One of the great things about being in a regular bible study with thinking adults is that you come across questions and issues that otherwise wouldn’t occur to you. This past week, one of my friends posed what seemed like a simple question, but I think it has a lot of deeper implications.
He basically asked, “Why is Satan so hell-bent on being evil? Why is he so opposed to everything good?”
This is the kind of question that might be overlooked because for so long, we’ve equated Satan with pure evil. But why is that exactly? If you really think about it, it seems almost cartoonish and unrealistic.
To illustrate, imagine a movie villain who is determined to destroy the entire world. He has no redeeming qualities, doesn’t care about anybody else in the world, and everything he does is pure evil. Whatever the “good” choice is, he does the opposite for reasons that are hard to finger.
Sounds kind of outlandish, doesn’t it? In my opinion, such a character would lack the depth and balance to make him seem realistic. Most villains today seem to believe they are doing something good, even if they are misguided or extreme in their measures. Take Magneto from the “X-Men” series, for example. He is one of the main villains, but he earnestly believes that mutants are the future and that homo sapiens are an obsolete species characterized by intolerance and ignorance.
So why is it that Satan is pure evil? How is that believable?
Simply put, it is because he has completely separated himself from God, who is the source of ALL moral good in the universe. Apart from Him, any modicum of good is literally impossible. The reason that human beings are capable of good—even villains—is because they are made in the image of God, which includes morality, dominion over this earth, creativity, etc.
If Satan were to commit even one decent act to the benefit of others, that would mean he is an additional source of good. This is, of course, not the case. In fact, one of his favorite tricks is to turn anything good into some destructive force. Self-assurance turns to haughtiness and pride; serving others becomes an ego boost and a way to feel morally superior; love and acceptance turn into tolerance for things that God explicitly states are wrong. The list goes on and on. You could name anything and chances are, Satan has distorted it in some way. We are all easily fooled if we are not discerning and Spirit-led.
OK, so now that we’ve established that God is the only source of good and that’s why Satan is pure evil…what does that mean for the afterlife? What does that mean for hell?
It means that once people have been eternally separated from God and sent to hell, they are now completely stripped of their godly nature. That means that it’s not going to be a chummy party down there by any stretch of the imagination.
I have actually heard atheists say, “Well, if I’m wrong and I’m going to hell, at least I’ll spend eternity with cool, interesting people! Maybe I’ll see Jimi Hendrix down there!”
Maybe you will see certain “interesting” people down there, but any redeeming qualities they may have had on this earth are going to be completely gone. Whoever you see down there is not going to be someone you enjoy, even if you were to somehow avoid the torment of the flames. You will not be having warm, friendly reunions.
Furthermore, if you are thinking that adopting Satan as your new master might be some consolation (because of his beauty or talents, maybe), then again, you are sadly mistaken. He is not going to be governing hell or setting up some kind of viable alternative to heaven. He is going to be thrown into the lake of fire and burning just the same as everyone else. Remember, God is the ruler of everything, even hell. Any power Satan currently enjoys is temporary, and there will come a time when God no longer permits him to act in rebellion.
Finally, I know a few of my long-time readers may be wondering about my stance on the eternality of hell. I apologize because this is long overdue, and you may have already noticed I took my posts on annihilationism down a while ago.
My view now is that hell is probably eternal torment, as the traditional view presents. I will concede that I’m not 100% sure, but much of the scriptural support for annihilationism came from the Old Testament where it talked about “death” and “being no more.” My knowledge of the Old Testament was far more incomplete at the time, and now I realize that conceptions of the afterlife were not fully developed during that period. Before Jesus came and fully paid for our sins, no one could go to Heaven (or even Hell) yet. Everyone who died went to the same realm, called Sheol, although there were separate places for God-fearing people. Sometimes, this is referred to as “Paradise,” but the terminology can get confusing. Either way, it didn’t make sense for God to talk about the afterlife much when His work of redemption was not yet complete (until Jesus said “it is finished”).
So my current idea of hell is that it is a place of eternal separation from God that probably involves the literal pain of burning flames. As the final humiliating act of defeat, Satan will be suffering there along with everyone else who chose to reject God and separate themselves from Him. There will be degrees of punishment, for sure, but we don’t know exactly what that will entail. In the end, whether you go to heaven to worship Almighty God or go to hell to pay the price for sin, God is glorified to the utmost by praise and justice.