Let your imagination go to work – you’re a coal miner, trapped by a tunnel collapse over two miles below the earth’s surface. As I am writing this, there is no news whether the six men in Utah are alive or dead. Assume they’re still alive—what do you suppose it’s like down there?
First of all, it’s dark, really dark. Your helmet lights are good for only 12 hours. Most of their time would be spent in total darkness. There is nowhere to go. Trapped miners without earth-moving equipment go nowhere. You feel utterly helpless. Your mind replays past events, trying to figure out how the disaster could have been avoided. You second-guess decisions. You want to blame somebody. You feel like a victim. The air is not good. Everything is choked with dust. You are hungry and thirsty all the time. You alternate between panic attacks and dread.
In fact, that miserable experience starts to sound to me like how the Bible describes hell – a place of utter darkness and despair, a place you can never escape, a place of endless dying, a place of constantly feeling pain and need without ever feeling relief or satisfaction, a place cut off from life and joy and laughter and feasting. Hell is a place of resentment and self-loathing, bitterness and hopelessness. It is the place chosen for eternity by all who reject the lordship of God and the destiny of all who have rejected the forgiveness of Christ, our Savior. The people in hell will feel trapped. Forever.
It was just because Jesus Christ knew how bad damnation would be that he gave himself for us. When he cried out from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” he was crying out from the dark pit of the total absence of God’s light and love. His sacrifice accomplished the supreme victory. It is his joy to give forgiveness and mercy freely to everyone in the world. Those who believe it have it—it’s ours through faith.
Imagine the opposite of being trapped in an endlessly dark coal pit. Imagine being with God forever – in light, music, praise, banquets, dancing, and laughter. Imagine being free .