On the Nature of Hell
So, what is hell like for the unsaved?
We have already touched on the question briefly (see, “Gehenna, in Part 2 of this series), but in this and subsequent posts, I’ll go into a great more detail.
The existence and nature of Hell relate directly to the need, nature and character of penalty.
Penalty is “that pain or loss which is directly inflicted by the Lawgiver in vindication of His justice, which has been outraged by the violation of the law” (H.C. Thiessen, 1949). Unlike chastisement (which proceeds from love, and is intended to reform), the penalty of sin (death) is punishment, which proceeds from the just wrath of God. The purpose of punishment is not as a deterrent or reforming act, but as a solemn affirmation of the principle(s) that has been violated.
Scripture sums up the character of penalty in a single word: death. Death is threefold:
Physical death is the separation of the soul, from the body.
Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.
Eternal death is the culmination of spiritual death. It is the eternal separation of the soul from God, together with the accompanying remorse and outward punishment (Thiessen).
Sinner and saved alike will receive new bodies at the Resurrection. These bodies will be indestructible, immortal, and have attributes that will make them suitable to experience things in their absolute, perfected state. For the unsaved, this means a body capable of experiencing perfect, unimaginable torment.
Bill Wiese claims to have had a vision of Hell. Without arguing for or against his claims, I am providing some of his descriptions to illustrate the potential nature of Hell.
In his book, “Hell,” Wiese states:
– Hell is not (as some claim) merely “separation from God;” instead, it is a literal, physical location in which the damned are tortured forever.
– Those in Hell are overcome by weakness. Strength is a blessing from God; those in Hell, being separated from God, will barely have the power to writhe in their agonies.
– There is no breath, despite the desire to breathe.
– Wiese speaks of a sulfurous odor so foul that to experience it would kill a mortal man.
– Mercy is an attribute of God, and is nonexistent in Hell. If there are demons loose in Hell, they will, despite their own torment, lash out at God by attacking the only thing available—those created in His image. (It is safe, I think, to believe that this will be the case until at least the Final Judgment, when Satan and his demons are cast into the Lake of Fire.)
– In Hell, “the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest” (Isaiah 57:20). There is no sleep or rest in Hell—no respite of any kind.
– There will be no water, not a single drop, in Hell. Nor will there be food or any other thing that is pleasant to the senses.
– The damned will be naked in Hell, both in the physical sense, and as regards their shame; while God is not present in Hell in any capacity, He does oversee Hell and its occupants, and nothing is hidden from Him.
– Hell is filled with the unceasing, piercing screams of those in torment.
– There is no sense of purpose in Hell; everything is over and lost.
– Wiese claims that the statement, “… and their worm does not die,” is a literal description of Hell; the damned are covered with maggots that feed on the constantly regenerated flesh of indestructible bodies.
– The only thoughts of God will be the blasphemies of the damned.
– Senses and comprehension will be raised to a much higher level in the the perfected resurrection body; in Hell the result will be increased suffering.
– The awareness of spiritual death will be as if one were “always dying, yet never dead.”
– Mentally, the damned will experience the moment before complete mental and emotional collapse, eternally. To go insane would be a form of release—there is no release in Hell, and the moment of absolute horror that presages insanity will last for eternity.
– The damned are consumed with incomprehensible fear.
– There is no hope or comfort in Hell—only the sure and complete knowledge that the suffering will never end, never abate and never rest.
Wiese gives good scriptural support for each of these experiences, as well as a more thorough description than is provided here. Wiese says that any human description of the place pales in comparison to the experience of it. The levels of horror, fear, revulsion, hopelessness, anger, hatred and pain are indescribable in every respect.