Outer Darkness

Shhh…, it’s taboo. I know I’m taking a chance here, but I just have to bring it out because it stands right at the beginning of wisdom. Do I dare say? It’s so dicey that I’m compelled to encode it in Pig Latin – ell hay.

About the only way you hear that word nowadays is in the midst of a church litany or a litany of curse words. In the one sense it oozes on by like an oily greeting on a Monday morning. On the other, it flares the senses for battle.

What Hell has to do with wisdom is tied to Psalms 111:10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: …” And, what elicits greater fear than the word “Hell”? Our avoidance of Hell though has a two-edged effect putting Modern Man into a state of denial. Wanting only the pleasant ending involves denying the reality of there being an actual place called Hell. Of course this also creates a backlash, throwing Heaven into the same mystical realm. The result? We sit down at night with our children and tell them a fairy tale and perhaps end with something from the Bible which also tends to come across as a mere tale. Nevertheless, we feel good, the child sleeps peacefully and the cycle will continue with their children.

Hopefully that will not do for you. Instead, you believe it’s time to be different and are willing to tackle the concept of Hell head on. So let’s do that and boldly engage this issue.

On close examination, this is what the Bible tells us about Hell. It is a real physical place and the ones who are condemned to go there, will ultimately want to go there. Now, the idea of wanting to go to Hell probably seems a bit bizarre even though most of us have heard people defiantly claim they want to go to Hell because that’s where all their friends will be. To cover this topic, I’m going to first list a bunch of facts from the Bible plus a few other physical observations. So, let’s see what the Bible says about this terrible place and then try to piece together how it fits into who God is and the resulting condition of man.

  1. There are actually two places for the rebellious that we sometimes think is just the one place called Hell. The two places are Hell and the Lake of Fire.
  2. The Bible tells us that Hell is in the heart of the earth. It is also called a bottomless pit. There is only one actual phenomenon I know of that fits the description for a bottomless pit. That is when everything is up and there is no down. And that occurs at the center of the earth. If your physical body was placed into a vacuous chamber at the very center of the earth, you would float as if in outer space, with no bottom and everything up. And don’t let anyone try to tell you this is impossible because they know the core of the earth is solid iron. The theory concerning an iron core appears to be quite valid, based upon the earth’s magnetism and mass, but no one has any idea whether there could be a small physical bubble of empty space right at the very center of this iron core. The last I heard is that we’ve only drilled down 100 miles (with even that distance disputable) and the distance to the earth’s center is 2,600 miles. (See Deuteronomy 16:28-33).
  3. The Lake of Fire is not Hell. At the last judgment, it says that Death and Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:12-15
  4. These above verses tell us that Hell is a temporary holding tank for all the fallen angels and unbelievers, until the final judgment.
  5. In contrast to Hell, we don’t know where the Lake of Fire is.
  6. The Lake of Fire was created for the Devil and the angels that followed him. It was never intended for man, but becomes the abode of those who choose Satan’s path of rebellion. (Matthew 25:41).

Now let’s look at some things the Bible tells us about the character of God that would help us understand Hell and the Lake of Fire.

  1. God is just and the ultimate and final judge. “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30
  2. God is merciful. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
  3. God is patient. (See verse above).
  4. God is loving. God loves his creation and man so much that he died for you and me and then rose to extend eternal life to any who would receive Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
  5. God is forgiving. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
  6. God is the exacter of vengeance. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  7. God sees all.
  8. God knows all.
  9. There is no law above God, He makes all the rules in accordance with His holy nature. (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8)
  10. God offers eternal redemption freely to everyone who would receive this gift according to the criteria of true repentance and inviting God into one’s life as Lord and Savior. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9

Now let’s look at some things the Bible tells us about the character of man that would help us understand Hell and the Lake of Fire.

  1. Man was created perfect by God. (Genesis 1:31)
  2. Man was created in God’s image, so he is an eternal being. (Genesis 1:26)
  3. Man was given a choice whereby he could rebel against God.
  4. Man’s spirit is designed to be intimately linked with the Spirit of God.
  5. The ramifications of rebellion were catastrophic and infected all mankind. It created a separation from God that resulted in the death of man’s spirit as well as physical death. As such, we are all born spiritually dead.
  6. God provided man with the ability for his spirit to revive and be born again, reestablishing the link with God. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
  7. A fully restored person (body, soul, and spirit) that is separated from God is under such tortuous anguish that there is nothing that comes close to describing the pain. Even the physical description of the Lake of Fire is like a picnic in comparison to a spiritual separation from God combined with there being a human spirit that is actually alive.
  8. There will come a time when all mankind will stand before God in judgment in full restoration (a living body, soul, and spirit).
  9. Unbelievers will be judged and sentenced to an eternity in the Lake of Fire; which is the place of separation from God. (See Revelation 20:12-15 above).
  10. True believers will be spared the eternal punishment because they received Jesus, who took the penalty for them and cleansed them from sin. (Note: the true believers, before Christ’s death on the cross, also received Jesus, who they only knew at the time as the promised Redeemer who was to come).
  11. There is a varying spiritual age of accountability where those under that age who die go to Heaven or some other holding area that the Bible does not reveal. How God deals with them, we are not told. Will they be like angels (who do not need a Savior) or be put back on earth during the period right after Christ’s return to earth? We are not told. (See II Samuel 12: 21-23).

