Jesus Believes in Hell
It is an interesting reality that a much higher percentage of people believe in the existence of heaven than believe in the existence of hell.
Yet, according to the Bible, hell is just as real as heaven.
The Bible clearly and explicitly teaches that hell is a real place to which the wicked/unbelieving are sent after death.
QUOTE: R.C. Sproul “It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.”
The problem many people have with hell is not that some people go there.
Most can imagine very evil people like Adolph Hitler and the Emperor Nero being there and suffering for their many heinous sins.
What challenges many people, and even causes them to reject the idea of hell, is the biblical proposition that the majority of people in the world will be there for all eternity.
In fact, the Bible teaches that relatively nice and basically moral people will be in hell.
I know many people who reject the Christian faith just on this basis alone.
Illustration: “Love Wins” Years ago, a man named Rob Bell wrote a book called “Love Wins” wherein he challenged common Christian doctrines, most notably that of the existence of hell.
He argued that in the end everyone in the world will be saved because of God’s love.
While it was almost universally rejected by conservative biblical scholars, it received rave reviews from audiences because it removed the reality that God will ultimately punish sins, and that is what most people - especially unsaved people and nominal Christians - want to believe.
Oprah Winfrey even put Rob Bell on her “Spiritual A-Team” after having read his books and interviewed him.
It is obvious that many people would rather have a system of faith wherein the idea of eternal punishment is non-existent.
For the Biblical Christian, however, this is not an option.
The Bible teaches the truth of Hell.
Jesus Christ is so convinced of its existence that He speaks of it more than any other single individual in the Bible.
In fact, to deny the existence of Hell is to deny the ability of Christ to properly communicate eternal truths (We have seen this already, multiple times, in the Sermon on the Mount).
The truth is, however, that while Hell is a biblical reality, many people do not understand the Bible’s teaching on this subject, and have instead had their understandings skewed by books, television movies and other sources of popular media.
This morning, my goal is to help us understand the truths about hell and what they mean to us as believers.
We are going to look at a series of questions:
What is Hell?
Why does Hell Exist?
Who are going to be in Hell?
WHAT IS HELL?
The word Hell, or one of its derivations, is mentioned 167 times in the Bible.
The word the Bible uses to describe a burning hell is “Gehenna”.
This comes from an actual burning place, the valley of Gehenna adjacent to Jerusalem on the south.
Gehenna is an English transliteration of the Greek form of an Aramaic word, which is derived from the Hebrew phrase “the Valley of (the son[s] of) Hinnom.”
In one of their greatest apostasies, the Jews (especially under kings Ahaz and Manasseh) passed their children through the fires in sacrifice to the god Molech in that very valley (2 Kings 16:3;2 Chronicles 33:6;Jeremiah 32:35).
Eventually, the Jews considered that location to be ritually unclean (2 Kings 23:10), and they defiled it all the more by casting the bodies of criminals into its smoldering heaps.
COMMENTARY QUOTE: “In Jesus’ time this was a place of constant fire, but more so, it was a refuse heap, the last stop for all items judged by men to be worthless. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna hell, He was speaking of the city dump of all eternity. Yes, fire was part of it, but the purposeful casting away—the separation and loss—was all of it.” - GotQuestions
It was this place, a horrific place of constant burning, that Jesus used to compare the eternal state of the wicked.
The punishment of the wicked dead in a fiery hell is described throughout Scripture as:
“eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41)
“unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12)
A place where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-49)
A place of “torment” and “fire” (Luke 16:23-24)
A place where “the smoke of torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:10-11)
A “lake of burning sulfur” where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
We see that the visual of “FIRE” is synonymous with hell.
It is also called a place of:
“everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
“shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2)
Some people ask if this is “literal” or “symbolic” language? (i.e. is the “lake of fire” literally a lake filled with molten lava?)
QUOTE: R.C. Sproul “If the biblical descriptions of hell are symbols, then the reality will be worse than the symbols.”
Hell is a horrible, torturous and eternally conscious existence.
NOTE: This leads me to an important point; there is a false view that many people hold about Hell that needs to be addressed called “Annihilationism”
Annihiliationism is the view that the wicked will not suffer for all eternity, but instead will be simply “annihilated” from existence.
This view teaches that their soul will simply “cease to exist” or be “extinguished” in eternity.
