There are many people today who deny the reality of Hell. Most are non-believers who deny that such a place really exists, and by doing so they can convince themselves that it will not be their final destination in the afterlife. Additionally, it becomes a reason for not being willing to consider the truths of the Bible. Most deny both Heaven and Hell, therefore denying any possibility of an afterlife, and any need for Jesus. Their logic is: If there is no afterlife, then there is no judgment. If there is no judgment, then there is no punishment. When one dies, one ceases to exist in any state of consciousness. So it makes no difference if one lies in their grave with forgiven or unforgiven sins. Therefore, there is no need for a Saviour.
We all understand the error of non-believers. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. A problem we increasingly see today is a confusion among Christians who do not know the clear truths of the Bible regarding the afterlife. Many now claim that there is no Hell or that it is not a place of torment. A popular conception by man is that Hell is nothing more than separation from God, it is not a place of intolerable torment. The Bible does not support such thinking. Quite the contrary, the Bible speaks clearly of two places— Heaven, a place of comfort and communion with God (see article “Is Heaven for real?”) and Hell, a place of eternal pain, suffering and dying (corruption).
As Christians, why do we need to know about Hell?
Before biblically supporting the reality of Hell, let’s remember the reasons why we need a clear understanding of the doctrine (teaching) on Hell. It’s important to understand about the eternity that awaits all those who reject the provision of Christ’s blood atonement for forgiveness of their sins. Understanding the reality of Hell should serve as a motivation to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus. We should care enough about the lost to tell them about the forgiveness of sins and gift of salvation that Jesus offers to them.
William Booth (1829 – 1912) was a British Methodist preacher and the founder of the Salvation Army, a Christian organization that meets both the spiritual and physical needs of the poor. In speaking about the mission of the Army and how to equip and motivate the Army’s workers to preach and serve, Booth is quoted as having said, “Most Christian organizations would like to send their workers to Bible college for five years. I would like to send our workers to Hell for five minutes. That would prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.”
That’s a great quote and it should be a reminder to us to love the lost enough to compassionately minister to their needs—both spiritual and physical.
Should we preach Heaven or Hell?
It should never be our desire to preach Hellfire and damnation to the lost. People do not get saved because of a fear of Hell. That fear might open their minds to be interested in learning more about Jesus, but it will never save them. People are saved when they understand their sin against a Holy God and their need for forgiveness.
We must remember that people are not saved from a place, but rather are saved from a person (the old Adam, which is the sin nature within themselves). They are not saved from Hell, but rather they are saved to Jesus (and are promised Heaven). When Jesus saves sinners to Himself, there is no coming judgment and penalty for sin because their sins were judged at the cross and paid for by Jesus. The message we are to preach is not escaping Hell, but rather repentance of sins and trusting in Jesus’ work to save and to give eternal life with Him.
As Christians we should understand the realities of Hell for two reasons:
1) To answer questions about the afterlife, Heaven, and Hell. We can then turn the conversation to one of spiritual importance about sin, the need for forgiveness and Jesus’ saving grace.
2) To serve as another way to motivate ourselves to tell people about Jesus. Jesus has commanded us to share His gospel of saving grace with the lost, and we know that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). We don’t want anyone to spend an eternity in Hell, a place of torment and separation from the love of God.
Sadly, today, we have far too many churches redefining the realities of both Heaven and Hell, and often the biblical teachings about Hell are not even preached. With a lukewarm message of forgiveness without repentance and salvation without regeneration, it should be no surprise that some churches preach Heaven without Hell. It’s important that churches and Christians proclaim the whole counsel of God and that includes the teachings on the afterlife about both Heaven and Hell.
What does the Bible tell us about Hell?
The Bible tells us a lot about Hell, and, interestingly, Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven. It must be understood that Bible uses many different words to refer to the abode of unregenerate man in the afterlife. They include Sheol, Gehenna, Hades, and pit. There are many verses that speak about the abode of unregenerate man in not only the present age (Age of the Holy Spirit/the Church Age) but also in eternity. For the sake of this list, I am referring to all of them as “Hell” although some of these passages refer to the place/state of torment in eternity, not at the present time.
Hell is a place that was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)
Hell is a place of fire. (Matthew 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47)
Hell is a place of everlasting fire Matthew 18:8, 25:41;
Hell is a place of unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12, Mark 9:43, 44, 45, 46, 48)
Hell is a place of devouring fire and everlasting burnings. Isaiah 33:14
Hell is a place of a furnace of fire. Matthew 13:42,50
Hell is a place of a lake of fire. (Revelation 19:20, 20:15)
Hell is a place of fire and brimstone Re 14:10, 20:10, 21:18
Hell is a place for those who are judged and found unworthy of Heaven (Matt 23:33, Jude 1:7
Hell is a place of a bottomless pit. (Revelation 9:1-2, 11, 11:7, 17:8 20:1, 3)
Hell is a place of destruction of both the soul and body (Matthew 10:28)
Hell is a place of punishment and torment (Matthew 25:46, Luke 16:23)
Hell is a place that is eternal and everlasting (Matthew 18:8, 25:41, 46, Mark 3:29, 2 Th 1:9, Jude 1:6, 7)
Hell is a place of separation from the presence and glory of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
I think this list makes the point perfectly clear— the Bible tells us that Hell is a PLACE. It is a REAL place, and it is the final destination for people who reject Jesus and His atoning work for the forgiveness of their sins.
Just as there are many who claim to have had near-death experiences and seen Heaven, there are also many who claim to have seen Hell. There are many people who have given accounts of experiencing the heat, the fire, the demonic activity, etc. This raises the question, did they really go there? I don’t think so. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that people can be judged and go to Hell and resurrected to live again. But perhaps, they did see a glimpse of Hell. We don’t know. But what we do know we can trust is what the Bible tells us.
As interesting as some near-death experiences may be, we should never rely on them as an accurate picture of what Hell is like (the same is true for those who claim to have seen Heaven). The Bible alone (Sola Scriptura) is sufficient to provide us with an understanding of Hell and to create in us a concern for the lost and a motivation and desire to share the gospel with them.
The Bible tells us enough to know that Hell is a horrendous place. May the understanding of eternal damnation and the reality of the everlasting fires of Hell cause all of us to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus. Use the Law of God to reveal to them their sin and their need for a Saviour, and then share with them the Grace of God and the way to Heaven through repentance and trusting in Jesus’ finished work for the forgiveness of their sins.
God is merciful and long-suffering. He wants all to come to repentance and He has asked, commanded and commissioned us to be His hands, feet, and mouth in spreading the good news of saving grace found in Jesus Christ. Share the gospel with someone today!
Be prepared to tell people that both Heaven and Hell are real.
Be more prepared to tell them how they can have eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.
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