Some thoughts on hell from a post in 2005:
[b]HELL: The District of Damnation[/b]
By Robert Wurtz II
Hell is the district of eternal damnation. It is a location that has been set apart to quarantine wickedness. Hell was created by God for the devil and his followers. Scripture uses many illustrations to describe Hell and none is more fearsome that that of Tophet/Gehenna. Tophet was a small valley southwest of Jerusalem which belonged to the sons of Hinnom. According to Jeremiah 7:31 the Children of Israel would come and sacrifice their children there to the false god Molech (I Kings 11:7,33; II Kings 16:3; Jeremiah 19:6, 11-14; etc.). Those Jews who had fallen into idolatry placed a large, bronze, hollowed out statue of Molech- shaped like a man and with its arms outstretched. A fire would be built within the statue that was fed by an air canal that made for a fierce heat. When the flames were intense and the arms red-hot the idolaters would place their babies onto the outstretched arms and hands. Some accounts say they would calculate the distance and throw the infant directly into the fire. The infants would die a horrific death; their skin would be burned off and their bodies burned alive. The screams and cries of the babies would be unbearable, even to these depraved people. Therefore, drums (tophim) were played to drown out the hideous screams of the infants to make the event tolerable for the parents who had all but quenched their familial love (storgos). Hence, Tophet, in the Hebrew, signifies the beating of drums.
Tophet Becomes Gehenna
Over the coarse of time Tophet became synonymous with judgment and slaughter in Jewish history. King Josiah stopped the Children of Israel from making their sons and daughters pass through the fire and is believed to have been the person who made the area a garbage dump. Later, when Babylon came to destroy Jerusalem dead bodies were piled there until there was no room (Jeremiah 7:32, 33).
By the time of Jesus, Gehenna was a trash dump that burned continually outside the city. The cities refuse, as well as the bodies of criminals, were thrown there. Gehenna was the 'visual' that Jesus used to illustrate what hell is like. Everything that we know of and think of concerning Tophet/Gehenna must come to bare. The fire, the screams, the burning of refuse; all of these are analogies as to what hell is. Hell is a place where the cosmic refuse of Gods creation is burned. It is a place where those who desire to rebel against the love and peace of God are quarantined and burned.
Deep and Large
In Isaiah 30:33 we read
For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it. Hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Had Satan opportunity, he would have turned Heaven into Hell. He is the enemy of ALL that Heaven is. He does not like the conditions of Heaven and brought war to it. We must understand that satan was not at home in Heaven once sin was found in him. He obviously enjoys the pains of Hell because of his behavior after 1000 years in the bottomless pit. He comes out only to ADD to the punishments that he justly deserves.
God did not create hell for man; but man has chosen to follow Satan and Satan is headed for hell. I have personally known of demonized men to say; "why should I go to Heaven and worship God all the time." (and other unutterable things) It was then that I realized that this man by his own admission, would not be at home in Heaven. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it (Isaiah 5:14). Hell has expanded to contain the multitudes that are walking the broad road following Satan who militate against all that is good.
Why Teaching on Hell is Often NOT Effective
If there is one thing that characterizes our culture and generation it is one of the "here and now" and of "instant gratification". People go into extreme amounts of debt because of the need for instant gratification. They are bolstered by the idea that the payments wont be coming for a month or a year or more. No payments until next year is a sales and marketing strategy that seeks to allure people by making the payment for their excesses seem more distant and in the future. A sober minded person sees strait through such a tactic and refuses to buy anything on such terms. The Devil, in like fashion tells people to go ahead and sin; because there are no real payments "until eternity". Because the sentence is not carried out speedily; mans heart is fully set in them to do evil (Ecclestiases 8:11).
People do not fear things that are distant because they are distant. They think they will cross that bridge when the get to it. And cross over they will- over that great gulf affixed (Luke 16:26). I have heard it said that men spend their whole lives pressing the thought of death as far back into their minds as possible. How much more do they seek to bury the idea of unending flame?
Another Reason Why Teaching on Hell is Often NOT Effective
What are the tophim (drums) of our lives? What are we doing to drown out the sounds and horrors of hell? What are we doing to numb our minds to the reality of hell? What is the overarching distraction that is keeping us from focusing on hell? What do we do to put hell out of our minds? The horror of hell never changes; but there are things we do to put it out of our minds. Jesus said that if our hands or feet or eyes offend us we ought to do away with them rather than go to hell (Matthew 5:29). Many, rather than doing away with them do away with the thought of hell. Jesus also said that we should not fear men who can merely kill the body; but we should fear the one who can perpetually destroy our soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). Where is that fear? Why has the doctrine of hell not been as effective as it should be? Why are people so careless with their soul in the face of such unimaginable consequences? Why do people keep telling themselves that there is time to repent? Why do we "beat the drums of procrastination" or self-deception? Why dont people want to hear it?
Many haply travel the downward broad road of destruction with the thought that they will someday change. They procrastinate as though they will feel the need to repent any greater than now. Their unconscious policy is procrastination and it is among the most dooming of mindsets. It's as though people think that right in front of the gates of hell there is going to be an exit for them to take; but by then it will be too late. After they had spent as many lifetimes gnawing their tongue for pain as there is sand on the sea shore there will be yet one word that will haunt them the most: ETERNITY. They have been there so long and yet they will be there forever and ever. Nothing is worth that. Nothing is worth even remotely risking that. The enemy is beating the drums of indifference and deceit- we must hearken to the cries of Gods word as it defines hell.
If there is a sinner in this house, let me say to him, Abandon all your excuses. You have been told to-night that they are all vain. To-night it will be told in hell, and told in heaven, and echoed from the ends of the universe, what you decide to do. This very hour may seal your eternal destiny. Will you submit to God to-night--NOW? (C.G.F Lecture X)
Robert Wurtz II