“I imagine hell like this: Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.”
― Peter Ustinov
A funny quote, indeed, yet what pictures do really come up in our minds when we hear someone talking about “hell”? I need to admit that I don’t know much about that fiery pit, not more than the Bible teaches. During the past centuries the Roman Catholic part of my family, my ancestors, had been threatened by the church that they would go to hell if they had committed severe sins that were not confessed before a priest. Note, Roman Catholic belief was that only members of their church could get to heaven back then since non-Catholics would be considered as heretics who would have no access to God – ever. Thank God, times have changed…
However, I just found an excerpt by John Calvin which I believe is VERY challenging. I won’t tell you before what I think about it. Instead, I am eager to know your thoughts which you could share with me right away in the comments section below.
12. Moreover, as language cannot describe the severity of the divine vengeance on the reprobate, their pains and torments are figured to us by corporeal things, such as darkness, wailing and gnashing of teeth, inextinguishable fire, the ever-gnawing worm (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; Mark 9:43; Isa. 66:24). It is certain that by such modes of expression the Holy Spirit designed to impress all our senses with dread, as when it is said, “Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared: he has made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, does kindle it,” (Isa. 30:33). As we thus require to be assisted to conceive the miserable doom of the reprobate, so the consideration on which we ought chiefly to dwell is the fearful consequence of being estranged from all fellowship with God, and not only so, but of feeling that his majesty is adverse to us, while we cannot possibly escape from it.
For, first, his indignation is like a raging fire, by whose touch all things are devoured and annihilated. Next, all the creatures are the instruments of his judgment, so that those to whom the Lord will thus publicly manifest his anger will feel that heaven, and earth, and sea, all beings, animate and inanimate, are, as it were, inflamed with dire indignation against them, and armed for their destruction. Wherefore, the Apostle made no trivial declaration, when he said that unbelievers shall be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” (2 Thess. 1:9). And whenever the prophets strike terror by means of corporeal figures, although in respect of our dull understanding there is no extravagance in their language, yet they give preludes of the future judgment in the sun and the moon, and the whole fabric of the world.
Hence unhappy consciences find no rest, but are vexed and driven about by a dire whirlwind, feeling as if torn by an angry God, pierced through with deadly darts, terrified by his thunderbolts and crushed by the weight of his hand; so that it were easier to plunge into abysses and whirlpools than endure these terrors for a moment. How fearful, then, must it be to be thus beset throughout eternity! On
this subject there is a memorable passage in the ninetieth Psalm: Although God by a mere look scatters all mortals, and brings them to naught, yet as his worshippers are more timid in this world, he urges them the more, that he may stimulate then, while burdened with the cross to press onward until he himself shall be all in all.
END OF BOOK THREE.
(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), Book 3, Chapter 25, Section 12.)
Read more here http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxvi.html