Monday, December 12, 2016
HELL #2 - THE HORRORS OF HELL
Shame, unrelenting shame, will be the eternal lot of sinners. In the resurrection of the dead, those who are lost in their sins will "awake...to shame and everlasting contempt"(Dan. 12:2). St Paul warned Christians to be careful who they followed, saying, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)(Phil. 3:17-19).
Hell will be "the moonless place", a place of utter darkness, the deepest darkness, in the outer darkness. A darkness without escape, a darkness that presses in on you, suffocates you. You will be in a fire that has no brightness. You will for all eternity be found in a deep abyss, falling forever, never to land, never free of fright. Oh the horror of falling in utter darkness, with fire that has no light burning you, a darkness that shatters the soul. Poisonous flesh-eating worms that feast gluttonously on your flesh, never satisfied. Forever you will be in the company of your enemies, the demons. How horrific to be chained together with unseen murderers in a joyless place, filled with inconsolable grief. This deathless death that the sinner will endure is much more unbearable and bitter than the seperation of body and soul. This is the second death, which is eternal death.
To some this sounds like exaggeration, but it is absolutely consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus teaches in his "Sermon on the Mount" that "broad is the way that leads to destruction...every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire...then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of iniquity"(Mt. 7:13,19,23). Jesus warned that "it is better for you to enter into life maimed, then having two hands to go into hell/gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched". Jesus repeats this warning three times in a row(Mk. 9:42-47; Mt. 18:7-9). Jesus reveals what happens at the end of the world, at His second coming: He will send His angels to gather together all those who do iniquity, "And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"(Mt. 13:37-43). Jesus warns of the "danger of hell fire" in Mt. 5:22 and again in Mt. 5:29 and 30. In Matthew 10 Jesus is teaching about the requirements for discipleship and says, "...fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell/gehenna"(Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:1-9). And once more, pronouncing the seven "Woes" upon the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus says, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell/gehenna"(Mt. 23:15,33). And yet once more, Jesus ends his parable of the talents saying, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."(Mt. 25:30).
St Paul describes what will come upon the unrepentant sinner at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe..."(2 Th. 1:7-9). St Paul explains how the sinner who resists the goodness of God that leads to repentance hardens his impenitent heart storing up for himself wrath which will be revealed against him on "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God"(Rom. 2:4,5). The life of the sinner beyond the grave is called "destruction" by the God-inspired Apostles. "The enemies of the Cross of Christ: whose end is destruction"(Phil. 3:18,19). There end is "the lake that burns with fire and sulphur"(Rev. 21:8). They have only to look forward to a certain fearful judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour them(Heb. 10:27). And "the mist of darkness" and "the blackness of darkness" is forever reserved for the unrepentant sinner(2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 13).
UNDERSTANDING THE FUNCTION OF A SYMBOL
All the various images, given by Jesus and the Apostles for the indescribable experience that hell will forever be, are symbols. There are those who object to a literal interpretation of these scriptural passages describing hell. And the Church Fathers and the doctrine of the Church concurs. We know that these images of hell are not to be understood in a literal, material way. As John of Damascus says, "Fires of hell are a mystical fire far more real than the material fires of earth...". The fire of hell is different than familiar fire. Actually the earthly fires symbolize a far more horrific mystical fires. Symbols are used as metaphors and as figurative speech. The function of a symbol is to be a likeness of a reality. A symbol points beyond itself to something even more real and intense than that pictured by a symbol. Take no comfort that these are symbols used by Jesus and the Apostles. For they point us to a far greater reality of horror. St Gregory of Nyssa observes, "When you hear about the fire of hell, you must understand something different from familiar fire, because that fire has other characteristics than those held by this fire on earth. That fire(hell fire) cannot go out; while many methods have been found to put out this one(earthly material fire). There is, therefore, a great difference between the fire that goes out and that which is never quenched. Consequently, the fire of hell is something different and unlike our familiar fire. Again when you hear about "the worm" of the future hell, let not your mind race, on account of the synonym, to the familiar "worm" of the earth. For the characterization of that worm as something that "does not die"(Mk. 9:48) leads us to believe basically that this is something different from the familiar worm we know".(The Great Catechetical Homily 40 p. 45 Gregory of Nyssa)
The above being true, we may also add that the torment of hell may include a physical component seeing that the sinners receive a resurrection body suited to the punishment of soul and body(John 5:28,29). The torment of soul is definite, but we will forever be body and soul creatures for eternity, so the body may be a part of the torment.
Posted by Mike Simmons at 1:16 AM