Is God’s presence in hell? Revelation 20:10 “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Who torments the devil and the beasts forever?… God? I would love to be enlightened but I always thought hell was the total absence of God.
Psalm 139:7-8 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to Heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” The word sheol in the Old Testament can mean grave or the feeling of dying. We have to be careful with it because Sheol is not always a physical place. The psalmist is saying God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; When Jesus was on the cross, He used the word paradeisos as a promise that the thief next to Him would join Him in paradise that very day.
Some people like to say there are two compartments to this other realm. An easy way to think about it is one big place divided into two parts. If that’s true, because God is omnipresent, He would be there. However, He’s not in hell. So God is not the one doing the tormenting at this point. Satan and his minions, all those who fell with him, will be relegated to the lake of fire. They will be in torment as well as the tormentors. Another part of this that we don’t think about often is that because we’re made in the image of God, we live forever. So we live forever with Christ, or we live forever apart from Christ.
Hierarchy and Doctrine of Hell
And this is where the doctrine of annihilation has become very popular in the last few decades. Even John Stott changed his mind. He became an annihilationist because he thought God wouldn’t let people be tormented in hell forever; instead, He would annihilate them. You cannot annihilate a person made in the image of God because the image of God is eternal. It’s a sobering thing to think about, but that’s one more reason we must share Christ with our friends. We don’t want them to be separated from Christ all their life.
The tormenting and tormentor are in the hands of the devil, and there’s a hierarchy. We don’t know all the nuances, but just like there was an angelic hierarchy, there’s a satanic hierarchy. We can only imagine that some of those will torment them day and night. Revelation 22:11 says, “Let the one who does wrong still do wrong, and the one who is filthy still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous still practice righteousness, and the one who is holy still keep himself holy.”
It’s hard for us to think about the doctrine of hell because we want to believe God’s loving and kind, and compassionate, and He is. But He can’t embrace sin, and that’s why Christ died to take the wrath of God. So if there’s any question about the wrath of God, look at the cross because He poured out His wrath and anger, and Christ was our substitute. Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus was likely not as fearful of the physical, excruciating punishment and death on the cross as He was of being separated from His Father on the cross.
The Return of Christ
We tend to make Scripture sound nice and accepting, but those are man-made constructs. The Scripture is clear that hell is real. It’s as real as Heaven, and tormenting will occur day and night for all eternity for those who don’t know Christ.
If you believe in a literal return of Jesus, all those prophecies that are so confusing, veiled, and shadowy will be evident in a moment. When Christ returns, and these events start unfolding, the way Scripture teaches us, there’ll need to be a new heaven and a new Earth in the sense that the old Earth will need rebuilding.
The new Heaven depicts how the resurrected believer in Christ is not just present in his or her soul, but there will be a corporal reuniting of our physical body that is now eternally with Christ. This mortal shell doesn’t last, so we need new bodies. The point is we will be with Christ and other believers. We’ll be sinners saved by grace who are with Him forever. That is the hope of the believer. That should compel us all the more to share Christ with our friends who don’t know Christ. We don’t want them to be separated from Him, much less in eternal torment. What a horrible future for people that don’t know Jesus.
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