Follow Up on "Is God There?"

I had really expected to get to this a lot sooner than now, but you know how schedules go...  The time that I have had to investigate the question that I posed in an earlier post has been hit and miss.  The question was "if God is omnipresent, is He in hell?"  I had asked for response to this and got no takers other than one or two people contacting me through facebook saying that they were going to look at this some more.

Here's the conclusion that I have come up with...Yes, I truly believe that God is in hell.

Having grown up in the church, I was taught that hell was "eternal separation from God."  People would use Isaiah 59:2 and Matthew 25:31-46 as support for this teaching.  I admit that I have used the verse from Isaiah in talking to people about salvation and the need to confess Christ frequently in the past.  I had never had anyone ask me to try and reconcile the ideas of God's omnipresence (He's everywhere) and hell.  At first glance, it appeared that there was something not right... something like a contradiction.  But as I studied more, it became more clear.

Before I get too far down that road, let me share Scripture as to why I say that God is present in hell.  Psalm 139:7-10 talks about the omnipresence of God.  It basically says that there is no place in all of creation that you can go to get away from the presence of God.  David even speaks of the place called "Sheol" as a place where God was present.  This "Sheol" was the concept of hell in the Old Testament.  This same concept is found in Amos 9:1-4.  Amos talks about God's hand reaching into "Sheol".  One of the clearest pictures of God's presence in hell is found in Revelation 14:9-11.  In verse 10, John records that those who are in hell "will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb."  We know that the Lamb is referring to Jesus Christ (God).

Back to the road I was on.  How do you reconcile God's omnipresence and the thought of hell (eternal separation from God)?  Many times when God's presence is referred to in the Bible, it is speaking of His blessings (Genesis 4:14; Jeremiah 7:15, 15:1, 23:39, 52:3-4; 2 Kings 17:18-23).  What I've come to understand is that there is a difference between spatial presence (the physical part of where someone is) and relational presence (how you relate to someone).  This is the answer that shows that God is everywhere, even in hell.  Why it's easy to see God's presence (both spatial and relational) in heaven, His spatial presence is very much in hell.  Sadly, it is the wrath of God to the fullest extent is what is present in hell.  God's relational presence (blessings) have been removed from the place called hell so that His wrath is fully shown.

I know that this is not a warm and fuzzy topic, but I truly think that it is a topic worth addressing.  Peter reminds us to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).  Paul reminds us to be able to properly handle the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:15).  If we are going to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, then we must tackle the tough questions and let God's word and the Holy Spirit show us the truth.


Julie said...

Well Anthony, good for you to try and tackle this deep subject. I had never thought of this before, but I feel it may be a topic to come in handy when talking to unbelievers. I haven't looked up all the scriptures you listed, but intend to do so. Thanks for bringing up the topic and giving scripture to back up your answers.

Kevin said...

true that God is omnipresent, but is it possible that He can choose to seperate himself from Hell..now I know that he controls the devil and the devil can't do anything without God's permission..But could it be that God can be there sometimes, but at other times withdraw himself?......I really don't know, i think this is an interesting idea, so I figured I would comment...let me know what you think