Ben asked the following question via email: “Is hell the absence of God? If not, please explain.”
God is omnipresent. That means that He is present everywhere all the time. That is true of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three separate Persons, but one being. The entire Godhead is omnipresent.
That includes Sheol/Hades now. And it will include the lake of fire forever.
David said, “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell (lit. Sheol), behold, You are there” (Ps 139:8).
Referring to those who will take the mark of the Beast during the Tribulation, John says, “He himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Rev 14:10).i
So what concerning God is missing in hell and the lake of fire?
The following are aspects of God that are missing from Hades now and will be missing from the lake of fire forever:
- God’s blessings
- His shekinah glory
- The Lord’s people
- His revelation
- God’s righteous kingdom
- His peace
- The joy associated with His kingdom and people
- God’s light
- His holiness
- God’s image
- Fellowship with Him
While Jesus will be present in His spirit in the lake of fire, it is unlikely that He will ever appear there in His bodily form.
King David won’t be there. The apostles won’t be present. Prophets like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist will be missing. Judges like Gideon, Samson, Barak, and Deborah will be absent. No church-age believers will be there.
Peter and Jude call the lake of fire “the blackness of darkness forever” (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13).
Here is a helpful article at Gotquestions.org entitled, “If God is omnipresent, does that mean God is in hell?” The article concludes,
Ultimately, it appears that God is indeed “present” in hell, or hell is in His presence, depending on how one looks at it. God is and will forever be omnipresent. He will forever know what is happening in hell. However, this fact does not mean that the souls imprisoned there will have a relationship with God or any communication with Him.
Thanks, Ben, for a rare but important question.
i Second Thessalonians 1:9 says, “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence [lit. face, prosōpon] of the Lord and from the glory of His power…” The expression “from the face of the Lord…” refers to the source of the destruction. It is from God. His face refers to His favor (e.g., Ps 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; Isa 59:2; Jer 44:11; 2 Cor 4:6). The lake of fire will be absent His blessings, light, peace, righteousness, and so forth. However, in light of Ps 139:8 and Rev 14:12, we know that Paul is not saying that God will not be present in the lake of fire.