Perhaps the most frightening concept of the Christian faith is that God will condemn unbelievers to an eternity of horrible torture--a Lake of Fire that burns with brimstone. As a child I remember getting a minor burn and how badly it hurt, and I thought about how much worse the burning would be in Hell and that it would never, never end for those condemned.
It scared me. It made me wonder whether or not God was cruel for doing it. To this day, the thought troubles me, and I rely on faith in the God who has shown both justice and mercy throughout my life. He knows what He's doing.
In books for youth, is it important for readers to get a vision of the truth about eternal punishment? Should it be portrayed in fiction? Should an author give a glimpse in order to cause readers to think about the whys of such a judgment?
If we do this, we risk inciting fear. But is fear bad as long as it is qualified with understanding? I don't think fear is the best motivator for goading us toward loving God, but it is a great motivator to get us to evangelize. "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men." (2 Corinthians 5:11)
I wonder if a proper understanding of Hell might help young people to gain a greater desire to tell others about what can save them from such terrible wrath. Probably. The question is at what age does such a lesson become appropriate. When does the image of Hell go beyond just giving nightmares to the point of instilling a heart for souls?
Just some points to ponder.