I have been struggling with this idea of Hell as eternal punishment (the wrath of God) for those who don't profess Christ as their Lord and Savior. For years, I didn't struggle with it. For years, I just accepted it as true. Then, as my life with Jesus evolved and matured, Jesus' grace became so heart-arresting and all-consuming that I couldn't imagine Jesus sending anyone to Hell. But I have experienced Hell in the "here and now."
Hell is trying to make it your own way. Hell is trying to make it on your own with a few prayers thrown in when the going gets too tough. Hell is living in isolation. I lived in isolation even though I was married and had friends, because I didn't share my innermost cares, concerns, or fears with them. I didn't think anyone could help me make it through this life--not my wife, not my friends--well maybe God could but I didn't see Him doing it.
On the outside, I looked like I had it all together--beautiful wife and kids, successful law career, but on the inside it was a constant struggle to make sure that my family looked like a "good Christian family" and that my law career succeeded. This wasn't freedom in Christ, but slavery to the law of my and other's expectations. So, my life may have looked good (a nice place to visit), but it was killing me to live there.
Living in Hell was a present tense reality for me for a number of years. This view that Hell is in the "here and now" is consistent with the views of Jesus and Paul. Jesus spoke repeatedly about the "here and now." Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was breaking through into this world. This world, without the intervening grace of God, is Hell.
Paul said that God's judgment isn't so much that God is inflicting his wrath upon us through His direct actions, but rather that God is abandoning us to our own desires. When our desires are to run our own lives--to order our world the way that we see fit--we live lives of desperation. We are desperate to make our lives good, but the burden is entirely upon us. This leads to wrecked marriages, broken families, and suicide.
So, living life without accepting the love of God (the logos--the truth behind the universe) is to live in opposition to life. Living in opposition to life is to live in Hell. As Paul Zahl once said: "Hell begins now. Hell now is Highway 280 during rush hour, but with Starbucks thrown in. Hell eternally is Highway 280 without Starbucks."
The Bible speaks a lot about the hell of living without accepting God's love, and the Bible is very graphic in this regard. When I think back to my years when I thought I was a Christian, but before I truly knew and accepted God's love, the horrific descriptions in the Bible are apt and true. I'm still not sure about the eternal nature of Hell, but it clearly exists in the "here and now" when we live outside of a loving relationship with God.
For a terrific explanation of Hell, see Twilight Zone, Season 1, Episode 28--"A Nice Place to Visit." Serling was a student of the human condition, and his explanations are peerless.