Hell is being cut off from Jesus Christ and kept out of the kingdom of God. What hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence … to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination … .
Hell Breaks Loose | Lapham’s Quarterly
Sinners who desire to live apart from God are given over to the full implications of this decision. Made for relationship with God and others, sin leads to a state of absolute self-absorption in which attempts to find satisfaction are futile. If we are not known by God, even our identity loses any solid basis: we are lost indeed. A proper handling of the doctrine of hell requires us not only to discern what the Bible teaches about hell but also the purposes to which the doctrine, at least in its more graphic forms, is put in the New Testament.
There are times when Jesus warns the crowds, the towns and villages in glaring terms. In the sermons recorded in Acts there is considerable emphasis on the role of Christ as Lord — and judge — demonstrated through his resurrection from the dead, and on the need for repentance. Where it appears, it is reserved particularly for those who harm the church, whether through persecution or false teaching, and for those at risk of falling away from the faith.
Human attitudes to the prospect of hell are ambivalent: anguish in many cases, but not always. Faced with a world with genocide, brutal torture, sexual exploitation of children, callous oppression in the name of profit, money-laundered millions of drug pushers, we long not only for a heaven but for a hell so that our sense of justice can be vindicated. Hell is part of a matrix of truths, which in the West once set the parameters for human life, under which God stands at the heart of the universe, the source of meaning and morality.
Since the Enlightenment, philosophers have sought to build a system of ethics on autonomous human reason. A cogent system of ethics needs a legitimate source of moral authority.
The Bible insists that God, creator and sustainer of the universe, is just that. The significance of hell is that God is also a moral referee, able to enforce sanctions and ultimately uphold the moral values essential for human flourishing. So, for the biblical writers confronted with the corruption embedded in human nature, the profound problem, which divine wisdom alone could solve, is how anyone can enter and enjoy the presence of God. Nonetheless, the question gnaws away: if God redeems some, why not all?
In exploring this question. To define the highest good by reference to the sum total of human happiness is not a biblical idea. Biblical ethics are theocentric, not anthropocentric. Modern apologists for hell tend to emphasise, above all, human freedom. So for C. This argument has considerable appeal. It allows the apologist to argue that hell, far from revealing how badly God can treat people, shows the radical degree to which God respects human decision. Moreover, this argument has substantial biblical warrant.
However, the argument from human freedom can become lopsided. Stressing human freedom can aim at discharging God from the responsibility of punishment. Hell becomes nothing less — and nothing more — than the natural outcome of choices made during our lifetime. In such an account, the figure of Christ the judge may disappear from view. This leads us into a fundamental issue at stake when the human freedom argument is deployed.
Lewis is quite candid about the implications as he sees them:. It is objected that the loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat …. Lewis is not speaking here of inherent lack of omnipotence assumed, for example, by process theology but rather the voluntary self-limitation of divine omnipotence.
The Bible never relinquishes the claim that God exercises ultimate control over all things. However, if divine sovereignty is extrapolated with mechanical logic, and salvation is traced as it is to divine election, the inference some argue is a doctrine of reprobation i. This doctrine, the decretum horribile, has been defended on the basis of various passages.
John , a foretaste of the destiny that awaits persistent unbelief. The biblical worldview insists on holding in tension both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The existence of hell forms part of the problem of evil and no easy solutions exist. If a risk-free view of divine providence is followed in the light of biblical texts, hell as a dimension of the problem of evil leads to various paths of reflection.
The quality of human freedom implicit in a compatibilist universe may be impossible to combine with salvation for all a form of free will defence. The fall, and even hell, may find a rationale in the context they provide for the manifestation of the depths of divine love and justice the idea of felix culpa. But in the end, one must acknowledge that there is an element of impenetrable enigma in the counsels of God.
Surely, if God is love he must find the suffering of even one human soul in hell, even a Judas Iscariot, intolerable? However, if God were to suffer for ever if some are lost, he would become the emotional hostage of recalcitrant sinners. God wants us to be saved for our sake, but does not need us to be saved for his sake.
