”Where do we get our ideas about judgment and hell?’ (part 1)

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.’ (Jude 1v6)

For many people, this picture is how they imagine hell. A dystopian existence in an overcrowded pit where there is barely enough room to move let alone take a breath. A world where God is considered a sadist with people consigned to the fiery depths of Dante’s Inferno. But what does this say about the human perception of God? Moreover, the way we have judged ourselves in advance of any meeting we may have with the Divine?

Years ago, at university, I went to see the course leader asking for a reference. Now, I can’t remember how it happened but I left his office with the task of writing my own reference. Anyway, struggling to write anything that didn’t come across as self-effacing or deprecating, I returned to him three days later with my reference. Reading it, he replied:

‘Not bad but you’re far too hard on yourself. ‘

With reflection it seems the strict judgments we place on ourselves are because only we know the truth: the things we say about others; the lies we tell; our pride and refusal to take responsibility when we do wrong; and the good that we omit to do. Things that we condemn ourselves with, believing we are truly deserving of whatever judgment comes our way.

But is this how God really is? Yes, the scripture verse (above) speaks of judgment but there are just as many in the Bible that speak of God’s grace such as from the book of Isaiah (1v18) where God implores the guilty to:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”