I have long been struck by the striking similarities between those mysterious objects of our universe called black holes and the place the Bible calls hell. In fact, the more I think about it the more convinced I am that black holes are a sobering reminder from God to us of the terrible reality of hell. For everything that exists in this visible world in some way shows us something about the invisible spiritual world. as Romans chapter one shows us.
The following is my attempt to share with you the many similarities between these two things from two different worlds: black holes in the physical world and hell in the spiritual (as well as the physical).
First of all, it is necessary to define or at least describe the two focal points under discussion.
Black hole: An area of space-time with a gravitational field so intense that its escape velocity is equal to or exceeds the speed of light.
Hell: The place of punishment of the lost or finally impenitent; the place of torment of the wicked.
Scientists might quibble over the black hole description given above; theologians, that of hell. But they are sufficiently accurate for our purposes here, which is to unveil the astonishing likenesses of the two. We begin.
It was said that a black hole is an area, an object at an actual location in the physical universe. The Bible describes hell in the same manner, as an actual place:
“So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly” (Num. 16:30 RSV).
This is the Old Testament’s description of Korah’s rebellion, and places Sheol, the place of the dead, beneath the earth. In the New Testament, we have this:
“The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done” (Rev. 20:13 NIV).
No effort will be made here to ascertain the exact location of this place called Sheol or Hades or hell, or even to distinguish between these various designations. All that is needed here is to know that the Bible does indeed portray hell or is equivalent as a real place, not just a state of being, although it is this as well.
NATURE OR ESSENCE
Listen to this description of a black hole: “One of the end points of gravitational collapse, in which the collapsing matter fades from view, leaving only a center of gravitational attraction behind” (Answers.com black holes).
What an amazingingly accurate description of what happens to an unbeliever after death and the soul departs to hell. At the end point of such a person’s life, he collapses under the weight of God’s judgment and that which was his earthly body, his physical form, fades from view, as it rots away in the grave. All that is left of what once was that person is his spirit. The Bible says that the spirit within us is where our attractions arise.
“But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed” (Dt. 30:17,18 NIV).
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other” (Gal 5:17 NIV).
At death, all pretense is stripped away and that which is a person’s true nature and character and spirit is revealed. That which is flesh, just as for a black hole, “fades from view, leaving only a center of gravitational attraction behind.”
The person who rejects God will find, at his death, that his heart’s desires, his true nature, will compel him to go to the place where that desire to be apart from God is fulfilled: His spirit is attracted to hell, for a person goes to where his heart is attracted.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21 NIV).
There, in hell, as in heaven, all but the essence of the person fades from view; all is revealed, the true nature is known.
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Lk. 8:17 NIV).
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12,13 NIV).
For both black holes and hell, there is a dividing line that separates it from the rest of all that exists. For a black hole, this dividing line is called the horizon, which completely encloses the collapsed matter. The horizon is an ideal one-way membrane: that is, particles and light can go inward through the surface, but none can go outward.
The Bible describes hell in a similar manner. Jesus once told a parable (Lk. 16:19-31) of a man in hell who desired to escape that horrible place of torment but could not because “a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (v. 26 NIV).
A brief note on black hole formation: General relativity shows that any star above approximately three solar masses that does not lose sufficient mass within its lifetime must inevitably become a black hole; it has no choice.
The same holds true for those human beings who freely choose not to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That free choice carries with it inevitable consequences resulting in the final one of winding up in hell, from which there is no escape because it is the final destination. In both cases, for black holes and for those rejecting God, once that dividing line of either the event horizon or death is passed, there is no longer any opportunity for turning back: Destiny has forever been determined.
“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears” (Heb. 12:16,17 NIV).
THE MANY AND THE FEW
In the section above it was stated that a star of more than three solar masses that does not lose some of its mass by ejection or other means will eventually succomb to becoming a black hole. There are many stars in the cosmos that are above this mass limit. In addition, more massive stars evolve more rapidly, enhancing the rate of formation of black holes. These two considerations imply a vast number of black holes in the cosmos.
Now consider these words of Jesus:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mt. 7:13,14 NIV).
INCREASE IN SIZE
“The black hole solutions of general relativity, ignoring quantum-mechanical effects, are completely stable. Once massive black holes form, they will remain forever; and subsequent processes, for example, the accumulation of matter, only increase their size” (from Answers.com, black hole).
“Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who exults in her” (Is. 5:14 NIV).
Black holes are invisible, since light cannot escape from them to make themselves visible (hence the name black holes). So how do we know they actually exist? We know it because of their effect on the matter of the universe around them. The same is true for hell and evil and the devil: We know they exist both because the Word of God says so and because of their effects upon us and our world, just as the Einstein equations of general relativity say that black holes should exist and we see their effects on the matter around them.
