We often struggle with the idea of Hell because we misunderstand its purpose. We act as though God has made a special place for humans to suffer, when in fact, Hell was made for rebellious spiritual beings. When Jesus separates the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25:41, He sentences the goats (a metaphor for wicked humans) to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” As Greg Boyd points out,
hell is first and foremost the destiny of God’s cosmic enemies, not us. If humans go there, it is because they have willfully aligned themselves with the ones for whom it was prepared.… We are blessed or cursed by how we align ourselves in the fight between two cosmic kingdoms. We either share in Christ’s victory, or we share in Satan’s defeat.
We find this concept of Hell being for spiritual beings further endorsed in the intertestamental Jewish book of 1 Enoch, which agrees that this fire is a home for fallen spiritual beings. As Enoch is taken to this prison, he finds himself afraid.
From there I visited another place that is more fearful, and I beheld awesome works. In that place a great fire was alighted and burning. And the place had a crevice into the deep, full of pillars of great fire going down. Neither measure nor breadth was I able to see or conjecture. Then I said, ‘How fearful is this place and how terrible to behold!’ Then one of the holy angels who was with me answered, saying to me, ‘Enoch, why are you terrified and trembling in this way?’ And I answered, ‘Because of this fearful place and because of the appearance of this terror.’ And he said, ‘This place is a prison of angels. They will be held together here forever.’” (1 En 21:7-10)
Peter often draws from 1 Enoch (Jude even directly alludes to this book in Jude 1:14) and in doing so, he further communicates Hell as a place created for rebellious spiritual beings.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment… (2 Pe 2:4)
While this point may not be helpful to everyone struggling with the idea of Hell, I hope it can be helpful for some. Hell is not some place God longs to sentence anyone to. It isn’t even a place created for humanity. But if we choose to worship and follow the demons behind the false gods (Deut 32:17, 1 Cor 10:20, Rev 9:20) who lead us away from the things God cares about (Mt 25:41-46), then we will live on with them in their kingdom of Hell, for we’ve chosen to be loyal to them rather than to God.
But God would rather we turn to Him so that He can transform us into new creations that can live on with Him in His kingdom of Heaven, which takes care of the least of these (Mt 25:41-46). His kingdom is coming to Earth here and now, and will one day be brought to Earth in fullness. If we desire to live there with Him in His presence, then we must choose His kingdom now. We must believe in Jesus and He will save us from the Hell that wasn’t designed for us.
This is a short, loosely edited section that I shaved off of my new book, The Rush and the Rest: The Supernatural World and Works of the Holy Spirit. Coming out very soon!
Boyd, Gregory A.. God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (p. 287). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.