Scriptures

Hell

Introduction

When it comes to the topic of hell, many people switch off and don’t even want to think about it. Many preachers today stay clear of the subject even to the point where they won’t even speak about sin, never mind the eternal consequences sin. Its seen as such a negative topic, which in reality it is, but we can’t escape the fact that Jesus spoke about the topic of hell more than any other writer. Whatever hell is like we can safely say that it is the complete opposite of heaven.

The Bible teaches that hell is the final and eternal destination of those who die outside of Christ. The word meaning eternal hell, Gehenna, is found twelve times in the Greek New Testament. In eleven of these instances, it’s Jesus Himself who employs the term. The fact is the Lord spoke of ‘hell’ more frequently than He did of that place called ‘heaven.’

The original application of Gehenna related to the fire that was used in sacrificing children to the pagan god Molech in 2 Chronicles.

‘He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.’ 2 Chronicles 28:3

‘He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.’ 2 Chronicles 33:6

We know that Jesus used visual aids in His lessons on many occasions and just outside Jerusalem there was a dumping ground, which was on the very site which the above events took place, people would burn their waste on this place and criminals after dying on the cross were taken there, this is probably where Lazarus was taken when he died at the same time as the Rich Man.

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus spoke of Gehenna several times in His ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ For example, the Lord condemns the use of offensive insults for the sake of venting one’s personal rage when He warns that whoever addresses another. Matthew 5:22. Christ stressed that it would be better to proceed through life with great loss, e.g. deprived of an eye or a limb, rather than having Gehenna as a final destiny. Matthew 5:29-30 / Matthew 18:9 / Mark 9:43-47.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Matthew 10:28 / Luke 12:5

When Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders, He said to them in Matthew 23:15

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.’

‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ Matthew 23:33

Souls in Gehenna will be aware of where they are

There are some religious groups who believe that Gehenna doesn’t exist or if it does exist this is the place where they will be totally annihilated. There are a couple of important points we need to raise about this theory.

1. When the Lord declared that God will ‘destroy’ both body and soul in Gehenna, Matthew 10:28, He used the word ‘apollumi’ which is used about 92 times in the New Testament. It’s translated by such terms as ‘destroy,’ ‘perish,’ ‘loss,’ and ‘lost.’ But the term doesn’t suggest the sense of annihilation.

2. The Bible uses several expressions to describe the emotional state of Gehenna, which can only imply the concept of conscious agony. It’s depicted as a place of ‘unquenchable fire’, Mark 9:44, fire being a metaphor for the extreme punishing torments which the wicked are to undergo after their life on earth.

The Lord describes Gehenna as a place of ‘eternal punishment.’

What good is punishing someone if they’re not aware of it?

Punishment implies consciousness. It would be crazy to describe those who no longer exist as being ‘punished.’ The wicked will be ‘tormented’ with the fire of Gehenna, Revelation 14:10-11. Again, torment certainly implies awareness, Revelation 9:5 / Revelation 11:10.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. ‘The time came when the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So, he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ ‘But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ ‘He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ ‘Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ ‘He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ Luke 16:19-31

Five principals

1. The dead are still alive

I realise sometimes we speak and the Bible speaks about going to sleep in the Lord and that’s true and the physical body is sleeping but the dead are consciously and vividly alive. They are not asleep, they are not unconscious, but they are consciously alive. This was true of Lazarus and it was true of the rich man.

Notice the text says that the rich man was in torment and in agony, he looked and saw Abraham and Lazarus, he spoke to Abraham and he was thirsty. The both of them were very much alive. And remember speaking of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Mark 12, saints that have passed into the unseen, Jesus didn’t count them as dead. In fact, he clearly declares,

‘God is not the God of the dead but of the living’. Mark 12:27

And when Jesus is hanging on that cross, one of the men by His side prayed in Luke 23:42,

‘Lord, remember me when you come in your kingdom’.

Remember the thief by Him? And Jesus replied by giving this dying man a promise in Luke 23:43,

‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

What does this promise mean?

It means that Jesus and the dying robber are going to meet in the paradise of God, that very day. Not some distant time in the future but that very day they are going to be consciously alive, they are both going to be conscious of each other. Just as a side note, we don’t have to wonder or speculate where Jesus went when He died, or where He was when He was in grave, the text clearly tells us where He was going.

‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.’ Revelation 6:9

Now the reason I wanted us to look at this text is simply to show you that the soul does exist after death. So, death is not just an unconscious sleep for so many hundreds or thousands of years. We are consciously alive beyond the grave, that’s what Jesus teaches here and other passages, we are still alive after death.

2. The dead are conscious of being themselves

‘But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.’ Luke 16:25

Just as Abraham was still Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus were still the rich man and Lazarus. And both the rich man and Lazarus were very much conscious of still being themselves. Now you might think,

‘Well that’s no big deal’

Well, yes, it is a big deal. You see at death we are going to lose some things, we’re going to lose the physical, we’re going to lose these bodies of ours and the possessions we have.

Death can rob me of the material things and the physical things, but it can’t take anything else away from us. It cannot rob us of ourselves, it cannot do that. Yesterday I was myself, I will be myself tomorrow, I will continue to be myself as long as heaven is heaven and as long as God is God.

I’m myself from now on but I’ve got to give up this body someday. You see these bodies of ours are here today and gone tomorrow. And there is something you’ve got to know about your body, your body is in the process of change. You’re getting older and your body over a period of 7 years replaces every cell that it has got.

It has been going on from the day you were born and will continue until the day you die. I have had few new bodies and I get another new one in two years’ time. And I know that there are some people in here who have had a lot more than I have.

But it didn’t work any change in us at all, did it? It changed every single cell in our bodies, but we are still the same person. Death isn’t going to work any moral change in us. Because you hear these stories all the time where people just live any way they like and all of a sudden, they sprout wings and get a halo and float around in heaven and all those things. As though death has hocus-pocus power to cleanse us and empower us to do something for us.

Don’t expect the undertaker to do something for you, which you won’t allow Christ to do for you here and now because it isn’t going to happen, the undertaker hasn’t got any power. Death cannot and will not work any kind of moral change in us, it just doesn’t happen.

If I learn anything from these words of Jesus, I learned that, sometimes we have to live with us, and sometimes it’s not a very pleasant thing to have to live with ourselves. God wants to change us through His Son, but we’re going to be ourselves from now on and death isn’t going to change who we are.

3. The dead remember

‘But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.’ Luke 16:25

We may forget things in old age, but we won’t forget anything in the afterlife. Abraham asks the rich man to remember, his life and all the good things he had.

‘He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Luke 16:27-28

The rich man remembers the life he used to live, he remembers his selfishness, his sin. He remembers his lost opportunity and his brother’s back there. You see memory is either going to help intensify the joys of heaven or it will embitter the pains of hell. It’s got to be that way because it can’t be any other way.

‘But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.’ Matthew 12:36

And if you think about it, how can God judge anyone if they don’t know why they are being judged? How can God judge anyone if they can’t remember anything that they’ve said or done whilst they were still alive?

In other words, those souls in heaven will know exactly why they are in heaven and those souls who end up in hell will know exactly why they are in hell. Everyone will remember who they are, and they will remember what they did or didn’t do whilst they were alive here on Earth.

4. All men do not have the same destiny

‘And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Luke 16:26

These two men didn’t have the same destiny, the text tells us they are separated by a great gulf. But who separated them? God! No way. I believe these men separated themselves by the deliberate choices they made in this life, they separated themselves, so don’t blame this on God. They become morally separated by a gulf that is as wide as right is from wrong, as night is from day and it’s a separation that continues from beyond the grave.

Now remember Luke says that,

‘Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s side.’ Luke 16:22

Not because in this life he was unfortunate or sick or neglected. He was carried into paradise because in spite of all these calamities, he made a deliberate choice of God, his name signifies,

‘God is my help’

And it was this right choice that made him a right character and the right character that made for a glorious spiritual destiny.

And the rich man is not lost because he’s rich, because he had good clothes, because he ate good food, he was ruined by wrong choices. He made a deliberate choice of things that were seen, and he turned his back on God.

Now you might say, wait a minute it doesn’t say a word in there about the rich man turning his back on God. Well, how do I know he did that? I know he turned his back on God because he turned his back on Lazarus and Lazarus was his opportunity right there.

Matthew 25 has some very important things to say on this matter where Jesus says in verse 40,

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

He didn’t do anything for Lazarus and Lazarus was his chance. God has only one way of reaching men and it is through His Son. By believing in Him, responding to God’s grace and love through His Son Jesus Christ. And if we do not hear Him and if we do not receive Him, we will not be saved, it’s as simple as that.

