If you’ve ever been to the Cayman Islands, you might have visited hell.
Seriously, there is a small region in the Cayman’s named after the land of fire and brimstone, and it got its unfortunate name because of its sinister looking, black limestone formations. The focal point of this place is its post office, established in the early 1960’s so that tourists could surprise their friends and loved ones with “postcards from hell.” (I’ve heard that a lot of people get a kick out of sending these postcards to their pastors.)
I’ve been to this place and have mailed cards that carried the postmark from way down yonder. On these cards, I’ve dashed off phrases like “Sure is hot here!”, “We’re burning up in this heat!” and my favorite, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing you soon.”
It’s all in fun, of course, but it does lead me to wonder about something. If people who really have missed heaven could send post cards to family and friends still alive, what would they write?
We get some idea from the story in Luke 16, where a rich man in hell begs for some water to cool his tongue. This leads me to believe that the first order of business would be to request loved ones send a care package of Dasani and Gatorade.
The man, however, goes on to fear for his five brothers who are still alive, and asks that they be warned to repent and avoid joining him. Interesting—you’d think someone in his situation would crave the company of loved ones, but apparently the place is too horrible to wish upon others. We must conclude then that residents of hell would plead with their loved ones to steer clear.
Mark Twain once said, “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.” There are people who share that sentiment, apparently believing that heaven is dullsville because all the fun folks are hell-bound. The truth is, no matter how swift someone is at public relations, there is just no way they can spin hell as a desirable destination—not unless they’re delusional enough to hope the “lake of fire and brimstone” is symbolic for a bubbling hot tub extraordinaire. (Rev. 20: 10)
In Mark 9:48, Jesus called hell a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (NIV) (Worms don’t die? How creepy is that?) I’ve often wondered if this references a literal physical condition or if it’s symbolic for excruciating emotional agony. Perhaps it is both.
Because the rich man spoke of physical torment and Proverbs 27:20 teaches that desires are never satisfied in hell, I do believe that the unsaved dead could suffer physical pain and the distress of unmet desires. Yet, we’re also told that hell is a place of everlasting shame and contempt.” (Daniel 12: 2). I believe the undying worm and unquenchable fire could also reference endless regret and remorse, and the crushing distress of never finding resolution, forgiveness or second chances.
Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—hell must make for one miserable existence.
Right now, we really can’t say for certain if the fires of hell are literal or symbolic, but I can say this for certain: I don’t want to find out, and by the grace of my Lord (and His grace only), I won’t have to.
That brings me to another interesting point from Luke 16. There is something missing from the rich man’s description of hell—blame. He doesn’t point fingers or even insinuate that his presence there is unjust. He knew exactly why he was there and understood that it was nobody’s fault but his own.
That being the case, I think our mail carriers would be overwhelmed by the number of postcards exploding from hell, and all delivering the same message: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—“ (Acts 16:30-31)
The Bible tells us that hell is a terrible place. It also assures us that heaven is amazing. While a post card from the former would be pretty chilling, getting one from heaven would be quite the day-maker, wouldn’t it?
Actually, I think I’d prefer instead a phone call from heaven. I wouldn’t even mind if they called collect.
I know we don't go by feelings but if anyone ever felt just a taste of God's love, they would never intertain hell. Thanks for writing this, we don't here about hell enough and people need to be told that its not a party !