I live in a very atheistic land. People hate religion because the main religion in my province has abused the people. Thus sometimes when I speak to friends and coworkers I present Hell as follows.

We have been designed to love (worship) God and find our joy in Him. Heaven is where we get to love Him perfectly and enjoy Him perfectly. But a non-believer does not want to love God or enjoy Him. The non-believer wants to be God for himself.

So if heaven is the place where God is at the center and all our attention is turned towards Him, it would go against the desire of the unbeliever's heart for God to send him to heaven. So if a person goes through life rejecting God, Hell is the place where God does not intervene (no common grace). Then does God offer the object of desire of the rebel heart?

I understand that Hell is a punishment, but does this explanation of Hell fit with the biblical teaching?

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    This isn't theology, but in college after reading Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury I remember writing an essay about how the older Quentin saw Hell as a reward. But he was a creepy dude.
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 30 '12 at 15:55
  • Please clarify what you mean by non-believer. In the context of the sentences where the phrase appears, it seems to mean "atheist", but in the context of the question as a whole, the meaning "non-Christian" would make more sense.
    – TRiG
    Oct 22 '12 at 18:32
  • Some believe that hell isn't fire an brimstone. Instead it's a separation from God - in other words, there would be no afterlife.
    – user1054
    Oct 22 '12 at 22:01

The Spirit of God is everything that will make eternal life worthwhile.

My understanding is that the full glory of God will be revealed to everyone at the time of judgement. Hell is torture because it is complete and utter separation from God, nothing more, nothing less. This will be torture for unbelievers and anti-believers because they will first have been shown exactly what it is they've spurned.

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    This is Incorrect God Created Hell and Gods Presence is known in Hell. We can apply this by the story of Lazarus and the Rich-man in that the Rich Man spoke to Abraham over the void. Oct 25 '12 at 14:24
  • Where in the bible or other authoritative source does it teach that hell is separation from God? Just curious....
    – Dan
    Jan 11 '13 at 4:18
  • Well everyone will see what they are missing it's true. But seing the Full Glory of God on judgment day is certainly not. The heavens of heaven cannot contain the Glory of the Lord. It's going to take eternity to comprehend the Glory of God, so definitely not going to be understood in full to the none-believers. The'll get enough to make them realize the truth and every tong will confess He is Lord.
    – 2tim424
    Jan 15 '13 at 0:49

The Christian definition notion of hell itself already assumes in itself a belief in the Christian doctrines. As such, most atheists have exactly zero fear of hell, and it is considered merely an invention, typically either of fear or of control (depending on who you ask). As such, it isn't the atheists desire to exist in an afterlife without God - simply the entire notion of the afterlife is rejected.

So in answer: no, it would not be a "reward"; the mere fact of existing and have been wrong would be enough to make it miserable, even before the torment. But as I stress, atheists (and I include myself in this very completely) have no fears over this hell, or any other by any other religion. For example, I assume most Christians do not fear the hell of Jaunism, Taoism or Zoroastrianism. The atheist merely fears one less hell than most believers. To emphasise: it is not the desire of the atheist to endure an afterlife without God; the afterlife itself is unwanted.

What the atheist expects is simple: to cease to be, on the event of expiration on this world. It doesn't relate to the question, but a common follow-on question to this is "but if there is no afterlife, what reason is there to be ethical in this world?" to which the answer is simple: "there is just this world; and that by itself is plenty of reason to be ethical and face the consequences of our actions in this world that we share". Which usually works out pretty well for everyone.

Of course, if some God is truly fair to all, but ironic, they'll scupper everyone, as proposed by David Mitchell.

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    @MarcGravell I don't think you've got (some) atheists' emotions quite right: "the mere fact of existing and having been wrong would be enough to make it miserable" is false for many atheists. Many atheists would be amazed and perhaps delighted to exist somehow after their own death, as it would be entirely new knowledge about the universe as well as a continued chance to enjoy existing. Also, "the afterlife is unwanted" by atheists is often not true. What one wants and what one believes to be the case need not correspond, and at least some atheists would prefer an afterlife.
    – Chelonian
    Jan 31 '12 at 4:16
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    @MarcGravell Thanks for your contribution. I appreciate the way you think. I personnaly think that this site is enrich by well though people like you that think differently then christian. It help us keep our mind shape. Jan 31 '12 at 11:08
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    @David for the record, I'm a recovered Catholic (RC), so I can actually see both perspectives (to some degree). I actually try to read a wide range of views (not just Christian or atheist/Humanist) - the entire subject is of interest to me. Jan 31 '12 at 16:04
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    @Wikis: If Christians don't fear the hell of Christianity (because they don't expect to go there), and non-Christians don't fear the hell of Christianity (because they don't believe it exists), then why is it so often considered a fearful concept? The fire and brimstone preachers offer an answer; people who believe in the Christian message, but are unsure of their own fate are the ones who fear it. I also like Dawkins' likening of an atheists fear of Christian hell to a fear of the jellyfish army of the great Juju monster under the sea. Feb 1 '12 at 19:16
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    The problem here is the use of the word "fear". I don't currently fear being eaten by a bear. That's because the likelihood of that happening is very low. However, I would greatly fear it if it were imminent. Similarly, Hell can only be feared by those who believe 1) Hell exists, 2) they're going there, and 3) it's awful. Those are three conditions to be met before one could feel fear. Atheists fail (1); confident Christians fail (2); Billy Joel fails (3).
    – Chelonian
    Feb 1 '12 at 23:40

Luke 16 is your answer here. The rich man who is sent to hell clearly says, "Don't let my brothers join me here!" Ergo, hell is clearly NOT a reward.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

Here, even without God's presence, Dives (a name commonly given the rich man) isn't even concerned about God, and yet he hates this place.