So, Lazarus found himself lying against Abraham’s side, which is the Hebrew way of saying that he was in the paradise of God. And while Lazarus was comforted, the rich man was tormented. But why?

Why this heaven or hell?

Well it’s certainly not because God loved one of them and didn’t love the other one. Their different destinies were the inedible outcome of their different character. Their different life style, who they were, who they believed in, who they placed their confidence and hope in, their different choices.

‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.’ 2 Corinthians 5:10

Now that is a tough verse, but it’s true. The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t have a way of getting anybody into heaven if they have hell in their hearts. And that’s the whole point Jesus is getting at.

If we go all the way back to Luke 15:1-2 we find a religious group of people called Pharisees and Scribes listening to what Jesus was saying. And when some tax collectors and sinners joined the crowd the Pharisees and Scribes criticised Him for having anything to do with them. They regarded such people as the lowest of the low, beyond the reach of salvation, not worth bothering with, to be kept at more than arm’s length.

Many of the Jews believed that if they had accumulated enough wealth and upped their social status and got into prominent positions in the religious community, then that proved that they were under the blessing of God. They also thought, according to their logic, that those who were poor were under the curse of God.

And so, Jesus is using an everyday event to make His point. There were rich people in their houses and there were poor people, even beggars walking around the streets every day. And Jesus is telling them that just because you guys are well off and have high positions in the Jewish religion doesn’t necessary mean you are right with God.

5. The living can’t mix with the dead

Now you also need to realise that you cannot mix the living with the dead. You can’t mix them, and you can’t do it in this life.

When the rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family and his brothers, Luke 16:29-31 tells us that

‘Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ ‘He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

That’s why I find it very disturbing when you get all these so-called mediums and spiritualists who claim they can speak to the dead. You never hear of any dead person telling their loved ones,

‘hey you better believe there is a God, because where I am right now, you don’t want to come here.’

When we lose a loved one in death, we know we can’t keep them, we have to put them in the place of the dead; you have to go to the cemetery. You can’t do it physically, you can’t mix the living and the dead. And it’s the same with eternity, you can’t mix the living with the dead.

Now I want to tell you one thing about hell, I don’t know much about it, but I will tell you this. Whatever hell may be, it is a burying ground of dead souls, souls that are dead in trespass and sin. And forever you are going to live, you are created into the image of God and indwelt with a soul that lives forever.

Hell is a place of pain and darkness

‘And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:30

‘For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.’ 2 Peter 2:4

Why is it in darkness?

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ John 1:5

The reason hell is described as being in darkness is because God and sin can’t co-exist. You see, hell is full of sinners and there is no rest for them in hell, Revelation 14:11 / Revelation 20:10 / Luke 16:26. The truth is souls can stay out of hell, but once in it’s for eternity. We have to remember when the Bible writer are trying to describe hell, they use figurative language to try and explain that hell is far worse than anything we’ve ever considered or experienced in this life.

Hell is Eternal

The punishment of those in Gehenna is unending, the fire is ‘unquenchable’, Matthew 3:12. The Greek word for ‘unquenchable’ is ‘asbestos’, which means something that can’t be extinguished. The worm, gnawing anguish, ‘dies not’, Mark 9:33 means their punishment after death will never cease. The punishment, or destruction, is ‘eternal’, Matthew 25:46 / 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Who will be in hell?

Hell will have souls who are not in Christ, in other those who have rejected God and unlike some popular theories, people aren’t separated from God by birth, they are separated from Him by their own personally committed sins. People aren’t separated from God by the sins of Adam and Eve in Eden, the human family is separated from Him by the personal sins of each sinner.

‘The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.’ Ezekiel 18:20

‘Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.’ 1 John 3:4

The Bible is very clear about who will be in hell. Take a moment to read the following texts. Revelation 21:8 / Galatians 5:19-21 / 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 / Matthew 25:41 / 2 Peter 2:4-22.

Does God send people to hell?

The subject of hell isn’t spoken of that often, usually because preachers don’t want to speak about it and people don’t want to listen to anything on the subject. However, we’ll need to understand that Jesus’ isn’t just returning as a Saviour, but He is also returning as a Judge. Some will be redeemed, and some will be shut out from the majesty of God and sent to everlasting destruction, and so, we need to understand that hell is part of the conclusion of the Biblical story.