The cleric preaching fire and brimstone is an unmistakable figure in church history. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. His aim, of course, was to move people to flee the wrath to come and seek shelter in Christ from the coming storm. Today, by contrast, it is rare to hear a sermon that deals head-on with the topic of hell. The apparent reluctance to address the topic of hell invites inquiry and may reflect a host of trends and pressures.
Indeed, the Bible itself encourages some reserve when speaking of the ultimate destiny of those without Christ and, in any age, an unpopular topic requires both skill and some courage from the preacher. Nonetheless, other factors may be at work:. A deep awareness that we live this life on the threshold of eternity is rare. Sermons on heaven, and the pivotal role of hope, are almost as uncommon as sermons on hell. He adds:. His sharp edges have all been ground down to make him less threatening, more comfortable, more tame … The gospel of Our Time frequently is unthinking and superficial, frequently is believed and preached without urgency, and the reason is that it has yet to dawn on many in the church that God in his holiness is deeply and irrevocably set in opposition to the world because of its sin.
The idea of hell is somewhat implausible to the modern mind. The discipline of expository preaching will help us speak of hell neither less nor more than the New Testament and apply the doctrine as the New Testament writers do. Beyond this, if we are to speak of hell, given that the Bible does, how are we to do so?
Thus the ongoing proclamation of the person and character of God should provide the bedrock for a comprehensible account of divine judgement and its consequences. The fact that people are under judgement, and face an unwelcome destiny, is both the context and part of the content of the gospel. Moreover, while the New Testament proclamation of the gospel to the outsider underlines the fact of judgement, it eschews lurid accounts of the experience of judgement. The focus of gospel proclamation lies elsewhere: on the identity of Christ as Lord, his saving work on the cross, and the arrival and future consummation of the kingdom of God.
To preach hell, appearing to want to see others punished by God, is an ugly distortion of Christianity. Are we, like our Master, prepared to weep? When we speak of hell, we must be sensitive to the pain — and the challenges to faith — which may be caused. For any congregation will include Christian believers with loved ones who have so far refused to embrace Christ. The future, however, is in the hands of a God to whom we can and should pray. The Bible, in relation to hell, uses evocative imagery rather than literal description.
A portrayal of hell can seek, with gravity and without sensationalism, to expound the biblical imagery. This will take us a long way indeed from the depictions of hell generated by medieval imagination. There will remain a tension between. Uncomfortable though the process will be, we need to reverse the perceptible loss of interest in hell in both popular and more academic Christian circles.
Hell is simply too important to neglect. It is a doctrine which interacts with more central theological issues. Neglect, or inappropriate changes, may result in a subtle reshaping of the whole body of theological belief. Indeed, the meaning of salvation turns on beliefs about the fate of the lost: if we overlook the eschatological consequences of refusing Christ, salvation can increasingly focus on personal fulfilment in this life.
Finally, this doctrine is integral to the vitality of the church, promoting holiness and faithfulness, and reinforcing the motives for mission to a needy world. Christopher Townsend read economics at Cambridge University and now works as a solicitor, specialising in corporate tax law. Cameron ed. SPCK, A few OT texts indicate blessing or condemnation after death e. Psalm ; Isaiah ; Daniel Shedd, Dogmatic Theology Edinburgh: T. Clark, , Vol. II, p.
The inmates are running the asylum.
Some annihilationists prefer to be described as conditionalists e. Edward Fudge, Philip E. Edwards and J. For a recent in-depth annihilationist argument, see D. Cameron, op. Wright, Following Jesus , pp. Vax suggests that for once Vox Machina should be completely honest and just explain why there're in Hell and what they came there to do.
He thinks that without Scanlan Vox Machina's chances of deceiving anyone have drastically dropped. Percy, Keyleth, and Grog agree. Vex begins handing out the potions that Taryon bought for her in Vasselheim. Vax gets the Superior, Tary gets a Greater, Vex keeps a Greater for herself, Percy gets two Regulars, Keyleth gets two Regulars, and Grog gets a Greater and two Regulars that he'll probably end up feeding to his teammates.