Indeed, he hates it so much, that his last request is that people he loves not join him here. It is the classic response to the old T-Shirt that says, "Hell is where all my friends are."

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

If hell were simply the opposite of what God likes, and therefore (in some not really coherent fashion) pleasurable to those who like the opposite of what God created them to be, then one would assume that this man in hell might at least want the company.

As it is, he doesn't.

Ergo, one can safely assume NOBODY likes hell.

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    There's an interesting analysis of this scripture, that suggests in particular this to be a re-telling of a previous Egyptian morality tale, twisted to place the high-priest of the Sadducees (Caiaphas) in the hot-spot. Worth a read, even of you disagree with the analysis. Jan 30 '12 at 23:30
  • Thanks, but I was looking at a way to explain it differently to a atheist friend. Showing him that in the end God gives him what his heart desires the must. But I would agree with your explanation. Jan 31 '12 at 11:10
  • If you want to prove that hypothesis, check out CS Lewis' The Great Divorce. That said, while I athink it's a useful notion, it's not canonical Jan 31 '12 at 11:39

It is only a "reward" in the linguistic sense that it's the just result for one who has obstinately turned away from God. It could also be seen as a "reward" in the sense that the one who goes there gets what he wants: himself and only himself for all of eternity.

I don't have the book in front of me so this quote will be off the top of my head, but an exorcist related that 'hidden knowledge' is a mark of possession. In the particular case, a possessed child, was asked what the relationship was between two sinners in hell who were associates on earth. The answer from was along the lines that in hell nobody has a relationship with anyone else, the damned are eternally turned inward on themselves. They forsook the chance to be united with God so now they have only themselves.

To the degree that having lost God and having only yourself for eternity is a goal, hell is a 'reward.'


Hell is never a reward. God created every human being. He's placed eternity in their hearts and a desire for God. Unbelievers substitute this desire with earthly desires and thus deceive themselves that they don't need or want God. In reality, it is not possible to resist God when we see Him in His beauty. "In His presence is fullness of joy" and "at His right hand are pleasures forevermore". These are basic longings of the human heart. To be loved, and to be happy. Most atheists (as is commonly said around these parts) don't know what they don't know. God has a wonderful magnetic quality about Him that draws us to Him without Him even trying. He is so good we wouldn't want to resist Him.


I'll pose a counter-question.

Say you have a man, and all he talks about is how much he wants to drink pure sulfuric acid and how wonderful that would be. Then, one day, he asks really nicely and someone grants him access to the sulfuric acid. He then drinks the sulfuric acid.

Now, is the acid a reward? I suppose in one sense. After all, he got what he thought he wanted. On the other hand, he also got a miserable and painful death. So, I guess what you would have to say is that he got his reward, but the reward wasn't what he really wanted and so it damned him.

But we can ask for things which are not God. And we can focus on them exclusively. And we can make them the center of all of our desires, but fundamentally, they are straw. And on the day of reckoning, the straw will burn, and the house built upon the sand will fall, and the virgins who had better things to do than make sure they had enough oil will be cast out. And those who have chosen that life will find that the master knows them not. And they will be cast into the darkness. And there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But, they have made their choice. And God will not force a man into heaven.

(Before anyone gets rid of the "and"'s, they (as well as the "but"'s) are an allusion to the Hebrew word וְ (generally translates to "and" or "but") a word which grows in strength with repetition)


Like many people have said. It is in one sense a reward, while in the larger sense not at all. The Bible says the following in Mathew 10:28

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Well, destroying both soul and body would be a terrible consequence. It probably couldn't be seen as a reward at all. The act of destroying your soul means you will live in mental agony. But more than that. Although they might not want to relate themselves to God on Earth, when they are in Hell, they will be begging God to save them. They will not be happy that they are in their current state, and their body will be damaged as well. No win situation.

Now, consider the definition of Reward:

a fair return for good or bad behavior

In this sense. It is indeed a reward. However not a pleasant one. It is the "fair" return for their behavior. Therefore, you are right in the sense that it is a "reward". However that applies purely based on the English definition.

So, we can conclude the following. It is the "fair return" for their actions, and therefore is a reward. However, it is not one they will be even SLIGHTLY happy about. They will live in eternal condemnation by soul and body.

This isn't fun to talk about, especially on the World Wide Web, but it is just true. There is no "pro" to going to hell.

  • Welcome to the site. Good first answer! Jan 15 '13 at 0:50
  • @DavidStratton, Thanks. I didn't know this place existed till just now. Very cool. I have been on SO and SU, but I found this place very interesting.
    – Josiah
    Jan 15 '13 at 1:27

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