Where exactly do the boundaries of Hell and Satan’s eternal flames of fire dwell? Could their menacing fence-line of sorrow and death be closer than we think? And with our stay here on earth, is it possible that some of us are already dipping our feet into this fiery water, while others are nearly swallowed alive and fully immersed within its eternal flames?
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Ever since the days of my overactive and sometimes mischievous youth, I can still recall my father warning me that if I failed to choose the good path that led upwards, I would ultimately choose the bad, leading down. Needless to say, most times this statement would convict me into correcting my behavior without further ado. Yet, as I defiantly continued to push the limits of discipline, I always had to wonder, where exactly was that dividing line between right and wrong, and what specific actions would position me at the doors of death and destruction, rather than that place of heavenly splendor?
Now as we all know, Christianity has scores of perspectives on what it takes to be saved. And even though all Christians claim to follow Christ and should realize the importance of following His example (1Peter 2:21), it seems the church can never agree with complete unity on salvation. But these divisions and segregations are nothing new. Ever since the time of Jesus, denominations have sprung forth with every new theology, segregating its foundational roots even more. So in regards to this, and as the depth of Jesus’ purpose is sometimes misunderstood, let’s take a few seconds to reflect on a couple of scriptures in order to shed some light on this Truth.
In Luke 13:26-27, Jesus points out that there will be many who come before Him at Judgment claiming to have eaten and drank with Him, yet these same people will be those whom He does not know and who will not be allowed to enter God’s Kingdom. Then in James 2:19, James testifies that we are doing good to believe God as being One. However, he quickly points out that if even the demons believe and shutter, then what advantage does our faith have over them?
Apart from these, there are numerous other accounts, references, and testimonials, demonstrating the necessity for a sincere attitude in overcoming sin and placing our will in line with God’s. And as God’s Word does not lie, it marks the importance of listening to every word. But these brief examples alone should convince us that it takes much more than just simple belief to enter heaven.
Yet in getting back to the main theme, and considering only two choices of Heaven and Hell—and only these two choices—how does God decide our fate on the Day of Judgment and determine where we will be placed? By the same token, through what method do we (as Christians) either ring the victory bell of everlasting glory and eternal bliss… or instead, completely miss the mark, falling into an abyss of everlasting sorrow and punishment?
As we can see, even when compared to man’s unjust and ungodly measure of morality, the thought of residing in a place called Hell which engenders eternal flames of destruction seems difficult to comprehend. Now this doesn’t mean that Hell does not exist. God has forewarned us many times about this fiery locale, so there should be no dispute concerning its reality. But along these lines, is it possible that we could have just gotten part of this equation wrong? With all that we’ve been taught concerning our fate on the other side of life, could it just be that we missed something important? And might there be a chance that those flames of fire notoriously distinguished as set ablaze within Hades, already accompany us here on earth as they take the form of hatred, bitterness, fear and persecution?
Now before we totally dismiss this idea and cast aside any notion of the thought, we might want to check with God first by reviewing some scriptural references.
The foremost account that comes to mind is the story of Adam and Eve. Now we all know this narrative far too well to go into it with great detail or repeat its entirety within this writing. But there are a couple of important facts we should point out concerning this event. Where exactly did Adam and Eve reside prior to their downfall of sin? And where did they end up upon their eviction?
Even from a basic understanding, it’s not too hard to distinguish that the garden of Eden, of where their journey started, lodges in a place separate from the world we know. In other words, our dwelling place of the Earth—even as beautiful as it is—most assuredly exists separate from that elegant garden established and created by God at the Beginning. And with placing a sword-wielding cherub guarding its gates, we should readily see, there can be no passage back across its threshold except by strictly heeding God’s statutes just as initially required of Adam and Eve.
Only by humbling ourselves before God, and by death to the things of this world (sin, hatred, strife, etc.) can we find our way free from worldly bondage and back into that garden. And until the point of our return, Scripture informs us in Gen. 3:14-19 that we have no choice but to dwell on the earth, live alongside thorns and thistles, and to have a boarding partner named Satan. In fact, we can search a lifetime, but we can never escape Satan’s infectious disease of death upon planet earth, that is, unless we conquer it through eternal life of which only God has to offer.
