He once recommended that we should “go to Heaven for the climate, (and) Hell for the company”.
There’s a major problem with that, of course: you really won’t have any company in Hell if you should be so unfortunate to go there when you die. In fact, that may be the primary myth about Hell that both Christians and non-Christians hold, the notion that you’ve at least got camaraderie while you’re suffering.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The primary description of Hell in the Bible is “separation from God”. We choose Hell by choosing not to accept God, to accept Christ, as the center of our lives. We are essentially requesting not to have anything to do with God, and so He obliges us, to His everlasting grief. With that, we are sent to a place, a “dimension” if you will, where everything connected with God is removed from our lives. Peace. Comfort. Contact with others.
What was one of the first gifts God gave to His Foremost Creation, Man? In Genesis 2:18, the Lord says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” With that, He creates woman for marriage and companionship. One of the primary commands of Jesus Christ remains that we find a body of Believers to be a part of, for a number of reasons (helping each other through difficult times, helping us maintain our perspective on the Word of God as it relates to our lives, etc.), companionship being high on the list.
So if companionship was and is so important a part of God’s blessing for mankind, it figures that one of the difficulties in Hell is eternal solitude. Don’t go to Hell for the company; there isn’t any.
In Luke 16:19-31, we see the most extensive tale of Hell, told by the Master Himself.
The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
There are several things about Jesus’ tale that I don’t quite comprehend, because they seem to contradict what He (and others) say about Heaven and Hell. (Abraham? Why would it be him and not an angel?) The most important is what appears to be the reinforcement of the common misconception of “good people go to Heaven” – actually, what Abraham implies here is that “people who get spit on in life get Heaven in death, and people who live luxurious lives go to Hell in death”, which is also not the way the rest of the NT reads.
But that’s not the emphasis of Jesus’ tale. The important part – one of two of them – is the bold section in the middle: Between Heaven and Hell is an impassable chasm that no one may cross – not angels, not Abraham, nobody. Recall that Hell was created as a prison for the fallen angels, so it must serve to prevent angelic escape, not just human flight. Within that, the rich man’s complaint is to have Lazarus come “dip his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame”. Hell is always described as hot – eternal flames, all that – but the anguish! The pain!
AND…who was it that he needed to appeal to? Someone else in Hell? No. There isn’t a single person in Hell in the Lord’s story except the rich man. He apparently has NO CONTACT with other people there.
But the other important element of the story of Hell is a cautionary tale for all of you who don’t figure Hell is that big a deal. It’s that last sentence, verse 31…
‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’
Those people who deny the power of God won’t be convinced by anything except the Holy Spirit. If miracles are performed right in front of them, they’ll find a way to explain them away. This is why there’s some viability to the prophecy that somehow, the AntiChrist will be able to explain away millions and millions of missing Christians – the non-Christians who remain won’t recognize the greatest miracle of the last two millennia in the first place.
But back to Hell – don’t go back to Hell. Don’t go at all. If Heaven doesn’t appeal to you, cement your Christianity just to avoid going to Hell!