Vax asks "Freddy" Percy what languages they speak in Hell. He answers that they speak Infernal; meanwhile the conversation devolves into discussion of Percy's various names, which leads to Grog coming up with the nickname of "D-Roll". Vox Machina discusses what to do about languages because none of them speak Infernal. Percy suggests hiring a guide. Vex asks Keyleth if there are any tieflings in the Air Ashari. There are two: one is a six-year-old child, the other is a gardener.
Because they've been talking late into the evening and it is now past midnight, they decide to go talk to the tiefling in the morning. Before they go to bed, Vox Machina share their individual plans for what they'll do after finishing up this last quest. Grog doesn't really plan ahead, and that usually works out for him.
Vex would like to build a small house on the land she owns in Whitestone. Percy mentions that the Grey Hunt will happen eventually. Keyleth asks him what the "Grey Hunt" actually is. He tries to deflect the question by asking about Keyleth's plans. After some prodding from the others Percy finally explains that the Grey Hunt part of Vex's title refers to an event that happens during Winter's Crest festivals that Vex will have responsibilities for.
Basically she will have to go into the woods alone, kill a very specific animal, then bring it back. Doing so will give her the right to look after the woods and regulate the hunting in Whitestone. Percy isn't entirely sure what he is going to do when Vox Machina takes a break. He'll go back to Whitestone and do some work there. He would like to make Whitestone great again. Keyleth proposes that the Ashari and Whitestone help each other out, which Percy agrees with.
The next morning Keyleth and Vax go to talk to the tiefling gardener, Whitney. Keyleth asks if she can help them learn Infernal. Whitney hasn't had to use the language in a long time so she's pretty rusty, but she manages to teach them a few basic words. Keyleth and Vax head back to the others and relay what they've learned. Grog tells Tary that the Nine Hells are seven times more dangerous than the Kraken, causing him to question if they all have to go. Grog replies that Tary has to come if he wants to become a full-fledged, permanent member of Vox Machina. Taryon immediately accepts.
During the shift, they see a tangled lattice of burning, divine fire that they pass through: the Divine Gate. They find themselves in a dark alleyway surrounded by dark stone buildings. The air, walls, and floor are all extremely hot. Roiling piles of molten flesh—lemures—pass by the mouth of the alleyway. Two spiny, ash-white bone devils follow behind them, lashing out at the lemures with whips. All of them pass by seemingly without noticing Vox Machina. Winged shadows fly across the cloudy and dim green sky. Lightning cracks occasionally. The party's attention is suddenly drawn to an impossibly tall tower of black iron and lead that stretches hundreds of miles into the sky before disappearing into the dark clouds.
Turning around, the exact same tower stands in the other direction. No matter where they look, that tower appears on the horizon; the Iron Tower, the throne of the archdevil Dispater. Uncomfortable with the omnipresent tower, Vox Machina decides to get off the streets and find somewhere to stay. Vex leans against the wall of the alley and looks around.
Her cloak bursts into flames just from contact with the heated wall and Vax quickly pats the flames out. It seems the city has a perpetual, overwhelming heat. Vex doesn't see any buildings that look like places for travelers to stay.
She does see two humanoids with deep red skin, horns, and leathery wings that are walking past. One of them glances over and sees Vex, but they just keep walking, seemingly not interested. She sees a lot of lemures being herded, some chained together and dragged around. There are also plenty of imps fluttering around and a variety of devils wandering the streets, but no one that looks like a typical Exandrian humanoid. Vex goes back to the group and tells them what she saw. They decide to head for the market, since that's probably where they'll find other humanoids.
