Yesterday, I spent a few hours working in an attic. It was ninety degrees outside and about 500° where I was working (give or take). I was soaked with sweat when I was finished.
There’s something satisfying about sweating. I remember watching my Dad working when I was young and seeing him perspire. Sweat beads would trickle down his forehead and drip off the end of his nose. I wanted to be like him.
As it turns out, I inherited his propensity to perspire profusely when I work. I like it because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something (whether I have or not).
“Hotter than hell.”
I don’t actually know how hot it was in that attic, but it reminded me of the old saying, “It’s hotter than hell.” The Bible doesn’t give any good indication of how warm that might be, but it can’t be too comfortable. Maybe someone should do a study on that one.
Actually, there are varying views on the whole concept of hell. If you’ve ever read C.S Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, you’ll quickly discover a view of hell to which most of us never are exposed. For him, it was a dull, gray, lifeless place—a place where there was a lot of meaninglessness. It sounds like hell to me.
I had a professor in seminary who subscribed to that view as well. From his perspective, it was more Biblically accurate than the one we most hear about.
That one we hear the most, of course, is the fiery inferno where Satan, his dominions, and all the not-so-nice folks are tossed in the end. That sounds like hell to me as well.
“Lots of nasty stuff took place in that valley.”
That view comes, at least in part, by Jesus’ use of the term “Gehenna.” Gehenna literally means the Valley of Hinnom which is located on the southern side of Jerusalem.
Long before Jesus made the scene, lots of nasty stuff took place in that valley. Babies were burned as sacrifices to the pagan god, Molech, for example. It was a gruesome business.
That valley swung around and merged with the Kidron Valley on the east side. One of the gates of the city (the Dung Gate) was there. By the time of Jesus, trash was hauled through this gate and dumped into the valley. Like a lot of dumps, it would catch fire and seem to burn endlessly. So when Jesus talked about burning in Gehenna, these were the images that people would see. It’s also why we think of hell as a place of eternal fire.
Whatever hell is, it’s not a place I’d like to be. One thing is for sure. Hell is a place where God is not. To be in hell is to be separated from our Creator. None of us can imagine it because none of us has ever had to endure that scenario. We are constantly surrounded by God’s Spirit.
I think I’ll try to do as much sweating here as possible. Heaven is undoubtedly air-conditioned.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]it