Summary: God does not warn us about hell to scare us into a relationship with God, but God does tell us the natural consequence of separation from our Creator.
43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
There is an epitaph that has been often used on tombstones down through the centuries:
“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.”
That sounds profound, but someone took a chisel and hammered out a response on one tombstone:
“To follow you is not my intent;
Until I know which way you went!”
That reminds me of a story a fellow pastor told me. He was in Mexico City, he ran out of the airport, jumped into a cab, and gave directions to the driver—in English, of course. The driver took off like a shot, put the pedal to the metal, and ignoring pedestrians and traffic signals literally flew through the streets. They went furiously this way, then made a turn and went furiously that way, then another turn and they were off again, until the preacher realized that the driver had no clue as to where they were going.
Fortunately, the preacher finally got that problem worked out, but many people go through life like that. They live at a furious pace. Their lives are full of activity and things, but they have no direction. They have no clue as to where they are going.
Ultimately, they are going in one of two directions. They are either going to heaven or hell. Today, let us talk about hell.
First question: What is Hell Like?. I suspect that the first image we have of hell is a cartoon image of millions of naked souls being herded by demons with pitchforks into caves of fire. Fire is always associated with hell.
Matthew 13:42 says, “They will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”. Once a minister preached on that verse, and afterward, and old woman, with a mouth full of dentures, asked him, “What about them that aint got no teeth.” The preacher replied sadly, “you do not need worry about that maam. Teeth will be provided.”
In Mark 9:43, 45, and 48, Hell is described as a place where “the fire is not quenched.” In the book of Revelation, the Final Judgment is described as a “lake of fire.” (Rev. 19:20)
I remember a time when I burned my hand severely. I was on a camping trip. We were breaking camp after cooking breakfast. I began to disassemble the gas stove. Without thinking, I grabbed the grill of the stove. That grill was still red hot. I seared a grill pattern across the palm of my hand. I was in agonizing pain for hours, just from burning my hand. Think what it would be like to be burned all over your body and to have the burning go on forever and ever. In hell, the fire never dies, the pain never subsides.
The KJV Bible most commonly translates three words as “hell.”
First, there is the Old Testament word “ Sheol” . This Hebrew word is more aptly translated as “the grave” or “the abode of the dead,” and most modern translations have it that way. “Sheol” does not usually refer to a place of eternal punishment.
The Greek word “Hades” is used a few times in the New Testament, and occasionally refers to a place of eternal punishment.
But the Greek word used in our text today is “Gehenna,” of “the valley of Hinnom” This valley ran down the south-west wall of Jerusalem. It had a bad reputation. Centuries earlier, the valley was used for human sacrifice. King Ahaz and King Manasseh sacrificed their sons to the pagan God Molech there. Later Hinnom became Jerusalem’s trash dump. Its bad reputation increased because of the filth, the smell, and the constant smoke from the fires burning garbage. When the ancient Jews wanted to describe Hell, they could not do better than look over the walls of Jerusalem down in the valley of Hinnom.