I can’t imagine how it’s been for our oilfield workers, farmers, construction crews and all those who have to work under the hot Texas sun every day. They must spend the entire day dripping in sweat, drinking gallons of water just to stay hydrated.
The other day I was in WalMart when a man walked in and exclaimed in exasperation, “It’s hot as a hell out there!” Some people were startled by the outburst. Others simply nodded in agreement.
I thought about it.
Yes, the heat has been miserable over the last few weeks, but is it hot as hell? Jesus described hell as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Imagine burning in fire forever.
Hell is a place of pure punishment. The punishment of hell is complete separation from God and his love – being locked out of his presence forever. One of the horrific ironies of hell is that those condemned to its dungeons will be able to see the heaven they are missing. They will be watching the happiness of heaven through a window from the outside looking in.
Hell is horror. Hell is suffering beyond our darkest nightmares. Working under the hot Texas sun doesn’t even come close. We really have no idea of how horrible hell is.
And, thanks to Jesus, we never will.
Honestly, we deserve to burn forever in the lake of fire. The Apostle Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” The punishment of just one sin is an eternity in the prison of hell and each of us has a lot more than just one sin. Every little lie, every dirty thought, every ugly word deserves the flames of hell.
But Jesus suffered that hell for us. When he hung on the cross, he didn’t just suffer the nails in his hands and thorns in his brow. He didn’t just suffer the physical agony of slowly choking to death under the weight of his own body. On that cross, Jesus suffered the punishment of hell.
No, he didn’t go to hell to suffer that punishment. Rather, he suffered the complete separation from God and his love we deserve on the cross. There he suffered the fists of God’s fury for our sins. There he suffered a pain and horror we can’t even imagine. There he suffered the punishment of hell.
And because he suffered our punishment in our place, God forgives us. He promises us that whoever believes in him will not perish in hell, but have eternal life in the happiness of heaven. All those who believe in Jesus will never know what hell feels like. You and I will never be able to fully appreciate what Jesus suffered for us because we will never have to experience even the tiniest flame of hell.
That’s why so often we take our Savior for granted. We joke about hell. We compare it to an uncomfortably hot day. We shrug our shoulders at the mention of Jesus and the cross. We fail to fathom how amazing grace really is.
Nobody likes to talk about sin nowadays. Churches tend to shy away from talking about hell any more. They don’t want to bring people down. But maybe if we spent a little more time honestly talking about our failings and the fiery pit they deserve, we might appreciate all the more the love of a God who suffered that horror and pain in our place.