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.’
Dante Alighieri, The Inferno
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (Translated, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” As the Gustave Dore above illustrates from Canto III)
I write a lot about love, God’s consuming love for us, our redemptive journey, our love affair with our Beloved Jesus, spiritual warfare, and our need to love our neighbor as ourselves. But there is one other aspect of the story we need to grasp in all of this…God is not losing in this. He is God. His Son was brutally tortured and murdered during this story, he had a massive number of angels and his own people rebel against him. He has been spit on, hated, cursed, beaten (literally), forgotten, disdained, marginalized, I could go on and on here. Yet, he is God. Forever.
When Satan and his angels rebelled the first time, he made a place for them to be imprisoned in. A horrible place. A place called the lake of fire.
Now, many might say, oh no, our God is a God of love..true. He is. To us, his beloved, he is the Lamb. He is gentle, he is loving. He is a Bridegroom, a Lover, a Friend, a Father, a Counselor, an Intercessor. He is the Desire of the Nations. He is everything to us.
He is God. And he hates evil. He hates Satan, he hates the fallen angels. He uses them, he manipulates them, he allows them to be free roaming for a time for his purpose, but let there be no mistake, Jesus alone is God. He is holy, his name is holy, he is forever holy, he is perfect. Song of Songs 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”
The rebellion spread. The originator of the rebellion was Lucifer. The rebellion is sin. It spread like a plague and infected other angels and later our species long ago. It is choice based. It is a spiritual plague that causes spiritual death. And from there it oozes over into our biological parts and causes death in our bodies and our natural world. It is wickedness. And God will destroy all sin. He will destroy the rebellion. There is no Biblical mistake on Hell and the lake of fire. It exists. God made it. It is horrific. He is going to throw Satan and his angels into the lake of fire one day (yes, there is a difference between hell and the lake of fire). And he is going to throw every single person who was never in him into the lake of fire. Where there will be eternal death, torture and pain. That’s Biblical.
[I’ve actually read and heard several arguments that human torment in hell is temporal, not eternal. So if you’re planning on commenting on that, I’m serious here, you need to formula and address an alternative understanding of the phrase “εἰς αἰών.” Not just citing other people’s work and coming up with alternate English theories. We can talk OT Hebrew olam as well, if you disagree. As best as I can tell, it’s forever.]
I don’t think it’s PC or popular to talk about Hell in modern, mainstream Christianity these days. It’s definitely not popular to talk about with the secular world. It’s just not. It’s an uncomfortable subject to address, some people have extreme emotional reactions to it, some people in the church shut down over it. It’s volatile. But we have to have a healthy, holistic perspective on the Truth, the Word of God. The Truth doesn’t just alter itself. As John Eldredge wrote, “Just as there is a way things work in the physical world, so there is a way things work in the spiritual realm.” Subjective spirituality is just not true. We live in an objective, realistic spiritual world and we have to come to terms with that fact. Hell is an objective place that exists. When we view it in a lens of two kingdoms at war with each other and the loser, which we know is Satan’s kingdom, will be throw into Hell and that there is no Switzerland in this war, you cannot be neutral.
Once God judges someone and they are in hell, there is no redemption. Salvation is lost. Dante’s words are so apt here, you must abandon any hope of leaving this place. It is a place of insanity, of pain and suffering. As Peter Kreeft , the Catholic writer and philosophy professor at Boston College, writes, “We desperately need to hear this truth about hell again, simply out of honesty, because it is there. And also out of compassion. For when an abyss looms ahead, the least compassionate thing to tell the traveler is “peace, peace, when there is no peace”. Out of love for God and man, let us tell the truth about hell! Sure, we’ll be mocked as vindictive, manipulative, or fundamentalist. Let it be so. It’s a small price to pay for the salvation of a single infinitely precious soul. And that is the business we’re supposed to be in” (read his full article here, and then check out his other work because he’s an amazing theologian).
We have to come to terms with this is an us vs them war. We are at war with sin. We are at war with Satan. We are at war with evil. And we will fight it and destroy it, it will be destroyed with the breath from our Lord Jesus’ mouth. One of our primary tasks of work during our stint in this world is to rescue others out of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ and walk with them through the process of daily redemption through the Holy Spirit. Hell is the objective endpoint for those who are not saved through Jesus, through the cross.
As Kreeft said, we should be motivated here out of compassion and as Jude said, “save others by snatching them from the fire.” (Jude 1:23). We are rescuers, bringers of light in dark world to save others going into the fire. Our Light is Jesus, and we rescue through the Spirit. And our job is of the utmost importance, it should be apart of our regular work. This is why we are “in the world.” We are “not of the world” because we are apart of God’s Kingdom, not Satan’s, not the secular world. We are his children, his beloved, that is our identity. Don’t ever forget it, even for a second, don’t blink on it, “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) He knows God’s ultimate power now firsthand, he has lost in battle. The Father beat him down, he wrecked him in battle, as Jesus recounted of the effect of his Father’s fury, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Make no mistake, he is omnipotent. And he will destroy the rebellion, he will destroy sin, he will destroy everything not apart of his Kingdom.
Stay close to our Beloved, my sisters and brothers. It is dark and evil outside. But God’s Spirit and his light shine brightly within you. Where, as John of the Cross said,
How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.