Q: #328. If God is omnipresent, does that mean God is in Hell?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Obviously, there are two ways you can look at this: Yes, God is in Hell, or, No, God is not in Hell. I have always been in the "No" camp, saying over and over that the worst thing about Hell is not so much the pain and torment, but rather, it is the ETERNAL separation from God with no chance to ever turn to Him again. I can imagine nothing worse... However, after spending about a week studying this subject in depth, I have begun to change my mind on this subject a bit. First, let me share the proofs for both positions, and then I will talk about what has got me rethinking.
The case for saying that "God is not in Hell" basically hinges on two verses:
(2 Th 1:7-9) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
(Mt 25:41) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Also see: Mt 7:23, Lk 13:27)
In addition, some who advocate for this position use two other Biblical positions.
1. Since Hell is described as darkness (Mt 8:12)(Mt 22:13)(Mt 25:30), and God is described as light (1 Jn 1:5)(Jn 1:7-9)(Jn 8:12)(Lk 2:32)(Jn 12:35-36), how can light and dark be together?
2. Hell is a place of sin, and God cannot look on sin (Hab 1:13). (I explain this here.)
On the other hand, those who believe that "God is in Hell" also have verses and Biblical positions.
(Ps 139:7-8) Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (Most versions either use "Sheol," or put it in the footnotes instead of "Hell.")
(Rev 14:10) The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
(Mt 10:28)(NASB) Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul;
but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
*** Note: Him is capitalized symbolizing God.
(A few other verses: Isa 30:33, Amos 9:1-4)
Those who hold this position say that since the Bible clearly says that God is omnipresent (1 Kin 8:27)(Jer 23:23-24)(Prov 15:3)(Job 34:21-22), He must by definition be everywhere. However, in a concession to the "God is not in Hell" position, they will generally say that there is a PART of God that is not in Hell. Some of His ATTRIBUTES are not there. They believe that God is "physically" in Hell, but those in Hell will never again have the chance to experience His attributes of "grace and mercy." Instead, they will forever experience His "justice." There will also be no relationship, fellowship, or communion with God in Hell as there will be for those who are in Heaven.
As I see it, each side has good points, and both are Biblical. I am not going to get into how each side debates the others verses and positions. However, as I said above, after studying this fairly extensively, I have changed my position on this issue a bit. Let me quickly share with you three things that got me thinking.
First, when saying that the worst thing about Hell is "eternal separation from the presence of God," with no chance to ever again turn to God, we must be honest: those in Hell are there for ONE reason, they never WANTED to turn to God or Jesus in the first place. Being separated from God in Hell is not a punishment, it is exactly what they wanted. SO, considering this, what would be punishment for them? How about if they had to spend ETERNITY being punished by, and facing the judgment and wrath of the God they spent their whole lives on Earth avoiding? Yeah, that would be Hell....
Secondly, the Bible makes it clear in a number of places that there are degrees of punishment in Hell (Lk 12:47-48)(Mt 11:20-24)(Mk 12:38-40). In other words, some people will be punished more than others. For example, there are many people who have heard over and over about the need to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and rejected Him. On the other hand, some have not had the same opportunity (i.e. in Mt 10:15 it says "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city" because Sodom and Gomorrah had less knowledge of the truth). Also, look at this verse:
(Heb 10:29)(NASB) How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
In holding a position that "Hell is separation from
God," I have sometimes wondered how this punishment would be administered. If
God isn't there, how could some be punished more than others? Sure, Satan
and his demons could be torturing and punishing people, but I just can't see
them punishing some more than others because they disobeyed God... Perhaps God
could "turn up the flames" a bit more for some people as they are being put in
Hell? HOWEVER, if GOD is the one punishing for all eternity, degrees of
punishment does seem to make a little more sense.
*** Note: It is interesting to note though, as we said above, that most proponents of the "God is in Hell" position say that the attributes of God's "grace and mercy" are not in Hell. But, if God is beating some with fewer stripes (Lk 12:47-48), or punishing some more than others, isn't that being merciful?
Finally, in talking about Hell, the Bible says in 7 places (i.e. Mt 8:12, Mt 13:42,50) that there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." I have always thought of "gnashing" as like grinding your teeth in pain from the fires of Hell. The Greek word for "gnashing" in these verses is brugmos, which Strong's defines simply as "a grating (of the teeth)." However, a form of this word ( Gr: brucho) is used in (Acts 7:54), and Strong's defines it as "to grate the teeth (in pain OR RAGE)." The people (NIV) "gnashed their teeth at him (Stephen)" in anger and stoned him to death. (Lk 13:28) also seems to be pointing at "gnashing" being anger when it says "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." (This doesn't indicate pain to me.) In the Old Testament, a form of the word "gnash" is used 5 times, and in each instance it appears to be connected to "anger" and not "pain" (Job 16:9)(Lam 2:16)(Ps 35:16)(Ps 37:12)(Ps 112:10).
Could this also apply to God in Hell? People aren't "gnashing" their teeth in pain, but rather, in anger at God! I find this VERY interesting!
So, is God in Hell or not? I know this for sure. Hell is real. It is a place for those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Jn 3:16,36)(Rom 6:23). It is for eternity (Mt 25:41,46)(Mt 18:8). It is a place of torment (Rev 14:10-11) and darkness (Mt 8:12)(Mt 22:13)(Mt 25:30). It is a furnace of fire (Mt 13:42,50)(Mt 5:22) that is not quenched (Mk 9:44,46,48). Is God there and causing this this pain? I do not know for sure, nor do I think anyone else can. But, it is interesting to study!
P.S. A few questions back, I did a study related to this that you might be interested in reading: Q: #325. If God is everywhere (omnipresent), does that mean He is in strip clubs? (Hab 1:13) says God cannot even look at sin!