And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 NLT
Paul goes on to write, “not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love”. Why should that be a problem to pilgrims like us today? Are we afraid of hell? Do we think that the prospect of hell will really get in the way of our experience of God’s love? Some declare that hell hasn’t yet been prepared so what is there to fear. Others minimise the concept of hell, declaring it as being an archaic hangover from the Middle Ages and not appropriate, or without any relevance, in today’s sophisticated societies.
But the Bible is clear that hell is a place being established for the ultimate incarceration of the devil and his angels. God created them as immortal beings, so they can never die. But they can be consigned to a place where they will do no more damage to God’s creation. In Matthew 25:4 we read, “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons’”. Although primarily prepared as a place for the devil and his cohorts, there will also be room for the devil’s earthly followers. And the scary thought is that the default place for mankind at the end of time is hell. We have to make a choice about wanting to go to Heaven. If we put off making a decision for Christ then the danger is that we will end up in hell.
But, as Paul indicated, the thought of hell seemed to have then potential for power over him and the early Christians. By definition, God’s love will be totally absent in hell, of course. In Paul’s day, hell was a place much to be feared. The worry of ending up there because of some misdemeanour, unrepented of, was perceived as a real threat in Paul’s day. And perhaps should be for us as well. In the process of warning His disciples about the coming dangers being threatened against Christians, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). There are other warnings Jesus gave about hell; He considered it a real place with real consequences, and one from which there is no escape.
Thankfully, there is a way that we can choose, to avoid spending eternity in hell, and that is through believing in Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”. Note though that this not a magic incantation; the assurance of salvation from an eternity spent in hell comes from “believing in your heart”. There is no other way.
Paul was convinced that hell had no power over him, and therefore would never be able to block him or distract him from God’s love. And for us pilgrims, the answer is the same. We have chosen the narrow way that leads to life, not the broad way that leads to destruction.
Dear God. We agree with Paul that there is nothing, not even hell itself, that can get in the way of Your love for us. We are so grateful. Amen.