Jesus, however, assures anyone with ears to hear that hell is a place of eternal torment, where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (see, for instance, Matthew 13:42 and 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, and Luke 13:28).
The Bible offers other hints about hell – perhaps most notably, in Jesus’ horrifying Luke 16 account of the rich man in torment in Hades.
But one is tempted to ask, “And then what? Did the rich man later join his friends for a party where his thirst would be forever quenched? Was he offered another chance to slip on over into heaven? Did he disintegrate into oblivion or head on to Buddhist nirvana?"
Any student of the Bible will tell you that these things definitely did not take place. But most of us would be rather vague when asked to explain exactly what did happen next.
Enter Randy Alcorn’s novel Deadline (Multnomah Publishers, 2006), which we recently read for our Christian women’s book club. It’s a great story, offering both a satisfying mystery and plenty of food for thought about eternity. Included are multiple descriptions of what heaven may be like for repentant believers in Jesus Christ; those who’ve read Alcorn’s wonderful book Heaven will recognize a number of his ideas fleshed out in Deadline.
If you’re thinking about getting the book, stop reading now, because what I’m about to say could be viewed as a bit of a spoiler. At least, it answered the overwhelming question I’d been trying to ignore since Chapter Four.
But if you’re one of those with a dozen books already waiting to be read and scores more tucked away for that mythical “when I have time” future, you might be interested in a glimpse of how Alcorn envisioned hell in this novel. Just a few quotes:
- “Where was everybody? Doc had never felt so utterly alone.”
- “The aloneness was becoming stifling … He considered the unthinkable – that this was not a phase, a part of a transition, but the final destination.”
- “He felt a burning. A fury welled up inside him … But there was no one to lash out at.”
- “He turned his memory to his days on earth, but panicked as he found it increasingly hard to remember what had happened there. He wanted to, for memories … were at least a distraction.”
Alcorn’s terrifying description goes on for eight pages. He doesn’t describe any physical torture – just the mental, emotional and spiritual anguish that might torment anyone spending forever in hell, eternally separated from the Creator of everything good.
If you are among those who have rejected the salvation available only through Jesus Christ, and absolutely refuse to read the Bible, do yourself this favor: Pick up a copy of Deadline and read the last half of Chapter Twenty-Eight. Author Alcorn has done a serious, Bible-saturated study of eternity. His opinions and insights are undoubtedly far more accurate than those of people who’ve simply spent an hour or two interrogating their own brains on the subject, or decades immersed in the teachings of false religions.