Back in the day when people thought enough about hell to joke about it, the assumption among many was that it was sort of a fun place. People that I know would tell me they anticipated ending up there and they would be among their friends to pretty much do what they always wanted to do here: party, drink, run around, and have a grand old time unfettered by well-intentioned friends, family, and now, even death!
I was never sure if such folks actually believed hell was little more than Mardi Gras on steroids or if they just wanted to see my reaction. Either way, they didn’t take it very seriously and moved on to another topic rather quickly.
In his preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis responds to a question he was often asked: did he ever think of continuing the book beyond thirty-one demon inspired letters? He did not. In explaining why, he writes,
“But though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.”1
His explanation made me wonder: if this is the experience of someone simply imagining the atmosphere of hell, what must it actually be like?
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment . . . what is going to happen to the ungodly” – 2 Peter 2:4-6.
- C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980), xiv.