Jesus said at the Last Supper that his desire was that he draw all people to himself (John 12:32), to unite all things in him (Ephesians 1:9-10). The good God who created us all wants us to be together with him. However, he will never force us, never control us, for that takes away our free will.
Love, or friendship, that is forced out of us is not real love. It is fear, coercion even: never true love, so God created us with free will to choose or to reject God. This makes him sad, no doubt, but he still chooses not to force us into a relationship.
God’s will for every person on the planet is for him or her to turn to him consciously, to repent from our past mistakes and believe in the Gospel. Some, by grace, will respond. Others, it is possible, may not.
The Church has in the past used many words to describe the place where those who chose to reject God will be. It has been described as a terrible, terrifying place, a place of punishment, a place of torture. Of all the words used, Hell is probably the best known.
The God who created us, and all this world, who desires to be one with us, does not condemn anyone to Hell. Someone might choose it, by rejecting God, but they have not chosen wisely.
Luckily, God’s love has no limit. The power of the Cross to defeat all the bad stuff in the world is so strong, and without limit, that I am sure that there is no sin so terrible, no betrayal so great that God’s forgiveness cannot be sought. Either in this world or the next.
I have no doubt of the existence of Hell, but I, like Christ, desire that there be no one in there. All of us must, in both this world, and in the next face up to our actions, and I think that it will be traumatic, difficult, hellish, perhaps. Yet it will end, and we will, if we turn to God, be forgiven.
In Mediaeval times Hell was a place of devils and demons, of fire and brimstone – certainly terrifying images, but it might be even worse. The Church of England theological work The Mystery of Salvation described it as a place where God was absent. The possibility that one could put oneself in a place where God’s love wasn’t is far, far more terrifying.
Just as Heaven is the place where God is, so Hell will be where God isn’t. It will therefore be nothing like the world we know or can imagine: it will be worse. I know which one I would choose.