Talking about hell
Hell, of course, is one of the eternal last things, together with death, judgment and heaven, which we are encouraged to consider every so often, if only to derive some appropriate resolutions as to how we ought to live our life here in this world.
The considerations of the so-called last things would give us a global picture of things that should guide us better in our choices and decisions. Let's hope that we understand this point well and take it to heart and to practice.
With respect to hell, however, we have to understand that it truly exists in spite of all the goodness and mercy of God. It is the place, or better said, the eternal state of those who are all-out against God, their opposition to God not only incidental but formal.
But we need to talk about hell with great delicacy. It is not meant to scare us, to bully us to behave properly, although some fear would be good for us. But it should be a fear that is out of love of God, not simply because of the punishment. We should be driven by filial fear, not servile fear.
God must have thought of hell when he decided to create. And that's simply because there is nothing that exists that was not thought of by God from all eternity. Otherwise, God would not be God. Just the same, God decided to create in spite of that possibility because he also knows that good will in the end triumph. God, in his own wisdom and ways, will always have the last word.
Hell came to be because of some angels who chose to be by themselves instead of being with God. Being pure spirits, their choice is instantaneous and has eternal effects. When they are good by choosing God, they would really be good always. And when they are bad by rejecting God, they would really be very bad always. There's no state of in-between in them. They are either very good or very bad.
With us, since we are body and soul, our choices are always conditioned by many factors. In fact, as long as we live, our final choice, either to be with God or to be by ourselves simply, is always a work in progress.
The choices that we make in life should always be viewed in this context of being conditioned. That's why even if we make a bad or sinful choice, there is still hope because we can still correct it. And we should not forget the all-powerful and abiding mercy of God. Remember St. Paul saying, “Where sin has abounded, God's mercy has abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)
Besides, we really cannot deny the fact that our proneness to sin is such that it will need only God's grace to combat it. We do our part, but we know our efforts would not be enough. St. Paul dramatized this when he said:
“I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7,22-25)
Before God, we are like little children who try to behave well but who cannot avoid bumbling down. The consideration of hell is not meant simply to scare us, but to encourage us to go always to God.*
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