Another famous account divulging further insight into this matter is the story of Job. Once again, this is a story we all should be acquainted with. But just because we’re familiar with it, does not mean we fully grasp its message. In this narrative, and as Satan presents himself before God, the devil requests permission of God to test Job’s worthiness in faith by placing upon him the afflictions and the trials of life. Although this point alone should prove Satan’s intent to destroy us as we dwell upon earth, this fact is further proven valid by God’s inquiry, asking Satan where he has been. Then, not once, but twice, Satan undeniably confirms earth as his roaming grounds and the place where he dwells. (Job 1:7 & Job 2:2).
This, however, is just a small fraction of a much larger story. Just as Job, the entire earth is continually tempted by Satan and subjected to his maniacal plans as only allotted and permitted by God. And though Job proved worthy, staying true to God through the encounter, we could only hope we are as strong as he. But upon this account there was one thing proven for sure. Job realized that Satan’s dwelling place was right alongside his, and there was little he could do but praise God for the ability to see something others could not. And upon that experience, it is confirmed… Satan walks around like a roaring lion in the same place as we (1Peter 5:8).
The concept of life’s punishments and rewards has much more profoundness though, and concerning that, Scripture many times reveals a fate that awaits upon the other side of life. Jesus also speaks of this, but it is not always mentioned as a glorious place prepared in Heaven, and instead touches upon a place called prison.
For example, in Mat. 5:25-26 Jesus explains that if we are found guilty of a crime, we will be required to pay the price before we are allowed to get out of that prison. Now, just in case there’s any doubt as to what Jesus is referring to, let me reassure you, He isn’t talking about a prison cell staffed and maintained by our local government officials down the street. He’s referring to judgment and punishment allotted by God.
This same prison is referred to several times elsewhere. 1Peter 3:19-20 is one such place where Jesus is said to have proclaimed the Gospel of the Good News to the spirits lost at the time of Noah. Now it’s easy to skip right over this verse, pretending it doesn’t exist, or say that it’s impossible to understand. But throughout Scripture, the only place mentioned where Jesus proclaims the Gospel is upon planet earth. There’s no other reference to saving the dead, except those spiritually dead upon the earth. And if instead we want to believe that Jesus entered a place of tormented spirits, separate from the living, that’s up to each of us to decide. Yet as Christians, we should already be aware that Jesus had only one goal with being sent to earth, and that purpose was fulfilled when He accomplished God’s will in giving His life until death. Beyond this, there’s no other indication of where souls could be saved under heaven.
So then… who exactly are these lost souls spoken of in Noah’s time? And if Jesus spoke to these people as Scripture states, where exactly might He have done so?
Simply put, and as strange as this may sound, if we missed the boat that sailed upon those waters, then the only choice is you and I. And if this thought seems absurd, a stretch of one’s imagination, or an insurrection of faith, would the idea of Jesus speaking to those who are deceased and buried be any more likely? Would He have any purpose to share the Gospel with souls whose existence has no means of rescue from the eternal flames of Hell as we are systematically taught?
Eternity is given by God. As a result, it is our choice (given by God) to decide how to spend that eternity. And if we choose death, then we will continually receive death. And as God has complete control of every living thing He gives life to… and if the Earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49) used in doing His work… then who are we to question His eternal methods? Residing as a Spiritual Being, God exists in Heaven. Earth—the place given to man—lies separate, albeit still within that eternal covenant (Gen. 9:16).
But once again, many would argue that the place we currently call home, could never exist as the domicile of Satan. After all, there’s an underworld of restless demons and spirits lurking underfoot and deep within the bowels of the earth which are assigned for just that purpose, right? And though that may rightly be, isn’t it curious that they inhabit the same planet as we? So whether we‘re speaking of that which is above, or that which is below, Satan and his cohorts ultimately hang their hats on the same rock encircling the sun as we.
