The Mercy of Hell
“Justice moved my high maker, in power divine
wisdom supreme, love primal. No things were
before me not eternal; eternal I remain.”
( Dante’s Inferno, Canto III, lines 3-6)
This is the inscription on the gates of Hell. They reveal how Dante thought of God. They reveal His power, His justice, His wisdom, and His love. The Creator of the universe is not a soft God, and He didn’t make a soft Hell. There is no softness in Dante’s Inferno, and we should realize the wonder of this. It is certainly difficult to come up with a Hell that can present all of God’s attributes at the same time. Dante was one of the great Christian poets in history, and we should treat him as such.
The inscription is a summary of Hell. God’s justice required a form of punishment for the sinners. His power enabled Him to create one that could fit the infinite pride and arrogance that would be brought along by the sinners. His wisdom let Him make the punishment fit the crime perfectly, and His love made Hell the last resort. Only after we have rejected God continually for our whole life will He let us be fully punished as we deserve.
Dante’s motivation for making this the inscription on Hell’s gate was to show us the immensity of God. His infinite attributes were the only things that could possibly come up with the universe we have, and that includes Heaven and Hell. There could be no doubt as to the awesomeness of God after seeing the inscription, and if there was, the rest of the poem would quickly fix that.
If there had been no creation of Hell, then there would be only two possible explanations. First, it could be possible that Adam and Eve had never sinned. However, that has happened, so we must figure out what other reason there would be. The only other option is that our God is not the God of the Bible. His justice would not allow sinners to go unpunished. His love would not allow them to spoil paradise for everyone else. His wisdom would make the solution clear, and His power would make a solution clear. For there to be no Hell, one or more of these attributes would not be functioning.
The creation of Hell was like the creation of jails. There are criminals (sinners) who need to be punished. Government (God) cannot allow them to go unpunished, as that would make everything worse. So a solution must be found. The solution is to lock the criminals up in jails (Hell), until their crimes have been paid for. Because of the eternal nature of their sin (putting themselves before their Maker), the punishment must be eternal.
The wisdom of Hell is seen every day. The sinners throughout the world, including you and me, need to either repent or be punished. Not everyone repents, so they need to be punished. If there was no Hell, there would be no possible punishment worthy of any sin. Therefore, one or more of God’s attributes would be violated, as we have already seen.
Christ himself, in Matthew 25, blatantly stated the existence of Hell, in His parable of the sheep and the goats. The goats, those who have rejected Him and His message, will “go away into everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46).” What more does any Christian need?
The message of Hell is clearly taught throughout the Bible. Those who say God’s love would not support the idea of Hell do not realize what the Bible teaches. There are few subjects as clearly taught in the Bible as Hell, and none which causes as much consternation. Shouldn’t we try to learn a little more about it?