I’ve been having this discussion with people for a long time. Many are convinced that, at best, hell is a temporary place. “My God wouldn’t send anybody there permanently,” being their argument.
Here is another way to approach the idea:
We spend this lifetime conditioning our minds, bodies, and souls. We don’t magically become something different in the next life. We won’t become angels and dogs won’t become humans. We will be who we are. According to St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body we will even retain (when glorified body and soul are reunited) some identity as to our sex. (Always a hot topic during my seminary years.) If all that remains, if a person hated (or would not at least accept) the laws and ways of God on earth (unless some sort of invincible ignorance played a role), that won’t magically change either after a lifetime of conditioning. And since in the next life we are not prone to illusion or delusion (meaning we will see all clearly) we won’t “change our minds” over time. (Purgatory is another topic.)
So remember this: the most used image for the way Christ relates to His Church is bride and groom. Christ is the Bridegroom, the Church is the bride. To be united to Him reveals the nuptial meaning of our bodies. The union is intimate and total.
Using an earthly example, let’s suppose someone proposed to your who everyone, just EVERYONE said is THE perfect person; rich, good looking, powerful, loving, attentive, generous, admired and respected, healthy, supportive – just go on and on and end with, "and smells good." The only glitch in the whole thing is that you can’t stand this person. You like messy, you don’t want to be supported but challenged, you like Valuetime Cheesecurls for dinner, and you smell bad and like other people who also smell bad. As perfect as the other person may be, you will be miserable being married to that person for 50 years.
Now imagine that the union is permanent and eternal; someone who does not love God and is forced to be in an intimate union with Him for all of eternity. That would be horrific for that person. So God creates a place for these persons to be. We call it hell. We know how awesome God is and all He has to offer and would consider it a catastrophic loss. But if you don’t want what is being offered, you can't see it as a loss and in fact would be tormented by it and so it a mercy that God allows you to be someplace “else.” In this way He condemns no one, we choose and tell Him where we want to be.
Is hell then a great place for these souls? No. Like a person in this life who you cannot help, the person who returns to abuse or the person who returns to drunkenness, it is what they know and to some extent “choose.” To someone who has chosen heaven
, it seems a life of hell, wailing and gnashing of teeth.