If we think of hell as the state in which God allows the painful reality of sin to hit home, then we can understand both the terrible imagery used in Scripture to portray such a fate and the urgent warning to avoid the wide road that leads in that direction. It also removes the objection that God is being presented as a cosmic torturer hurting people until they agree to follow him. God does not torture anybody — he simply withdraws his protection that allows people to live under the illusions that sin is not necessarily harmful to a truly human life. The natural (though none the less God-ordained) consequences of sin take their course, and it becomes harder and harder to fool oneself into believing the seductive lies of sin anymore. In this way hell is educative and points us towards our need for divine mercy.
— Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, p. 136