Now, let’s try to put these lists all together to try to understand Hell and the Lake of Fire. We cannot make a theory that excludes anything from any of the lists. This is how you can identify a cult. They will go off on a theology that is contradictory to other parts of the Bible. And it is rarely huge differences, but the seemingly minor ones.

  1. God’s justice is perfectly and completely just because that is His character. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; which means you are not to have your head chopped off for breaking someone’s finger. (See Exodus 21:24-25).
  2. If Hell and the Lake of fire is purely an “eye for an eye” punishment, the pain caused by Hitler for 50 million people for a decade should only require a punishment in the Lake of Fire for 500 million years? Then you would expect him to be allowed into Heaven. If you add the pain from lost ones that extend beyond a decade, you might have several billion years in the Lake of Fire, but it is still a finite amount. For the person who was kind most of the time and slightly bad, you would expect him to only face a few years in the Lake of Fire. You may recognize this as where the concept of purgatory might have come from.
  3. In contrast, the Bible tells us that being cast into the Lake of Fire is eternal. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”Matthew 25:46 — But if this eternal residence is equated solely with punishment, this appears to violate the character of God, who is just. So it appears that only one of the facets of the Lake of Fire involves the concept of punishment.
  4. The greatest pain that any human or angel can suffer is the separation from God.
  5. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), suffered more at the cross than all the suffering of the world multiplied untold trillions of times over. When Jesus took all the sins of the world, this breached or fractured the Trinity in a way we will probably never fully comprehend. A separation occurred when Jesus cried out “…with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34.
  6. From the unfathomable suffering of God at the cross, we should see that it is the spiritual separation that causes the greatest pain. We tend to emphasize Christ’s physical tortures, which were extremely horrendous, but the only time the Bible records Jesus crying out in pain was at the time of separation from God. Plus, the only other time we are told of Jesus being in deep anguish was when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for and seeking a way to avoid the anguish He was soon to experience.
  7. No living person knows what that separation is like. God reaches out to us every moment of every day. He is constantly a part of our lives whether we recognize it or not. If one refuses God’s love and His free gift of salvation, then, upon the final death, the separation occurs. The screams of agony would make that of a man on fire seem like the soft purr of a kitten in comparison to spiritual separation. Having rejected so great a salvation – banished from the presence of the One to whom we were all created to be intimately connected to, is beyond imagination. The only way to come close to understanding the depth of the pain that comes from spiritual separation is to try to understand the relief God may be providing for the damned.
  8. Created for fellowship with God, the connection of our spirit with God’s Spirit is without parallel. We cannot be erased out of existence, because of our creation as eternal beings.
  9. Although it probably seems strange, God’s last act of kindness toward the unbeliever might very well be the Lake of Fire.
  10. The fallen angels and all unbelievers will have perfect indestructible bodies when cast into the Lake of Fire. The unquenchable fire will have no effect on dulling the physical pain sensors. The automatic struggle for air when fighting the pull of a lake that is trying to drown one will disorientate and provide an eternal discombobulating frenzy. Rising to the surface, the person will gulp down sulfurous flames into the lungs, whose perfect nerve endings will fire volleys of pain to a perfect brain that turns the signals into convulsive madness.
  11. As horrible as the above description is, there are not enough words in all the languages of the world to describe the horror of an eternal separation from God without some enormous distraction. I think it very likely that the Lake of Fire is an eternal distractive struggle against drowning and the pain of fire to effectively dull the far greater pain of spiritual separation from God.
  12. If so, an unbeliever placed on an elevated plateau, high above the Lake of Fire, with all the luxuries and pleasures one can imagine, but separated from God, would, within seconds, run to the edge of the plateau and cast himself into the eternal flames, seeking distractive relief from the infinitely greater spiritual pain.

The theory I have proposed of Hell and the Lake of Fire as not only a place of punishment, but an act of mercy by God is just a sketch that attempts to pull together many of the characteristics revealed to us in the Bible. It adheres to both the justice and mercy of God. Yet, there is so much that we do not know. These horrible places could still be strictly a punishment for rejecting the gift of salvation that is so monumental, that this rebellion requires an eternal punishment. Nevertheless, what we do know is this terrible place exists and all of humanity is headed toward the judgment of God. Jesus has already paid the horrible price for us and offers us the gift of eternal life with Him in Heaven. God does not want anyone to perish and if you haven’t accepted him as your Savior, he invites you right now to come into His eternal family. All it requires is calling upon him in prayer, something like this:

Dear Lord, I know I have sinned and deserve to be cast away from you for my sin and for my rebellion. I thank you for having died for me on the cross and for taking my sins away. Please forgive me and come into my heart and life. Help me to serve and obey you from this day forward. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.

That’s it. If you sincerely prayed something like the above, welcome to the Family of God. I look forward to seeing you in Heaven. Now, it’s important to read God’s word (for various reasons, I recommend a King James Version Bible: see the article entitled, “Is The Bible Holy?” ) and try to find a good group of Bible believers to fellowship with. Pray for God’s guidance as He’s warned us there are many dangerous wolves out there, camouflaged in sheep’s clothing. Remember, as a believer, God is with you and will never ever leave you or forsake you.

A warning: true repentance can only be demonstrated over time. If you find yourself constantly in sin then you are most likely not truly saved. Please watch these two short videos (Repentance; False Conversion) to understand more clearly what it means to be truly saved.

Ralph Wendt