Today, I went to Hell and back.
It started with a pamphlet. From there, I took the journey. The bus schedule and Drew were not cooperating, and I was surprisingly in the walking mood. It was a long walk for me –an hour and some change total.
But soon Hell’s gates appeared, as a giant red devil stared down at me. I knew I was in the right place. Smoke was billowing in all directions, flooding the landscape.
I was about to enter the “7 HotSpring Hells” tour of Beppu, Japan.
The first famous (viewing only) hot spring I entered was only to whet my appetite. It was so inviting and vividly beautiful. Although boiling hot, the water was a baby blue and silky in texture. It was nestled in the back corner of a park that was jammed full of colorful trees and flowers. It was as if I had taken a Crayola box of markers and added a vibrant color to anything living.
Japanese maple trees drooped as a canopy over my head, as my feet walked along the paths made of bamboo. Flower boxes lined the fresh ponds, and massive goldfish enjoyed my company. The Japanese architecture with its vivid hues was woven through the park. The quiet tranquility of the area suckered me in, making it hard to leave the first Hell.
Yet, I continued. Deeper and deeper into the tour, I climbed.
Each level got worse and worse. It was as if I was taking a scenic trip of my own through Dante Alighierie’s book Inferno and his 9 stages of Hell, yet his version gory and mine pleasant to the eye.
The forth stop on my trip brought me face to face with crocodiles. They were all laid out, sun-tanning like a hundred girls on spring break. When one crocodile would try to break from the pile, the others would gnash and bite at him. Many were bleeding with chunks of their tail missing, while others looked like they ruled the roost. The pit was a death trap, waiting for anyone who neared it. It was NOT a situation I would want to be thrown into.
As the steam continued to flare, I arrived at the 7th and last Hell of my trip. I heard a constant fizzing and popping as I rounded the corner. Standing hungrily in front of me was a massive boiling pond around 200+ degrees Fahrenheit. However, there was no fresh blue or silky water –just a blood red, bubbling pool!
I sit there solemnly.
Is Hell a real place?
My mind races through images of what I perceive it would be like based upon this last image in my mind. Crocodiles chomping at your remains, while your skin melts from the boiling, bloody water baths turning a once normal and beautiful person into a grotesque creature. My mind cannot comprehend the self-chosen anguish, the relentless pain, and suffering. Hissing, gnashing, and screeching would sting the ears. Fire rages, torching any hope of escape. Eternal torment.
Instantly, the Bible verse from Hebrews 9:27 flashes across my mind . . . “and just as it is appointed for man to die once, after that comes judgment.”
We all could be one step away, one poor decision, one wrong turn from death. It’s inevitable.
I sit still . . . lost in my thoughts.
My heart feels heavy, yet somehow I am at peace.
According to the Bible, God gives everyone the freedom of choice during his/her life on earth. According to Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Every person is a sinner because they inherited Adam’s sin nature. We are separated from a perfectly holy God because of our sin. But because God “so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Whether or not we believe God sent His sinless Son to die on our behalf as a perfect substitute for our sins and that He rose again on the third day . . . and receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior . . . determines the judgment that will fall on us when we die. Hell is judgment for some, a horrible place of complete separation from God.
A smile slowly breaks across my solemn face. The imaginative images and weight of Hell flees my mind. I know the decision I have made – my future is sealed. I have a sure hope and blessed assurance that I will escape the judgment reserved for those who do not believe and will, instead, live eternally with my Savior. Jesus bridged the gap with His shed blood so that I can have a relationship with God the Father.
Yesterday, the United States celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday – a day in which people remember and are thankful for all the blessings in their lives.
As the red, bloody water fizzes and bubbles in front of me, I have never been more thankful and appreciative for what God has done for me.
It has been one memorable day, and one “Hell of a Thanksgiving.”