More than one allied soldier, when participating in the liberation of prisoners in the axis concentration camps of World War 2, felt a sense of evil beyond that which human beings alone could produce. They might not have been able to see the dark spirit of the devil in those places, but they did see with their own eyes the horrible evil which his presence produced in those places of death.
But one does not have to go to those extreme places of evil to see this principle at work, that that which is invisible produces visible results. It happens everyday in the words which people carelessly speak.
“The tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:5,6 NIV).
Yes, hell and its spirit of defiance of God may normally be hidden from our sight, much as a black hole is hidden from the rest of the universe, but each makes its deadly presence known by its effect on that which surrounds it. In each case, the only sure way not to feel the effects of the hidden trap is to avoid it all together, to flee from its presence.
“Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20 NIV).
When Elisha was told by God to anoint Jehu king, he sent a prophet to do this and told him, “Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room” (2 Kgs. 9:2 NIV).
Just as a black hole affects the area surrounding it, up to the event horizon, so a man’s companions affect him. Their words and lifestyle and attitude towards God cannot but affect his own life. Therefore, the one who would be joined to God must avoid wrong companions and go into the inner room of his own spirit and there have fellowship with God.
“They misled you and overcame you–those trusted friends of yours” (Jer. 38:22 NIV).
Peer pressure is always a huge issue with young people, but older adults are not immune to it either. Many are those who value what the world thinks of them more than what God thinks of them. The attitude of the heart may be invisible at first, but by a person’s actions, that attitude is revealed.
“A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him” (Prov. 28:11 NIV).
“The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Prov. 20:5 RSV).
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Mt. 7:1-20 NIV).
FREEDOM AND ITS LOSS
Remember that it was said earlier that the event horizon is that place in space where any object that passes that point is doomed to be captured by the black hole. Further details produce a revealing truth about human beings, so first this quote:
“The event horizon is a completely normal part of space, with no special features that would allow someone falling into the a black hole to know when he would cross the horizon. The event horizon is not a solid surface, and does not obstruct or slow down matter or radiation that is traveling towards the region within the event horizon” (answers.com black holes).
The similarity in human beings and free will is chilling. A person can continue to make seemingly small decisions in his life that seem to produce no untoward effects and so continue to do so, not knowing that each decision takes him farther and farther away from God and closer and closer to that “event horizon” of his soul and life where, should he then die, he would go to hell, the black hole of the soul. The only hope for such people is that “God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25,26 NIV).
Just as a black hole captures forever all that falls into it past the event horizon, so does the human soul that has slowly been attracted to wickedness by its own desires eventually reach that point of no return in the event horizon of the human soul. When that happens, the final outcome is fully and irreparably determined, even though the person continues to live and has not yet died.
This hardening of the heart explains those instances recorded in the Bible where it is said that God hardened a person’s heart to defy him (Ex. 9:12), such as the Egyptian pharaoh’s heart. Read alone, out of context, such a verse might seem contradictory and inexplicable. But read in context with the preceding verses and the rest of the account of Pharaoh’s defiance of God, there is nothing out of order, for he freely chose to continue his own hardening of heart many times before he had reached that point of no return. In God’s hardening of that heart, he was simply extending Pharaoh’s life for a short time on this earth before calling him to account after his death. Judgment had already been passed, but God has the right as God to let an evil person continue to live for a while for God’s own purposes:
“For by now I could have put forth my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth; but for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Ex. 9:15,16 NIV).
When we read such accounts, or read descriptions of black holes and the irresistable force of their pull on matter once it has passed beyond the point of no return, the event horizon, we should tremble. The human soul is precious beyond words, and we should take all measures necessary to preserve our own, the most important of which measures is to surrender that soul to the Lord Jesus Christ for safekeeping for all eternity, to save us from ever falling into the black hole of hell.
“Proud men have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path” (Ps. 140:5 NIV).
There are spiritual traps such as those referred to above, and there are physical traps, such as black holes. My prayer for all who read this comparison between black holes and hell is the prayer of the psalmist, who said:
“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge–do not give me over to death. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, from the traps set by evildoers” (Ps. 141:8,9 NIV).
There is absolutely nothing we can do about the danger that black holes present to us in this universe. We do not sit around all day in fear of them and their real danger, however, because God has so situated them within the physical laws of the universe he created that they do not harm us.
The danger of falling into the black hole that is hell, however, does present a very real and present danger that we cannot afford to ignore. This is the type of trap and danger that we can, and must, do something about. We can avoid this mortal danger by putting our trust in Jesus, who alone can rescue us from falling into this black hole of the soul.
“‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.’ When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them” (Jn. 12:35,36 NIV).
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2 NIV).