Kids ask incredible questions take this one for example; “If God took six days to create the universe, on which day did he create Hell?”
The most obvious answer: “None of those days since at the end of all his creating he proclaimed every to be good!”. Hell hardly fits that category. However putting aside the six days of creation we are still left wondering about the origin and location of this place called Hell.
The question is very like the one that asks what lies beyond the outer boundaries of the universe, or if the universe is expanding then what is it expanding into? Saying that space itself expands with the universe doesn’t really remove the problem.
The Old Testament speaks of the place of the dead (Sheol) – a place of darkness whose inhabitants seem to be aware of its darkness (cf Psalm 88).
In the New Testament Jesus speaks a lot about hell he describes it as a place where the worm does not die, a place of perpetual fire and simply ‘outer darkness’ where there will be much ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). It would seem that hungry worms, gnashing teeth and burning fire are no more than metaphors used to drive home the agony, rather than the physicality of Hell. This leaves us with the ‘outer darkness’.
Darkness, according to the creation story in Genesis, is what existed before God created light. So darkness needs no creator, it’s simply the uncreated thing that exists in the absence of the created thing (light). Also if God is the creator of the universe then he must also be the creator of time and space at least the time and space we find ourselves in.
One could say that before there was time and space there was darkness. If hell is ‘outer darkness’ then it is outside of God’s light and by implication outside of all things created by God.
This, I suspect is what lies behind the contrasting way Heaven, or the new universe is depicted. It is a place where there is no darkness since it is bathed in the perpetual light of God (Is 60:19-20, Rev 22:5). When John speaks about God being light in whom there is no darkness at all I have to assume that darkness cannot co-exist with God.
People in Hell are those who avoid the light of God and so forfeit their right to be where God is. They make a conscious decision in favour of darkness where they believe they can be undisturbed in their desire to do evil (cf John 3:19).
So Hell would seem to be a dimension of reality beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond the reach of those in Heaven (Luke 16:26). It is also a place that God himself chooses to turn his back on forever.
But if it is outside of God’s creation then how could anyone be there, since we ourselves are part of that creation? The Bible seems to teach that once a human spirit is created it is impossible to destroy. One can destroy the body but not the spirit or life force of the human. This is why nearly all the descriptions of hell in the Bible indicate that its inhabitants are painfully aware of their situation.
God has promised that he will create a new heaven and a new earth for his people, he makes no such provision for those that reject him, so the only ‘place’ for them is beyond his creation or the ‘outer darkness’.
The Bible teaches that Jesus himself went to hell but that his righteousness was such that Hell could not hold him against the will of God.
Jesus was not kidding when he taught that it was better to go into heaven with your eyes, arms and legs missing than to end up complete and completely in Hell (Matt 9:43-48).