Keyleth uses Alter Self to gain the appearance of a tiefling that looks kind of like a cross between Whitney and Zahra. Taryon quickly does the same, becoming a nearly-identical male tiefling. He asks who else in the group would like to be a tiefling. Vex raises her hand. He starts to turn her into another identical tiefling, but Keyleth and Vex protest, so Tary quickly modifies the spell so that the ranger is slightly more blue than the others. Tary has two more Alter Self coins. Percy volunteers, becoming a gray tiefling. The group decides Grog can stay as a goliath.
Vax takes the last coin and decides to be a white tiefling. Vex and Keyleth chastise him for not blending in, but Vax points out they've met an albino tiefling before: Lillith. The group of five tieflings, a goliath, and the undisguised Doty all walk out of the alleyway. There are many other streets branching off; the City of Dis is much larger than even the City of Brass was.
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Percy thinks they should head for the tower; even though it's technically in every direction, he thinks it would likely be built in the center of town. Vox Machina picks a random direction and begins walking towards the tower on the horizon. Percy notices that there are a lot of lemures heading in a certain direction.
He also notices that he party has also not come any closer to the tower despite walking for ten or fifteen minutes. Percy goes up to a group of three lemures chained to a building and attempts to ask them for directions, but they are incapable of speech. The door to the building slams open and a bone devil walks out.
Seeing the strangers clustered around its lemures, the devil yanks the chain from the wall and snarls at the group in Infernal before stomping down the road, dragging the lemures behind it. Keyleth says that if they get to a safe place she can cast Locate Creature to find Hotis , or she could scry on him. Percy decides to follow the bone devil down the street, as it is heading in the same direction they were previously. The devil and lemures eventually turn down another alley where Vox Machina does not follow them. Keyleth takes a closer look at the figures flying through the air. Some of them look like armored imps, some are larger, one looks fairly humanoid.
Most of them seem to be patrolling to and from the tower. After another ten minutes of walking the party is still not closer to the tower. Two blocks later a larger roadway opens up and they begin seeing more people: devils, some tieflings, a few humans even. The same bone devil they had been following earlier emerges from an alley with its lemures and goes up to another bone devil. The two of them continue down the path.
Vex moves closer to two of the humans having a conversation to try and read their lips as Vax follows behind her. The humans are a man with white hair and black markings on his face, and a woman with long black hair with reddish-brown skin who carries a scimitar. At their side are two sacks and a cage with something inside it. Vex sneaks up close enough to catch a few bits of their conversation. They're arguing about a price, how much something is worth, and how they've come this far and already have an offer so they might as well go through with it. Looking at the cage, Vex sees there is some sort of naked humanoid in it.
Vex and Vax walk towards the humans as they turn to leave. Vex fails to start a conversation with them, so they continue walking away. She takes a closer look at the cage and sees that the humanoid is beaten and bloody and obviously taken against their will. Vex asks them where they're selling the humanoid, but they don't give her any information and walk off. Vax tries to get their attention but they just ignore him.
Hell Breaks Loose
The twins go back to the group. Grog is spitting on the ground and watching it evaporate instantly. Vox Machina continues down the road, kind of following the humans and a pair of tieflings, and looking for a tavern or inn. Suddenly three of the armored imps darts past the party. The humans and tieflings all step towards the edges of the road. Vox Machina follows suit as three or four barbed devils appear, followed by a pit fiend. The party thinks for a second that it might be Ghurrix but it is not. Behind the pit fiend is a large orb of glistening glass with hundreds of screaming faces pressed against it from the inside.
The procession of devils strolls on by, eventually passing out of view. Everyone who had stopped to let them by slowly resumes their business. As they travel further down the street, the city becomes more destitute and filthy. More lesser demons sitting around, some fighting over lemures. The streets are more dense in this part of the city: there are more humanoids of various races, more lesser devils, and Vox Machina finally finds what passes for a tavern in Hell. There is no music or revelry, but there are chairs and people eating food.
