Hell is real, but there’s a lot of fake news in the world about it.
Before any Christians reading this get too nervous, our source is the Bible, but the Bible gets you in trouble if you read it literally. When you understand the nature of the Bible and the spiritual language it contains, you can start to glean the truth about what hell is like.
The truth about hell that most Christians have wrong is that a person chooses to go there.
That’s right – it’s a choice! A principle of the way the spiritual world works is that we determine our spiritual location.
How do we know? Why take our word for it? First, see if it makes sense to you; your own internal BS-o-meter is a good guide. Second, there was this guy Emanuel Swedenborg, a polymath from the 18th century, who published EIGHTEEN books on his study of the Bible and his own experiences in the spiritual world.
Here’s the deal:
No one is ever condemned to hell.
Anyone who resides in hell has chosen it willingly. God provides a spiritual home for everyone. The Lord’s will is for everyone to be in heaven, but if a person has entirely rejected everything of goodness and truth, and instead loves what is evil and false, then the Lord allows for that person to exist in the spiritual realm called hell.
But you might be wondering:
Is hell a place of eternal torment and eternal fire?
What the Bible says:
Probably the most famous characteristic of hell is the idea that you’re going to burn there. This comes from what hell is like in the Bible. In Revelation 20, for example, the beast, the false prophet, the devil, death, and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life is thrown into the lake of fire, which burns with sulfur, and it is written that they will be tormented there forever and ever.
When the Bible mentions fire and burning, it means the kinds of drives for evil that people in hell have. So hellfire really means “all the craving to do evil that flows from love for oneself” (Heaven and Hell 573 ← that’s one of the books Emanuel Swedenborg wrote and it references a paragraph number; he numbered his paragraphs (thanks Swedenborg!)).
The way hell really works:
The truth is, when observed from the outside, hell is not a great place to exist because there is a lot of mean stuff that goes on there, BUT everything that happens there is arising from the wills of the people who reside in hell. They like it that way!
For the people in hell, they are getting to live out the desires of their will (within certain limitations that we’ll get to), and this necessarily means that they are trying to do harm to others.
Spirits in hell are allowed to attempt to act on their will, but they also have to face the consequences of their actions. This is another law of the spiritual world. The harm done by people in hell acting on their impulses is allowed only so far as it actually can be used by God within the system of hell to keep the spirits in hell restricted.
Everything in the other life, overall and in particular, exists in such perfect balance that evil punishes itself. In this way, evil contains its own penalty. So does falsity, which rebounds on the person who subscribes to it. . . .
The Lord turns all the punishment and torment to good and puts it to some use. No penalty can ever exist unless the Lord has some purpose in mind for it, because the Lord’s kingdom is a realm of purpose and usefulness.Secrets of Heaven 696 (← that’s right! That’s another book by Swedenborg with another handy paragraph number. You can explore it yourself via a free pdf download by clicking on the link!)
Now this may all sound crazy but:
There is a system to hell. It’s not just total chaos. The Lord (God, the divine, whatever name you choose) governs hell (through God’s own omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent divine nature) and there are different layers to this government.
How God governs what happens in hell:
1. By the influence of divine goodness and divine truth flowing in.
2. By the connection between individual communities in heaven to certain communities in hell.
3. By giving access to certain angels in order to intervene. Their presence alone is able to bring matters under control.
That gives you the framework, but if nothing else works, then the fear of punishment that the spirits themselves have keeps their behavior in check.
Everything is done to mitigate the harm that evil spirits would like to cause, for their own sake as well as for others.
What’s the bottom line?
No single act or choice in our lives determines our fate after death. It is our intention and the overall arc of our lives that aligns us more with heaven or hell. Think about it, does the traditional doctrine of hell really square with a divine being who is love and mercy itself?
Swedenborg said it best when he wrote,
From these few points you can see how insane people are who think that God can condemn anyone, curse anyone, throw anyone into hell, predestine anyone’s soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, or rage against or punish anyone. People are even more insane if they actually believe this, let alone teach it. In reality, God cannot turn away from us or even look at us with a frown. To do any such thing would be against his essence, and what is against his essence is against himself.True Christianity 56 (← catchy name, huh?)
God is on your side! God’s will is to free us from hell and fill us with love and wisdom, or in other words, bring us into heaven (inwardly, right now even!).
But whether it’s heaven or hell, it can’t be forced. The choice is ours.
Hope you enjoyed this description of hell! How do these ideas land with you? Let us know in the comments!
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Want to go to the source? Remember you can click on any of the titles we quoted from in this article and get a free pdf download or purchase the work for yourself!
Hungry for more information about hell and the afterlife?
Watch any of these episodes from the OTLE team:
- What Are Heaven and Hell?
- Heaven and Hell – A Primer
- The Good Thing About Hell
- The Punishment of Evil, Spiritual Purging, and Angels Helping in Hell?
- Evil Spirits Explain Why They Like Hell
- Divine Truths Have Literal Power Over Hell
- The Inhabitants of Hell Are Sense-Oriented
- Will You Go to Hell for Not Being Spiritual?
- Evil Rejects God’s Protection From Hell
- Hell Gives Off An Aura
- Hell Almost Destroyed Heaven
- Are There Different Levels in Hell?
- The Gates to Heaven and Hell
- How to Free Your Mind From Hell
- How You End Up in Heaven or Hell