What is Hell? Hero Image
What is Hell? Hero Image
Oct 7, 2013 / 4 min

What is Hell?

Jonathan Pokluda

Have you ever thought that the punishment might be worth it? I skipped school once, had an amazing time with friends, and got busted. The "crime" cost me 9 pops (spankings at school) and in-school suspension. It was worth it!

I think this is how some people view hell. They are hedging their bets. Maybe they can have lots of fun here, and sure, maybe they go to hell, but was it worth it? What is hell, anyway?

Hell on Earth

The Bible uses a few different words for hell, but the most prominent is “Gehenna.” Gehenna was a real place. It was a valley outside Jerusalem where children were once sacrificed by fire, and which then became a burial ground and a trash dump. It was a place of death, with an ongoing flame from burning garbage and sulphur. The name Gehenna was used not because that valley actually is hell, but because it provided the best earthly example of what hell would be like.

Hell is not a punishment that lasts for a season and then you are let out. It is also not annihilation, where you are snuffed out and exist no more. Hell is eternal. It is forever. In a thousand years, it will still be like the first day for those who are there. In a billion years, there is still an eternity left on the sentence. I do not know if there is literally a fire there, but the experience is similar to being burned alive, as this is often the imagery used in Scripture.

Eternal Regret

The first thing that happens in hell is that you realize you do deserve to be there. In Luke 16, the rich man never denies that he deserved hell. He is not angry at God, because it is not God’s fault. You will not shake your fist at God in hell; rather, you will hang your head in shame.

The man in hell in Luke 16 can see heaven. He is in a place of eternal regret. He realizes what he could have had, and what he will never have. But I think the worst part of hell is the full realization of how good God is. Those in hell realize for eternity that God had pursued them and offered them eternity with Him in His Kingdom, and they rejected Him.

Hell and Lollipops

My little girl Presley loves lollipops. One day I brought a lollipop home, eager to give it to her. However, when I walked in, my wife let me know that Presley had not made good choices that day.

When I took Presley into her room to talk to her about it, she responded very poorly. I showed her that I had brought her a lollipop, and let her know that I could not give it to her because of her bad behavior. She screamed. So, I then threw the lollipop away and let her know that she would never have it. She screamed even louder: "I can do whatever I want!" (I assure you this is out of character for her).

This was a parenting challenge. So, I went into my “stash.” I had a box of lollipops that Presley didn’t know about. I got them and showed them to her. Dozens of lollipops that I had at my disposal: blowpops, See’s Candy lollipops, even some that were 5" in diameter! I showed her this box of gold and her eyes filled with hope. I then threw them away. They were gone forever. It was a goodness that Presley didn't even know existed, and now she had the realization that she had missed out on them forever. That’s somewhat like hell on an extremely tiny scale.

The Road to Hell

Did you know there is only one thing you can do that will cause you to go to hell? It is not really a particular sin, like murder or theft, because all of us have sinned and therefore all of us deserve the punishment.

So what is the one thing that will cause you to go to hell?

If you reject Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, then you will have to pay for your sins in hell. If, however, you trust that Jesus did die on the cross as payment for your sins, and you trust that God defeated death by raising Him from the dead, then you will not have to pay for your sins in hell—because Jesus already did.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. – C.S. Lewis

- JP