Summary: Hell is real. Hell is bad. Hell is eternal. But Hell is avoidable. The good news is that through Christ our sins have been paid for. In Christ there is hope.
How many of you believe in Heaven? [Pause.]
Dumb question? Well, bear with me.
How many of you believe in Hell? [Pause.]
How many of you believe that Hell is a real place and not just some concept or metaphor? [Pause.]
You would think that the concept or belief in a real Heaven and a real Hell would be a given among Christians, wouldn’t you? But you would be wrong. In a national survey conducted by USA Today several years ago:
• 67 percent of American adults said that they believe in a Hell. That’s American adults, not just Christians.
• Less than 25 percent believed that they would end up there … but 25 percent were certain that their friends would end up there.
I understand. It’s not a pleasant or nice thing to picture you or someone you love ending up in a horrible place like that. While it’s bad enough to think that such a place could exist and bad enough to think about ending up in a place like that … it’s even worse to think of ending up in a place like that for all eternity … for ever and ever … with no relief from your suffering … and no end of your suffering in sight. It is, as I said, too horrible to think about and the concept of an “eternity” in Hell is too vast and too horrific to wrap our minds around, amen? Why, in Heaven’s name, would a “loving” God create such a horrible place and then condemn people to live … exist … forever in a place like that?
To save themselves and to save God’s reputation as a “loving” God, some people have developed a concept known as “universalism.” People who believe in “universalism” believe that EVERYBODY goes to Heaven. Movies like “Hereafter” portray the “after life” as this wonderful place where EVERYONE goes after death to be surrounded by family and friends … one big, eternal party and family reunion. I have no doubt that Heaven will be a thousand … a million … a billion … a trillion times more wonderful than anything that you or I could imagine. The problem with universalism, however, is that it denies the existence of Hell. I mean, if there is no place like Hell … if EVERYONE goes to Heaven … then it completely nullifies the need for Jesus to die on the cross … or it suggest that Jesus died on the cross for EVERYBODY whether they believe in Him or not … but that’s not what the Bible says, amen? I mean, what does the most well-known and famous verse in the Bible say? “ For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; emphasis mine).
The story is told of an Army chaplain who reported to a new duty station. Upon arrival, some of the men came to see him and asked him this question: “Do you believe in a literal Hell?” He replied that he did not. The men asked him to be re-assigned. When he asked them why, one of the soldiers explained: “If there is no Hell, then we don’t need you … but if there is a Hell, we don’t want you leading us astray.”
As far as the Bible that I read is concerned, Hell is a very real place. One of the most graphic and haunting descriptions of hell in the Bible comes from Jesus Himself.
[Read Luke 16:19-31.]
A man once had the following epitaph carved on his tombstone:
“Consider, young man, as you walk by …
“As you are now, so once was I.
“As I am now, you soon shall be.
“So prepare, young man, to follow me.”
Beneath it was scratched the following:
“To follow you is not my intent until I know which way you went.”
C.S. Lewis was once told about a gravestone inscription that read: “Here lies an atheist all dressed up and no where to go.” Lewis quietly replied: “I bet he wishes that were so.”
The Bible teaches us that this life is not all that there is. After death there exists two realities. All of us shall spend eternity in one of two places. Everything that we see around us is temporary as the rich man in Jesus’ story found out … his wealth … his fine clothes … his fancy house … the feasts … his reputation … all temporary … everything around us right now is, in fact, temporary … but we are not.
We were made to last forever, did you know that? One day your heart is going to stop beating and that’s going to be the end of your body … your physical life … but it is certainly not going to be the end of you … as Scrooge is about to learn.