For some, this placates the concern that people will be tormented forever.
There are two (2) popular expressions of this view:
Immediate Annihilation - at death, the soul of the wicked dies and the person never again awakens to any existence. Soul and body die together.
Eventual Annihilation - at judgment, the souls of the wicked are judged, and then thrown into the lake of fire where they are eventually extinguished.
These can be tempting views because, again, it satisfies the human desire for hell to not exist.
Proponents of this view often argue that it would be UNJUST for God to eternally punish people who only sinned for a temporary time.
The first thing we need to understand is that God is never unjust, and that everything He does is just... He is the creator of all Law, and there is no Law above Him to which He is held to.
His action literally “creates” Law, so it is impossible for Him to be unjust.
Furthermore, while sin may be temporary, it is an offense against an eternal God. Every sin we commit is against God, and His eternal glory is offended by them.
NOTE: Something else to consider has been posited by Dr. James White. He asks the question, why do we think people will stop their hatred of God in hell? They will spend their eternity hating God in hell as much as they did on earth, and thus will perpetually be worthy of the punishment they are receiving.
Probably the most convincing argument for the eternal nature of Hell, in opposition to any idea of annihilationism, is on a purely linguistic basis.
The Bible communicates to using human language, and we must trust that the words it uses expresses the truth in a way that is consistent.
That being said, we must examine the biblical use of the word “eternal”.
The word eternal means.... forever; without end.
It is used to describe both the condition of the saved and the condition of the lost.
Daniel 12:2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (same Hebrew word)
Matthew 25:46 “And these (the wicked) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
If one argues that Hell is NOT eternal, but is instead temporary, then one must concede that it is possible for heaven to also be temporary.
From a purely linguistic standpoint, if we believe in an eternal heaven we MUST believe in an eternal hell.
So, what is Hell?
Some people try to soft Hell by saying it is “separation from God”, failing to realize that for the unbeliever, this is not a big deal... they already live separated from God.
In reality, Hell is a horribly torturous and eternally conscious existence.
WHY DOES HELL EXIST?
I think this is important because it is often misunderstood.
Many people’s view of Hell has been distorted by ideas which are unbiblical.
One of the most common misconceptions about Hell is that it is “Satan’s abode” or that somehow Satan is the “Lord of Hell”.
This was portrayed in “The Divine Comedy” Dante Alighiere’s epic poem from the 14th century.
And many other representations in both art and literature have followed suit.
Even in the drama “Judgment House” which is put on by many churches, the devil is portrayed as “ruling” over Hell.
Beloved, Satan is NOT the ruler of Hell.
He is not even in Hell yet.
But one day, he will be its prisoner.
In fact, it was created specifically for him and those who follow him.
Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Hell exists as the just punishment for those who rebel against God.
The original rebel against God was Satan.
But he is not alone.
He captivated the minds of a third of his angelic race.
And he is responsible for tempting the fall of the human race as well.
Hell does not exist as a place for Satan to rule; Hell exists as a place for Satan and his followers - whether active or passive followers - to be punished for their rebellion.
We see a picture of Satan’s demise in the book of Revelation...
Revelation 20:10 “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Following this, we see the judgment of his followers...
Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
What is Hell? Hell is a horribly torturous and eternally conscious existence.
Why Does Hell Exist? For Satan, and all who follow him in his rebellion.
III. WHO ARE GOING TO BE IN HELL?
This is the most sobering question of all.
As I noted earlier, there are many people who it would seem would be in many ways worthy of punishment. Hitler, Nero, etc.
But it gets a little more difficult when we realize that of the 7 billion people in the world right now, the vast majority of them are absolutely lost, dead in trespasses and sins, and worthy of Hell.
Shop owners, school teachers, bus drivers, business men, politicians, and even preachers.
Hell will respect no earthly accolade or position.
I believe its really not the existence of hell that bothers most people, but the amount of people that everyday are filling it up.
We know the Bible says “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
If this doesn’t frighten us, then we don’t really believe it.
I am not afraid of UFOs, or the LochNess Monster because I do not believe in them.
But Hell is real, according to Scripture, and worthy of our fear.
NOTE: Some would say that the only reason the bible addresses hell is to “scare” people into becoming Christians.
In fact, some would even say it is inappropriate to discuss hell, because it is wrong to “scare” people into belief.