Nonetheless, if we’re still not convinced of whether Hell could really exist upon planet earth, then we may want to look at it from a different point of view. For as a mother cries out at the grave of her only child who has been struck down by cancer… or as a veteran suffers the aftermath of post traumatic stress from witnessing the living hell of innocent men, women, and children dying upon the battlefront of war… or as we search for understanding in the story of Jesus, who suffered the torture of whips, thorns, and nails, while giving His life to reveal freedom’s path… should we really have to wonder where the boundaries of Hell are manifest?
Though no one can know all of God’s Great Plan, He has graciously given His Book of Life in order for us to learn. And as with any lesson in learning, we are continually tested on our sincerity in this endeavor. Heaven and Earth are called as witnesses against us (Deut. 30:19). The blessing is Heaven, the curse is Earth. Aside from the testing of one’s faith, earth has no other purpose (2Chron. 32:31; Job 7:1). And as with all tests, lack of dedication in learning will determine whether that test must be given again. It is a perpetual cycle that has no end, except via the portals of heaven.
Solomon informs us concerning this never ending state of God in Ecc. 1:9 and Ecc. 3:15. There he indicates that all things which have been, will be again. And although this wisdom can easily apply to historic accounts related to the rise and fall of nations within traceable records, where then is Solomon’s great wisdom? The concept of “history repeating itself” equates to a simple theory learned by mere school children. Accordingly, if Solomon’s words speak solely of man’s continued mistakes throughout the generations, what have we gained in understanding? The truth is, Solomon’s wisdom transcends this world into the next by helping to explain something otherwise nearly impossible to comprehend. His teaching concerns God’s Kingdom and God’s Wisdom, not that which is already understood by man.
God creates from the dust, and unto the dust we return (Psalm 104:29-31). But it doesn’t end there. Upon a New Heaven and Earth (Isa. 65:17; Isa. 66:22; 2Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) He creates again, and continues to create into the eons.
Sound like some fabrication of nonsense? Not in the least. God is eternal, having an eternity to fill. He is not limited to a few thousand years of which man likes to restrain His potential. It is His nature to create, and it is by His hand that every living thing comes forth. And to believe anything less, does not give credibility to who He is, the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Just as the past events unfolded in Genesis, that New Heaven and Earth will again be presented upon the doorstep of a new horizon. The question to be considered though, may be our fate claimed upon that dawning destiny of God’s continuous cycle. For if we persist on ignoring God’s Wisdom conveyed by His prophets, to what else then should we listen? And how many more times might God repeat this pattern until we get it right?
Given only two options of Heaven and Hell, it leaves very little room for making mistakes or getting it wrong. Yet anyone who claims to be a Christian will firmly attest that although they may not be perfect, they certainly don’t deserve a place called Hell. And rightfully so. For if faith in God credits you of no worth, then what purpose is there for believing? However, Scripture informs us that if we are defiled by even the slightest bit of hatred (1John 3:15), which counts as murder in the eyes of God, then we can not be allowed to enter God’s presence (Rev. 21:8; Rev. 21:27).
So where then will our fate lie, if we walk carelessly? When you consider how some of us enjoy earthly pleasures so much more than the spiritual and heavenly, what better fate and avenue of punishment than to be sent back to that place which we know so well and love so much… a setting called Earth that harbors the horrors of Hell?
Again… sound ridiculous? Maybe so. But there are numerous scriptural references indicating this, and regardless of whether we agree or not, we already know that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and upon planet earth death abounds unto each new generation (Jeremiah 8:3). And unless we heed God’s Words, there certainly can be no escape. But to that choice, we should open our ears and eyes. For if there are only two doors of eternity standing before us, and we haven’t yet opened the door that reaches to Heaven… we gotta know, we’re running out of options fast!
May the Peace of God reach all who search.
G. W. Timm
NOTE: For all of those interested in obtaining a copy of this post for reference or further Bible Study, it can be downloaded as an e-Sword Topic Notes Module via this Link.