Hell either exists or it does not, a tautological statement, and therefore necessarily true. If it does not, then you have nothing to worry about, nothing to be sorry for, and there is nothing you need do in preparing for your death, which will certainly come. There is also nothing you need do in conducting your life, either, to avoid going to a place that does not exist. The only fear is that other people might persecute or punish you for what they, and not necessarily you, feel are crimes. Fearing death is irrational because death brings only non-existence or possibly something else which is not Hell.
If Hell exists, then either some or none go there. In none go there, then again there is nothing for you to worry about or confess. Your behavior, no matter how reprehensible (by whatever definition), can never earn eternal punishment. For Hell, by definition, is eternal separation from God, which is the worst punishment there is. If Hell exists, so does God. If some go to Hell you have to approach your salvation from being sent there with fear and trembling, to coin a phrase.
If there is no Hell it does not follow obviously that after death comes non-existence. But that is because of the ambiguity in existence. Some argue that our lives (all life) are strictly bio-mechanical, meaning we are nothing but machines, albeit complicated ones. If we are machines, it may be possible to duplicate your particular machinery, if only in software, and so duplicate you. But this is impossible given the proof that our existences cannot be wholly material. Our intellects and wills are non-material, i.e. non-physical processes, and therefore cannot be duplicated in any physical way, which includes software. Thus if there is no Hell and no God, non-existence is necessarily your patrimony. From that we deduce your existence is utterly without meaning or importance. End of story.
There are two major beliefs which propound that Hell could exist (and thus so does God) but none go there. One is called universalism, the other is annihilationism. Universalism argues all—yes, even Yours Truly, who certainly deserves Hell if it exists—are eventually brought into God’s grace. Universalism is agnostic on the question of Hell’s existence. Under universalism, it is logically possible people may go to Hell, but they would stay there only a finite time.
If universalism is true, again there is no reason to moderate your behavior in any way, for no matter what you do, it will be forgiven. Cursing God, denying Him, worshiping Satan, murder, rape, listening to NPR, whatever. Nothing you do has the least consequence in “earning” salvation, which is automatic. So you may as well have at it! Eat, drink, and kill, for tomorrow we die. And are received into God’s arms. It is, of course, logically possible that God orders Heaven into a hierarchy and that, because of your misdeeds, you earn a lower spot in paradise, but that you go there, under universalism, is guaranteed.
Annihilationism argues that only the good, considered under God’s rules, reach Heaven, and that the bad are snuffed out, their souls annihilated. Bad people reach complete non-existence. You may call this a punishment if you wish, but it is an odd use of the word, because at the end there is no you to be punished. Where once you were, nothing is left, just as if God did not exist. If annihilationism holds, your behavior matters, but only to the extent you wish to attain Heaven, which is either earned by yourself, or is given to you by God using whatever lights He decides. If you would prefer to use your time on earth to “live it up”, doing whatever you like, the worst that can happen to you is nothing.
If Hell exists and either universalism or annihilationism holds, it is curious that God would send his son Jesus to be sacrificed on a cross. Sacrificed for what? Perhaps, in God’s mind, it was a necessary bookkeeping maneuver, a box to be ticked before universalism or annihilationism could be implemented. There was, however, no need for Jesus to come and tell us to (say) be nice to one another, for there is no need to be nice to one another if nobody is sent to eternal Hell. There is no need to do anything, except what you want. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. The worst that can happen to you is non-existence, or a possible finite sentence in Hell.
If Hell does not exist, what are we to make of Jesus? Just after the parable of the talents, in which the “wicked, lazy servant” is cast “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth”, Jesus, his very self, said:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…
Then he will say to those [goats] on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’
He ends by saying the evil “will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (my, and I wonder if the were also our Lord’s, emphasis).
If there is no Hell, Jesus was either lying, mistaken, or not quite in his right mind. Not just on this occasion, but on many.
Jesus said that “at the end of the age” that the “angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
John, quoting from the source, said that “But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Jude said “Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Paul was convinced of Hell’s existence:
For it is surely just on God’s part to repay with afflictions those who are afflicting you, and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes to be glorified among his holy ones* and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, for our testimony to you was believed.
There are many other quotations, but these are sufficient here. None are denied by those who believe in God and in the non-existence of Hell, or in those who believe in Hell but say no one goes there or no one goes there permanently. These people say Jesus’s direct warnings about Hell were admonitory and not meant to be taken literally. They say that this was Jesus’s way of calling people to proper behavior. If so, this is like a teacher threatening to send a student to detention, when both the teacher and the student know there is no such thing as detention. Or in threatening to punish a criminal with an imaginary whip. It is not only useless, but bizarre and dishonest.
Why would you follow a man who said such things?