Publius Vergilius Maro, also know as Virgil, was a Roman Poet who lived from 70-21 BC. He wrote famous works such as the Aeneid about Aeneas, a Trojan (think Trojan horse) who traveled to Italy, to become an ancestor of the Romans.
Centuries later another great poet, Dante Alighieri, also known as Dante, is born in 1265 AD in Florence, Italy. His most famous work was The Divine Comedy, including the poems Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, which tell a story depicting a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
In the story of the Inferno, Dante is lead through Hell by Virgil. There we see nine circles or levels of Hell. Each circle has specific sinners there, whose “punishment fits the crime.” For example, in the fourth level, there are hoarders and wasters. They are given enormous weight and both a hoarder and waster walk in circles smashing into each other. The one yelling “why hoard” and the other yelling “why waste.” This picture shows how there is a balance between hoarding and wasting.
The book moves very quickly, and while you may need to do a little reading beforehand to understand some of the story, there is no doubt that the imagery Dante gives is memorable. While we are surrounded by images nonstop, this is not so for the original readers of the Inferno. Take away TV, smartphones, computers, billboards, and now read or listen to a story like this, and these pictures would impact and stay with you.
Maybe you are saying to yourself, “I still don’t get the idea of ‘the punishment fitting the crime.’” Let me explain it with something you may be more familiar with. Recently I was presented with the idea through UPROXX that the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may be a childhood remake of Inferno. In one scene Augustus Gloop is an obese glutton who drowns in chocolate. Veruca Salt is a greedy, spoiled child who has to have a golden egg, and is sent to the trash chasing one. Mike Teavee shrinks to get inside a television and becomes stuck in the T.V. Their punishments are a direct result of their vices.
As we read Inferno, you may be asking yourself, are there levels of Hell? Does Scripture speak at all to the specific punishments that specific sins warrant? Or is Hell just Hell no matter who resides there?
Hell is a terrible, eternal place. No one wants to be in any level of Hell. The question is, could it be more terrible for some than others? There are several places in Scripture where we see that there will be more punishment for some in Hell than others. Matthew 10:14-15 tells us that the apostles were out proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus says that anyone who does not listen to the Gospel from the apostles will have worse judgment than those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Luke 10:14-15 seem to say the same thing to the people of Capernaum. Why is this? The Scriptures don’t say, but my assumption is they have direct contact with the apostles, who would have seen Jesus resurrected. They would have been a more reliable source for the resurrection than someone like me or anyone else.
We then move on to Revelation 20:11-15. This is the passage known as the judgment of the Great White Throne. It says that these people were judged “according to what they had done.” Why would there be a judgment of those going to Hell if there was not some idea of punishment fitting the crime? Now I will not advocate that there is a perfect, “eye for an eye” or “punishment fits the crime” like there is in the Inferno. At the same time, these several passages, while not specific, seem to refer to the fact that there are levels of Hell where some will have it worse than others.
Dante believes that Hell is hopeless, placing in his poem, a sign over Hell: , “ABANDON EVERY HOPE, ALL YOU WHO ENTER.” But, if you are reading this, there is hope. There is a God-Man named Jesus. He lived a perfect life and died for the sins of all. Scripture teaches that if you put your faith and trust in Him and His work on the cross for salvation, you will not face Hell, but will enjoy the prosperity of eternity with God in Heaven. You don’t have to pay eternally for your sins, you can call on Jesus for salvation, and you will not have to worry about levels of Hell.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.