”Where do we get our ideas about judgment and hell?’ (part 2)

‘But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.’ Romans 2v5

Jean-Paul Sartre in his play ‘No Exit’ tells the story of three people who find themselves trapped in a room. Desperate for love, each seeks love from another but all are continually frustrated by the end. Of course, for Sartre, the play is an outward expression of his belief that ‘hell is relationships.’ Not the type where people argue and fight – it is that too – but rather, the dissatisfaction and discontent of love frustrated.

In the last post we considered how people may imagine Divine judgment as God wielding a big stick and condemning people to hell in a ‘Dante’s Inferno’ type pit. While some extracts of the Bible support the idea of hell as a hot place – see Rich man and Lazarus  – the overriding intention seems to be to identify an environment that is alien to human existence. A spiritual location that is separate from God and His benefits. Not a prison as such but a loss of access to the stimuli of God’s creation.

This idea of hell in which humans are unable to interact with and enjoy physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experiences is more akin to ideas about separation from God’s goodness. In The Rich Man and Lazarus (see link above), the unkind landowner finds himself in hell because he lacked generosity to Lazarus who begged at his gate. The man’s request that Lazarus cross from heaven to hell so he might have some water elicits this response:

‘a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

There we have it! A description of Hell: a place outside of God where people no longer have access to enjoy the things they once had in their life. Moreover, the things they took for granted. A place quite different to the fiery Underworld in which devil and demons torture prisoners with glee.