In the last writing we saw that “fire” is a symbol of God’s refining work in His Elect. No one is exempt from this. But the Divine Fire only consumes that which is unholy, evil, and defiled. It never consumes people that God has created.
It is now time to consider the lot of those who have (a) never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and (b) those who have wilfully refused the Lord.
One correspondent wrote to say that Hell was not just a “clearing house” for the departed souls, as may be seen from Luke 18, the story of the rich man and Lazarus, in which the rich man is said to “be in Hell”, and is “tormented”, and is enduring the “flames”, thereby seeming to contradict what I said. However, this came about because we wanted to show the truths about Hell in stages. In this number that apparent anomaly will begin to be addressed.
First of all it is time to investigate the nature of Hell more closely. In order to do so, we shall have to see that it is related to Heaven in respect of structure. Paul spoke about “the third heaven” which immediately gives us the first clue. In H.A.Baker’s book about the Chinese children, he spoke of the children’s vision of Heavenly Jerusalem as being like a pyramid of “three stories” with the bright light of God’s glory at the apex. This also helps us. We may therefore imagine Hell’s Babylon to be the reverse image of this, an inverted pyramid of three stories with the Devil at the lowest apex.
The base of the Heavenly Jerusalem reaches down to touch Earth. The three stories of the Heavenly Jerusalem start with the largest story at the lowest level. Let’s call this the “Red” level. The one above is smaller, (the “Green” level) and the top-most story is the smallest of all. (The “Blue” level) If this indicates the number of people who occupy each of these stories, then by far the largest number occupy the Red level, but those who have “overcome” to the greatest degree, being a much smaller group, will occupy the top-most story, the Blue level, with the intermediate ones between in the Green level. (See diagram below)
Similarly the base of the Babylon-pyramid reaches up to touch Earth. Those who pass through the gates of death enter this largest level, which we have called the “clearing house”, but below this there are two other levels which represent the lot of those who have behaved on earth to a significantly more cruel, thoughtless, and self-interested degree, with the worst at the lowest level. Although all three levels may be defined as “Hell”, there are distinctions which need to be visualised in pictorial form, in the same way that John saw the New Jerusalem descend to Earth as a pyramid having length, breadth, and height equal in measure.
Quite the majority of people who have ever lived, on passing through the gates of death, will find themselves in the uppermost level of Hades, which for the sake of nomenclature we shall call the “Brown” level. Those who need more severe treatment will then be ushered down into the “Grey” level, and the most wicked into the “Black” level. We believe that this model is helpful in explaining what our Lord meant when He spoke of some being cast into “Outer Darkness” (the “Grey” level), whilst others had to be consigned to the “Lake of Fire”, (the “Black” level.)
Let’s first of all concentrate our attention on the “Brown” level. It is here that a reference to George Ritchie’s book Return from Tomorrow, will be most helpful. After dying, Ritchie was taken by the Lord on an extended tour of the Brown country, in which he was shown a variety of situations. He saw suicide cases, where these sad spirits were forever trying to apologise to the living for what they had done. There were the drunkards of the earth, now in spirit form, still in the bars, wanting to consume alcohol, but never able to grasp the tankards. There were large groups of people on a plain, where they were interacting, and some were getting very angry with each other. In another scene, he saw people quietly reading in a vast library, whilst others were working in a scientific laboratory. Almost every type of worldly person was there, in every type of circumstance as found on Earth. However, in some of these scenes he saw angelic beings attempting to catch the attention of the spirits, to instruct them and help them in their present plight. But few seemed to be responsive.
After this the Lord took Ritchie to a place where he saw the Golden City of the New Jerusalem, but was not allowed to enter it before resuscitation occurred. We accept that not everyone will be willing to accept the validity of this information, even though it seems to be corroborated by numerous stories from those who have had Near Death Experiences. (NDEs) But if it can be accepted, it gives valuable information concerning all those who find themselves in the Brown level of Hell. In no circumstance did any of these spirits find themselves in what is commonly called “Hell-fire”. That is the point we are trying to make. The vast majority of people, who have not led wicked lives, find that they have to adjust to a spirit existence, in which angelic assistance is provided for the purposes of instruction, whereby they may finally understand and appreciate the beneficent work of the Lord Jesus on their behalf, and in repentance accept Him as Lord.
We want to emphasise that God’s work with humanity is not to make a capricious selection for His own use, thereby to send the rest to an everlasting fiery torment. Rather does the Lord seek to restore all. This can only be achieved by making selections along the time-frame, whereby each selected group acts its part in the reconciliation process towards the rest. God will not be satisfied until every soul has willingly bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus. Some are willing to accept Him in this life, and these are refined by the Master’s divine fire. Others remain ignorant of the meaning of Calvary, whilst some behave in such ghoulish, cruel, and despicable ways that they treasure up for themselves the most stringent forms of punishment. In the next part we shall consider the lot of those who are consigned to the Grey and Black regions of Hell. Please remember I am only using this as a picture so that we can visualise something in order to understand a spiritual reality.