Last time we saw that Jesus describes hell using a perpetually burning city dump (gehenna) as a metaphor. It is a place where unclean things are disposed of. Christ speaks of it as a very real consequence that we face rather than as a figure of speech.
Sin is the unclean thing that is disposed of in hell. In order to better understand the relationship between God and hell, we must first spend some time considering the relationship between God and sin. God is holy. As a matter of fact, He’s so holy that the four living creatures around His throne have to constantly say the word “holy” 3 times in a row to even begin to express how holy He is. (Revelation 4:8) Skimming the rest of Revelation 4 gives us a further glimpse at just how Holy God is.
The Greek word translated as “holy” that the four living creatures say designates something being most sacred or pure. The Hebrew word that is often translated as “holy” carries similar meaning. The overall sense that we get from the words translated as “holy” is something that is set apart as being pure and without blemish. To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart from all things because of His pureness.
God is so holy that the place where He dwells is also holy. When God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, He tells Moses to, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) Much of the law regarding the priests in Israel dealt with them being sanctified to minster before the Lord. In the New Testament, Paul reminds us that we are the temple of God because His Spirit dwells within us and that temple is holy (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). (This is why it is important that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the perfect and all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins.) Heaven is also a holy place since it is where God dwells.
This idea of God’s dwelling being a sinless place comes into focus best when we consider John’s description in Revelation of the New Jerusalem where, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3) It says of the city that, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27) “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) Nothing that is sinful will enter into the city where God dwells with His people because God’s dwelling is holy by virtue of God’s holiness. So what happens to sin if it is unable to be where God is? It is disposed of in hell, the perpetually burning dump.
That is all well and good, but where do people (and angels for that matter) fit into the equation? That is something that we will address next week. For now, here are the main points:
- God is holy; meaning that He is set apart or separate from all other things on account of His purity.
- Because God is holy, the place where He dwells is holy and nothing that defiles can enter into it.
- How do you feel when you think about God’s holiness? Fear? Awe? Indifferent?
- Have you ever thought about hell in the context of God’s holiness? Why or why not?
- What does it say about God’s character that He, who is “holy, holy, holy” makes His Spirit to dwell in us?