual mentors describes politics as a crowned country road. You know the kind that is often built where there aren’t storm sewers, just drainage ditches. The road is crowned so the water will run off into the ditches.

    He recommends that we strive to walk in the middle of road, not too far right or too far left. That’s because the middle is the only place you can walk in a balanced comfortable way. When we try to walk on either the right or the left side, we become unbalanced in our walk and our view of the world.

    I do respect his opinion and some day hope to be able to better reflect that in my daily life. Just not there yet.

    I’ll post something in the next day or so that you’ll hopefully like better.

  18. Keith says:

    Jeff,
    Now to the question of evil posted above.

    You asked;

    “But perhaps you can explain to me how a God that is all powerful, all loving, all knowing, and that fills all space with good – how that God could create anything evil when, as it says in Genesis – everything He created was good? The choices seem pretty clear to me. Either God isn’t all that the Bible says He is, OR what we see as the evil that seems to surround us and seems in a constant battle with good, is not what it appears to be.”

    I like this narritve;
    “Satan fell because of pride. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. Notice the many “I will…” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan as an exceedingly beautiful angel. Satan was likely the highest of all angels, the most beautiful of all of God’s creations, but he was not content in his position. Instead, Satan desired to be God, to essentially “kick God off His throne” and take over the rule of the universe. Satan wanted to be God, and interestingly enough, that is what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). How did Satan fall from Heaven? Actually, a fall is not an accurate description. It would be far more accurate to say that God cast Satan out of Heaven (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16-17).

    Jeff, God did make everything “good.” HE loved us so much He gives us free choice wheather we serve Him or not. Just as the picture of Satans fall illistrates. I am reminded of a painting. Jesus stands outside the door and the door has no knob. The verse that accompanies this scene is Rev 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

    It’s our choice, we either let Him in or we don’t….He gives us the freedom to do evil, because He loves us.

    Jeff, God IS all the bible says He is, and, evil is as we see it.

  19. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    here’s a couple of thought experiments for you around this whole notion of evil.

    So if Satan really exists as an entity rather than just a methaphor, that means that he still exists today because we seem to see all of this evil around us. So, what if Satan decided today to reconsider his position and turn to God and ask for forgiveness. What would happen to all of the evil that we see around us? Would it magically vanish because the author or that evil has mended his ways – or would it still continue even in his absence because it is really something of our own construction?

    Now let me ask the same question the other way round. Let’s assume that everyone on earth decided tomorrow to stop being evil and to only be good. What would happen to Satan? Could he still exist in a world that by definition was now all good and no longer interested or vulnerable to his temptations?

    My sense of why the Bible is and has been a powerful healing document is because it IS largely metaphorical. The Bible is the inpired word of God come to man, but man wasn’t prepared then or now to really grasp an infinite all loving all powerful all knowing God that is the creator of all that is and created it in His image and likeness as a reflection of Good. So the only way those who wrote the Bible could communicate these huge ideas and all they imply is through stories. Those stories contain the nuggets of the ideas which resonate with us today as strongly as they did when they were shared as an oral tradition.

    That’s why they made up a Satan and created this concept of God warring against his own creation. They couldn’t explain it any other way. That’s also why Jesus came to save us from those primitive ideas and give us a new and better way to understand God and His relationship to his creation man.

    but you don’t have to agree with me if you need a satan running around to keep you honest.

  20. Keith says:

    Jeff,

    You said –

    “That’s why they made up a Satan and created this concept of God warring against his own creation.”

    I’d rather not have the daily battle with the flesh Jeff, trust me. Its not my imagination.

    “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” EPH 6:12.

    Do a word search on the words satan, devil, the evil one..etc See who wrote them, or in Jesus’ case, spoke them…..(God wrote them all. “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2 tim 3:16)

    Did Jesus need a satan running around to keep Him honest?

    To your questions, Can satan repent? read Revalations and it appears the answer is no. Did he have a chance? Don’t know, wasn’t there…..

    To your second question, yes there will be a world free from sin….read revalations again. satan will be bound for 1,000 years….

    Jeff, if you believe the bible not to be the word of God and doesn’t mean what it says then we should stop here.

    Just to let you know where I stand, I don’t know everything but I know what I know. It starts with these two passages;

    Job 38:4 “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

    5Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

    6Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;”

    Job cries out to God for 37 chapters asking Why…. when God answers He merely tells Him “he wouldn’t understand.” For all the reasons laid out in chapter 38

    Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    God told Job if he gave him answers he wouldnt understand. The writer of Corinthians says we see but a vague image,,,but someday we will see face to face,

    I don’t pretend to have seen the perfect image of God. I don’t pretend to understand Him or am I able. Thats all corrupted by my sin. But I believe
    the bible is the inherent word of God. I believe we can understand in part.

  21. Keith says:

    Hey Jeff,

    You said

    “The daily battle with the flesh IS your imagination. It is our body (the flesh) trying to convince our mind (the spirit) that God is not what the Bible says He is.”

    Ephesians 6:12 (King James Version)

    12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    Thats not our imagination….its Satan and its very real….Its the old “God vs Evil” you’ve, unless I am mistaken from my reading of you’re posts, rejected.

  22. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I like that quote from Ephesians!

    From my perspective, it echoes exactly my sense of where the warfare really is. The war is between our sense of God as being all powerful and our fear that God isn’t what we know Him to be.

    Remember, the Bible is a metaphor not a literal document.

    Think about darkness for just a moment. Does it actually have any reality or power? What happens to darkness when it is confronted by light? It disappears. It disappears because it was never there to begin with. Darkness is just our sense that the light is gone. So the only power that darkness has is the fear that there is someplace where there is no light.

    The Bible, particularly the new testament, examines this whole subject of darkness and light in great depth. Jesus says that he is the light of the world. What does that mean in this whole discussion of darkness and light?

    I think that it means that he brings understanding (light) to those who are living in ignorance (darkness) of who they really are. Once they experience the light, they will be forever freed from darkness.

    New Jerusalem, as described in Revelation, has no night there. That’s because everyone is enlightened. There is no fear, no pain, no sorrow, no death.

    The first thing God does in Genesis is allow the light, the expression of his infinite unequivocal love of the His creation, to shine. What happens? The light overcomes the darkness (the sense that there is no God).

    What’s one of the last things that happens in Revelation?

    “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Rev 22:5

    This is a new kind of light that doesn’t come from the Sun. It is the understanding that God is All, and when we gain that understanding our darkness (fear) disappears.

    So if our darkness disappears when accept that God is the source of all light, what happened to the rulers of the darkness – those fears that we battle against? What happened to spiritual wickedness in high places, those with the power to influence people who would suggest that there IS a reason to be afraid?

    My friend they all disappear too just like the darkness flees before the light because there is no night there. Where did they go? They didn’t go anywhere because they never existed to begin with. There is only God and His creation and it is all light and all good.

    So is evil real? My friend you can make evil and Satan as real as you want them to be, just as you can make the world as dark and fearful as you would like it to be. Satan and the world will happily behave just as you would like them to. But at some point either in this life or the next, you’ll have an opportunity to embrace the light of God’s all consuming love and these phantoms will disappear like the morning fog that appears to hide the sun.

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