In My Back Yard
The view out the back door
A (Low) Tech Perspective

The Near Side of Hell

Hell is always depicted in Gary Larson's comic strip, The Far Side, as a place where doomed souls are herded about by tall goateed men with horns and tridents. In one strip, three devils laugh out loud as they look through the slips of paper deposited in Hell's "Suggestion Box".

This is a fairly common portrayal of Hell. Not the part about the suggestion box, but the appearance of a devil or devils that rule over Hell, dealing out misery to the damned. But this is surely a mistake. Devils, demons, Satan himself are all angels, created beings, who operate on a plane somewhat closer to God for a season, but with no less accountability for their behavior. Satan himself is doomed, along with his rebellious followers, to the same fate promised to all who reject God in this age.

Then the Devil, who betrayed them, was thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20.10)

The Scriptures never suggest that there is any power in Hell. This is one of the terrifying things about it. There is no longer any hope of success. There is no authority, no promotion, no release. All those who resist God to the end, demon and human, will suffer the same fate.

This reality is pictured with terrifying intensity in Auguste Rodin's bronze monument, The Gates of Hell. This pair of 20 foot-tall bronze doors are meant to be more than a picture of the entryway into Hell. They are meant to be a window.

In the sculpture, all is swirling bronze torment: each tiny figure takes turns grasping desperately at another, then being grasped. Each mouth is open, gasping for breath in exhaustion, all thirsting. Each being--devil and human--trades off the roles of tormentor and tormented, neither role satisfying, neither of power, but all of chaos.

16 April 2001


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