Hell, Yes! (Part II)
A top government official and presidential candidate is cited for what amounts to gross negligence in the handling of classified information and yet is charged with nothing. Radical Islamic terrorists regularly murder scores of innocent people in cities around the world with apparent impunity. Young children are molested by those whom they trust, leaving them with scars that last a lifetime. Elderly men and women, living on a fixed income, are bilked out of their life savings by greedy charlatans posing as would-be financial counselors.
When we hear of these terrible occurrences, righteous indignation burns through our veins like molten lead. The cry for justice erupts from our mouths. Ironically, some of the same people who demand that bad people be held accountable for their crimes view the idea of an literal hell as archaic, repugnant, and mythical. Yet the truth remains. There will be a day of reckoning for humanity. God is just. Men and women are sinners. This is why hell exists.
The Old Testament indicates that the Israelites, not unlike other nations in antiquity, held to a firm belief in life after death. The righteous will ascend to heaven, and the wicked will descend into the netherworld (Daniel 12:2). Instead of the word hell, Old Testament writers used terms like “the pit” (Psalm 30:3), “Sheol” (Ezekiel 31:17), or “Abaddon,”meaning “Place of Destruction” (Job 26:6).
The New Testament has much more to say about hell, and the One who spoke the most about it was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Although Jesus assured us that “God so loved the world,” offered true rest to all those “who labor and are heavy-laden,” and gladly chose to “lay down his life for his friends,” He also repeatedly gave explicit warnings about the dangers of hell for those who rebel against God. Jesus, along with other biblical authors, answers the most important questions regarding the veracity of the doctrine of hell.
First, God sends people to hell. He is holy, righteous and perfect. He is also just. Therefore, He executes justice on those who reject Him. This is clear when Jesus tells His disciples, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). At the end of time, when all people will face judgment, Jesus reports, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:41,42). How can a just God ignore rebellion and wickedness on the part of those whom He has created and remain just (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9)? Sin always has consequences.
Second, those who reside in hell are fully conscious of their torment and suffering. Jesus often described hell as a place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30, Luke 13:28). People often gnash or grind their teeth when they are experiencing excruciating pain. Jesus told a story about a rich man who landed in hell after his death due to his lifestyle. According to the Scriptures, the rich man was very much alive in the place of the dead and pleading for relief, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame” (Luke 16:24). There was no relief. The die was cast.
Finally, just as heaven is eternal, so is hell. It will never end. The prophet Isaiah foretold of God’s final punishment on those who ultimately rejected him, “For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24). The image is one of maggots consuming the flesh of human beings forever. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah are suffering to this very day “by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). God revealed a picture of those in hell to John as such, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). Everyone lives forever. The critical question is where.
Hell is a horrible place. The pain that it produces is beyond the sheer terror of our worst nightmare. Residents of hell will get what they’ve always wanted—freedom from the presence of God. In a sense, those in hell have voluntarily contributed to their one-way ticket to the dark side. However, we find a false comfort if we believe hell is reserved only for “those really bad people”—meaning not us. We all deserve hell because, in one form or another, we are “those bad people” (Titus 3:3). There is not a man, woman or child that has not and does not sin against a holy God.
God is just, and He judges sin. God is also love and He saves sinners. It is the love of God that sent Jesus Christ into the world to break us free from the chains of our sin and restore us to a right relationship with our Creator (John 3:16,17). Christ’s death on the cross was the result of our sin. The wrath of a righteous, holy, and just God was poured out on Jesus that day as punishment for our sin. To all who have received Christ as Lord and Savior, God has promised they will spend eternity in His glorious and blessed presence (1Thessalonians 4:17). Believers will never experience the fires of hell!
Anyone who truly has experienced the transforming love of God and has even the slightest understanding of the horrific nature of hell will not wish this punishment on his worst enemy. The threat of eternal damnation should motivate us to pray for others and to share the hope of the gospel.
Do I believe in hell? Yes! How about you?
For His Glory Alone,