The word hadephobia is derived from two Greek words, Hades (“hell” or “the underworld”) and phobos (“fear”). Thus, hadephobia is “the fear of hell.”
In one sense, hadephobia, also called stygiophobia, is normal and natural. Hell is a scary place. Jesus described it as a place of darkness and weeping and the gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30); a place of consuming worms and undying fire (Mark 9:48); and a place of “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). The book of Revelation pictures the lake of fire as filled with fire and brimstone, smoke, torment, and unrest (Revelation 14:10–11). The Bible contains a severe warning for sinners: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). So, if your name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life, you have reason to fear hell (Revelation 20:15).
The world tends to make a joke out of hell and to speak flippantly of it. Hell becomes a mere cussword; people entertain notions that they will find a place to party with their friends amid the flames. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hell is a fearsome place (see Matthew 10:28). The great theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards, in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” tapped into his audience’s natural hadephobia to good effect, and many were saved as a result.
However, hadephobia should not be part of a Christian’s life. It is true that hell is a real place where the unredeemed go, but you need not worry—if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, you are saved from that fate. Believers have this promise: “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them” (Revelation 20:6). And this one: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), but Jesus took that punishment upon Himself. He died in your stead. “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Because Jesus took your punishment and now intercedes on your behalf, you need not suffer from hadephobia. You need not fear ever being separated from God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
God does not want His children to experience hadephobia. Over and over, He tells us to “fear not” (see Luke 12:32). God wants you to “have confidence on the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17). God’s love cannot coexist with hadephobia in your heart: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). In other words, the more you understand the Father’s love for you, the less you will fear His punishment. God did not appoint you to suffer wrath but “to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
There is a great distinction between Christianity and other beliefs that have similar concepts of hell. In Christianity, the motivation to serve the Lord is not fear but love (Romans 2:4; John 3:16). Furthermore, the moment you accept Christ, you become His property, and no one can snatch you from His hands (John 10:28). God is greater than the one who is in the world (Romans 8:44).
If you are experiencing any kind of fear, including hadephobia, here are some practical steps to take:
1) Make sure you are saved. It is only the child of God who does not need to fear hell. The saved have the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—in their hearts.
2) Do away with anything that promotes mental images of scary things, e.g., horror movies, occult practices, etc.
3) If your fear persists, get qualified professional help, just to rule out anything clinical.
4) Fill your mind with God’s Word (Matthew 4:4). There is a reason why the Word is likened to food for your daily sustenance.
You need not fear hell as it was created for the devil and those he will deceive (Matthew 25:41). Neither should you give the devil too much credit. While he is real, the Bible says he is defeated and already condemned (John 16:11). You are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you (Romans 8:37).
In John Bunyan’s classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress, the pilgrim at the beginning of the story suffers from hadephobia and an accompanying fear of death. With a great burden on his back, the pilgrim says, “I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into Tophet. And . . . if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit to go to judgment, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.” How does Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress overcome his hadephobia? He comes to the Place of Deliverance: “Just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble; and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.” Perfect love casts out fear.