Death awaits all of us. Our lives are a gift, and each of us have a number of days that only the Lord knows. Today, in the west, we have befriended death, and welcomed it as an outlet, a fitting end to our suffering, with only neutral or positive moral consequences. Euthanasia, now renamed “assisted dying”, is considered both humane and desired above the end of life suffering that is less predictable, and to some degree, out of our control.
But what of eternal judgement, and, if it is as the Bible describes it, the possibility of eternal damnation?
If there is a possibility of this, and society became appropriately aware of this, would we reconsider our cultural befriending of death?
We are very respectful of disease, particularly epidemics with life threatening consequences. These events change the way we govern our airports, hospitals, schools and other places of public gathering. Hard decisions are made by leaders, policies with strict adherence legislation are quickly drawn up and pronounced through media outlets and other channels.
But these events are usually backed up by clear evidence of danger such as morbidity figures. The particular disease is investigated thoroughly and ways to protect individuals are developed.
Hell, on the other hand, is considered only on religious grounds.
Depictions traditionally involved demons and fire, but then became the domain of childrens cartoons with fable like fictitious safety. Good for a story but not reality.
However, hell remains a part of the 3 single deity religions, namely, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is my opinion that modern versions of the first 2 would often discount the possibility of hell, and consider to some degree or other, that if there is judgement, mankind is not in danger of it.
I am unable to speak on Islamic teaching.
As a Christian, my reading of the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of Matthew, and the book of Revelations, clearly portrays the understanding of eternity, judgemnt after death, and the possibility of eternal damnation. Luke Chpter16 has a parable on an individual now in an irreversible condition of continual suffering and torment.
Popular humour depicts Hell as a place of potential wicked fun, where the lack of judgement means relationships with others free to do as they choose, albeit confined to a type of eternal prison, but one in which certain comforts remain.
Were I to seriously consider, with my informal theology as a Christian, what hell might actually be like, I imagine some of the following.
There would be no relationships, certainly no supportive relationships that might ease someone who is suffering.
There would be regret, continual regret over immoral decisions, the type of regret that would not have any consolation.
There would be guilt, both the understanding and the feeling of guilt, continually.
There would be no escape, nowhere to go, nothing to take, that would remove or ease or temporarily turn off the negative feelings. There would be no ability to, for example, kill yourself to escape, as you are already dead.
There would be pain, emotional if not physical, and this would be unrelenting.
There would not be music to soothe the soul. The memory of such music would only increase the sense of regret.
There would not be hope for a better future, a time of relief.
There would not be kindness.
There may be demons and devils and Satan, and if they were present to communicate, there would be no relief from the torment they would bring, as they themselves are in torment and would take out their pain on whatever or whoever was present for them to do so, without an angel of God to stand in the way.
And worst of all, there might be the ability to actually see what could have been, if only faith and repentance had occurred during life.
If the parable in Luke 16 has any resemblance of reality, then the person in hell can look across an uncrossable gulf, and see from a distance, the comfort of those in God’s presence. Surely this would be a bitter, bitter pill to an already intolerable afterlife.
If there is a hell, surely a loving Saviour would do anything within his power to save us from hell?
As Christians, we believe that the cost of salvation is no less than the death of a perfect man; Jesus.
His act of self-giving, pays the full price for the sinner, bound for hell, to be freed from his deserved judgement.
We are taken from eternal damnation into eternal forgiveness and blessing.
While we still have life and breath, how can we overlook such a great salvation?