What is hell like? It’s a tough question.
I once made a joke about hell, and was promptly adjusted by one of my kids.
“Dad, we shouldn’t joke about a place where people are suffering eternal torment.” He was right. Hell is nothing to make light of. People laugh about partying with their friends in hell, but hell won’t be any kind of party.
What is hell like? J.I. Packer tells us we can gain insight by considering Jesus’ sufferings:
Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God’s judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father’s presence and love, all sense of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness. (from In My Place, Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever)
“Withdrawal and deprivation of all good.” We can’t even begin to imagine this, for we enjoy and take for granted thousands of blessings every day. Fresh water, fried chicken, eyesight, jazz, baseball, pileated woodpeckers, espresso, sleep, and green grass. Just take away electricity or coffee and we immediately begin to smart. Imagine every pleasure and good thing being removed.
But imagine being stripped of all “physical, mental and spiritual well-being.” When Jesus became a curse for us on the cross he experienced not even a shred of mercy. No relief, no comfort from God or friends. No encouragement, no hope, no light.
God clothes our sufferings in mercies. Even in our darkness and pain, God comforts us by his Spirit and gives us hope through his Word. He gives us family and friends to pray for and encourage us. Jesus had none of this on the cross. He enjoyed no relief from the racking pain of crucifixion and suffered in his soul immeasurable agony, despair, loneliness, and horror.
What is hell like? Jesus experienced it on the cross – so that we who have in trusted him never will. How can we not praise and thank him?