This accusation was leveled against Jonathan Edwards in his day, and his response was powerful:
QUOTE: Jonathan Edwards “Some talk of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven, but I think it is a reasonable thing to endeavour to fright persons away from hell. They stand upon its brink, and are just ready to fall into it, and are senseless of their danger. Is it not a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house on fire?”
Listen, if your house were on fire, and I told you it was, I am not just trying to scare you, I am trying to show you the seriousness of your predicament.
The same is true regarding the reality of hell.
And sadly, it is a reality which the majority of the world is facing.
The most important question we can ask is not “who are going to hell?” but rather the most important question of all is this:
Why do people go to hell?
I have heard it taught that people go to hell because they reject Christ as Savior.
This is not REALLY the case.
If it were the case, then you cannot explain the people who never hear of Jesus Christ, and yet still go to hell.
People go to hell because of SIN.
They are guilty of sin, which is the breaking of God’s Law.
Even if they have never read the Bible, or heard of Jesus, Scripture says that people have enough natural revelation to understand that God exists and they have violated His Law... because His Law is written on the consciences of all people. (Note: This is why man’s laws often imitate the laws of God.)
The reason people go to hell is that the judge of the universe has judged them guilty of breaking His Law.
The only way any person can be SAVED from hell is by receiving Christ.
This is why people often confuse the logic and say that rejecting Christ is why people go to hell.
Yet, when they follow that argument to its logical conclusion, they have no way to answer the question of why a person who has never heard of Jesus, and hence never “rejected” Him, still goes to hell.
The person who has never heard of Christ will be in Hell because of their sin, not because of rejecting something they have never heard.
NOTE: Some people believe that if a person never hears of Jesus, then God will somehow find “another” way to save them. I have heard some say that those people are judged by their works, others by the Old Covenant standard of Law keeping, and still others say they will be judged by the adherence to whatever light they were given.
But the reality is that there is no salvation outside of Christ, for anyone. Thus, if a person never hears of Jesus, he has no hope. This is why we believe in evangelism and foreign missions. If we believed that not hearing about Jesus somehow made a person less responsible before God, why would we so desperately try to bring them the Gospel?
We share the Gospel because we believe that receiving Christ is the only way a person can be saved from what their sin justly deserves. There is no other Savior. There is no other way!
People are condemned by their sin; they are not condemned solely for rejecting Jesus.
Now, please do not misunderstand me, rejecting Jesus is sin.
If a person hears about Jesus, and rejects the Gospel message, that rejection is sinful rebellion against God.
But it is simply compounding the problem which already exists.
They are already sinners worthy of hell; by rejecting Christ, they are rejecting the only possible salvation from hell.
Illustration: “Life Ring” It would be like the person drowning in the ocean, and seeing a life ring within reach, and turning from it and sinking into the abyss. Rejecting the ring does not cause their demise; the water does that. The rejection of the ring simply amplifies the predicament they are already in.
Someone might ask, “Didn’t Jesus already atone for all sin on the cross; why then do people go to hell?”
The work of Christ on the cross was not for all people indiscriminately.
When Jesus went to the cross, He had a very specific people in mind - His people... His Church.
John 10:14-15 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Christ’s sheep... His Church is the recipient of the benefit of His atoning sacrifice.
Those outside of Christ are not recipients of the saving benefits of His atonement.
This leads to a powerful and important final question: How does a person know if he or she is a recipient of the atonement of Christ?
The answer is simple: SOLA FIDE - By faith alone.
We can not work for or earn the atonement of Christ.
All we can do is receive it by faith.
Christ stands ready to save from Hell anyone who will trust in Him.
The natural heart rejects that offer; but thankfully God can change that heart.
And when God changes a person’s heart, something radical takes place.
Instead of REJECTING Christ, the person RUNS to Christ.
He repents of his former life lived in sin, and he rejoices in his Savior.
How do you know if you are a recipient of the atoning work of Christ?
Believe on Him, and you shall be saved.
Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If I could summarize today’s message, I would say this:
Hell is real.
Hell is terrible.
Hell is certain for those who are outside of Christ.
The only way to be saved from the certainty of Hell is to be in Christ.
Jesus believes in Hell... He spoke of it more than anyone.
To say you do not is to say you know more about eternity that He.
He alone offers salvation from its eternal flames.
I encourage you, if you never have, to call on Him in repentance and faith today.