Keyleth is trailing behind Vax, looking around to see if his unique appearance is garnering any unwanted attention. She sees a pair of humanoid-looking creatures following about a hundred feet behind the group who are apparently interested in the albino tiefling. One of them is stout like a dwarf, the other is human-sized but completely wrapped in chains. Keyleth informs the rest of the groups of their followers, then they all head into the tavern. Inside are several spined devils feasting on some unknown purplish-red meat. At another table is a handsome devilish man with dark red skin, long black hair, horns, and wings, who is drinking from a goblet and looking lost in thought.
Sitting in the corner is a rotund, greasy-looking man with a matted brown beard, curly hair, and deep scars scratched across his face. He grins at Vox Machina as they enter. He says something to them in Infernal. Percy replies "Common" and the man instantly switches languages, noting that they aren't natives of Hell. The devil sipping the wine slowly turns and watches the exchange. Vex asks the bartender if there are any rooms available and Percy adds that they could use a meal that "isn't too conscious". The man says that both could be provided and asks how they'll be paying.
Percy offers coin, which the man begrudgingly accepts. He charges them gold for three rooms and a "special meal". Percy adds another hundred from his personal funds for the mans "hospitality". The man looks like he wants to raise the price, but glances behind the group and restrains himself. Vex casually turns to see what he is looking at and sees that same dark red devilish man meeting the gaze of the bartender and nodding. Suspicious, Vex tries to see if the bartender was lying about anything, but all she can tell is that he's a really creepy guy having an unspoken conversation with a devil.
The man pulls out some black iron keys from under the table and passes them to Vox Machina. He then gives them their "meal": gray, sponge-like, fist-sized stones, one for each of them. As the bartender begins to walk away, Vex asks who the owner of the tavern is, but he says it's on a need-to-know basis. Keyleth lifts up one of the stones. It has a faint energy surrounding it.
She taps it against her teeth. As she does, the stone glows yellow-green and she hears a soft wailing sound as a bit of soul energy drifts off the stone and down her throat. The druid feels a sudden rush of energy. Seeing this, Taryon immediately does the same with his stone. He then turns back to the bartender and buys twenty more stones for thirty gold each. Vox Machina heads up to their rooms, which are surprisingly well-furnished.
It's still very hot and uncomfortable but the material the beds are made of seems heat-resistant. As they enter the room, the Alter Self spell fades from everyone but Keyleth. Tary begins to reach for the stones he just bought, but Vex tells him to wait and maybe cast Identify on them before he eats another.
The rush from consuming the energy fades as Tary identifies the stones as stone soul slivers: receptacles to contain a fragment of refined soul. Realizing that he just ate what used to be a living person, Tary immediately becomes nauseous. Keyleth does as well.
After freaking out for a few minutes, Keyleth calms down and gets ready to scry on Hotis. Tary tells Doty to lean against the door so nobody can interrupt them. Keyleth casts her Scrying spell, but because it was only at 5th-level it has no effect on Hotis.
She waits ten minutes in case Hotis noticed the first attempt, then casts Scrying again, but at 8th-level this time. Keyleth focuses on the previous confrontations with Hotis: the battle underneath Vasselheim , which took place at the base of a statue of Dispater, and Hotis falling from the balcony of Whitestone Castle during his attempt to assassinate Vax. The druid's vision is pulled out of the tavern, then pulled further into the cityscape and below ground-level, where she sees dark chambers, bars, and iron doors: a prison beneath the City of Dis.
She sees a variety of devil guards and a metal door. Her vision passes through that door, where she sees tendrils of red flesh attached to the walls, meeting at a central core where there is a fleshy egg-like structure suspended by the muscly strands. Within the membrane of the egg, a small, misshapen, humanoid catlike creature is writhing in torturous pain. Hotis has not yet fully reformed, screaming in hatred as he awaits his next chance for vengeance.
Keyleth relays this information to the rest of the group. She speculates that Hotis might serve the archdevil of this area, Dispater. They begin discussing how they'll get into that underground prison. During the discussion Keyleth prepares a Heroes' Feast for them all. They consider taking a rest, but they aren't actually sure if there are day-night cycles in Hell.