A friend of mine is involved with AA after suffering for years with a drug addiction. He often shares insights taken from these meetings. On one particular occasion he related how another meeting attendee said something to this effect: God did not open the gates of heaven to let me in; He opened the gates of hell to let me out. For me, this represented a powerful expression of the truth and an essential redefinition of the concept of hell.
Orthodox Christianity is obsessed with the idea of hell. The whole purpose of Jesus, in their mind, was to rescue a few from this fearful place. On the one hand, they teach that going to hell is the result of God's judgment, i.e. God sends people to hell. Then paradoxically they want to exonerate God from any responsibility for hell by saying that each individual makes a personal decision to reject God and therefore send themselves to hell. It's a confused story any way you cut it.
Now I am personally perfectly ready to accept that we send ourselves to hell, just not a hell of eternal literal fire. The literal fire of "Gehenna" , the word which often translates "hell" in the Bible, was that of the trash heap. It represents or symbolizes the suffering and wastefulness of life choices which reject the necessity to love God by loving one another. The failure to love is the definition of sin, not some violation of detailed legal prescriptions as so often taught. By choosing to be unloving in our actions we do doom ourselves to hell here on earth. As long as we cling to the old paradigms of individualism, self interest above all, and the necessity of condemnation, we will be locked into this hell of our own making. Jesus and His ethical instructions are the key to unlock the gates of hell. That can only happen when we admit to ourselves that our attitude and mode of thinking must be dramatically changed in order to escape further torment.
In my mind, this recovering addict was right on. God in Christ did not provide a way to avoid hell by appeasing God. Instead Christ's mission was to provide a means of escape from the hell in which mankind was already entrapped. Then we could live in the heaven which already existed for those who embrace the mind of Christ, the mind of self sacrifice, humility, and peace.