Someone might say to you,

‘I just can’t believe in God and hell!’

I want to say you shouldn’t be able to believe in God, if you didn’t believe in God because a God without a hell is a God without a justice. Jesus spoke about hell on numerous occasions and whatever hell is, we don’t want to spend eternity there, but it seems to me that some people, even some Christians either don’t believe in a place called hell, or don’t believe that God would condemn anyone to such a horrific place.

‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.’ Luke 12:4-5

One of the most popular questions we hear in this day and age is this, how can a loving God send people to hell?

1. God doesn’t send people to hell, He simply honours their choice.

God has never forced us to choose Him, even when that means we would choose hell. All that find themselves in hell, choose it, because God doesn’t send people to hell.

C.S. Lewis said one time,

‘There are only two kinds of people in the end, those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those for whom God says in the end ‘Thy will be done.’

2. The phrase, ‘He sends people to hell,’ is another misconception, the word ‘people’ is neutral in your Bible and applied as innocent.

Nowhere does Scripture teach that innocent people are condemned, people don’t go to hell, sinners do.

So how can a loving God send people to hell?

He doesn’t, He simply honours their choice, a choice which needs to be made whilst we are still alive.

‘But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.’ Matthew 12:36

If you think about it, how can God judge anyone if they don’t know why they are being judged? How can God judge anyone if they can’t remember anything that they’ve said or done whilst they were still alive?

In other words, those souls in heaven will know exactly why they are in heaven and those souls who end up in hell will know exactly why they are in hell. Everyone will remember who they are, and they will remember what they did or didn’t do whilst they were alive here on Earth.

Why this heaven or hell?

Well it’s certainly not because God loves some people but doesn’t love others. people’s different destinies are the inedible outcome of their different character, their different life styles, who they were, who they believed in, who they placed their confidence and hope in, their different choices.

‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.’ 2 Corinthians 5:10

Now that is a tough verse, but it’s true and the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t have a way of getting anybody into heaven, if they have hell in their hearts. I don’t know much about hell, but whatever hell may be, it’s a burying ground of dead souls, souls that are dead in trespass and sin.

‘Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Philippians 2:9-11

There’s a time coming when everyone in heaven and on earth and every demon in hell is going to bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, it’s just a question of when. The good news is that nobody has to go to hell because God doesn’t want anyone going there, the question is,

will you choose heaven now before it’s too late?

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3:9

A warning for Christians

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 reflects the sad end of those who are in the kingdom but refuse to serve God to the full measure of their ability and will be cast out. To live beneath our privileges is a grievous blunder.

‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.’ Hebrews 10:26-27

‘If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.’ 2 Peter 2:20-22

‘To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.’ Revelation 3:1-5

Those who persist in a life of sin can’t go where Jesus is, John 8:21, those who commit sin which leads to death, that is in-repented and confessed sin 1 John 5:16, is to die in an unpardonable state. When we harden our hearts, Hebrews 3:13-15 / Zechariah 7:11-14, we become past feeling, Ephesians 4:19 and face a dreadful eternity. Those who call upon the name of the Lord in vain, James 1:26, by a hypocrisy that boasts but will not obey, Luke 6:46.

One reason hell the opposite to heaven?

One reason is because in hell, there is no God, hence why it’s described as darkness.

‘Because God is light and in him is no darkness’. 1 John 1:5

Wherever God is not, has to be what the bible calls hell. If we were allowed to take just a short glimpse at the anguish, the torment, the gnashing of teeth and the pain and sorrow that is in hell, I’m sure nobody would want to go there, never mind spending eternity there.

The greatest and deepest tragedy of hell is banishment from the presence of God, and the eternal relationship with the Son.

How to avoid hell

The salvation of our souls ought to be in the front of all of our minds. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, He doesn’t want anyone to end up there and so He tells us in His word how to avoid going there.

We must hear God’s Word

‘Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10:17

Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.’ John 3:36

Confess His Name

‘That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’ Romans 10:9-10

Repent of whatever sin that is in our lives

‘I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’. Luke 13:3

And be baptized for the remission of our sins

‘Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38

If you died today,

where would you spend eternity?

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;'"

John 11:25

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