Summary: Why did Jesus talk so much about hell? It's not a real popular topic even today and its hard to think it would have been then. What possible reason would Jesus have for stressing it during His ministry?

OPEN: There’s a small town in Michigan, about 60 miles west of Detroit. It’s a small community of about 80 people, and the name of this little town is (pause) Hell... Hell, Michigan. It always seems to make the news during the winter time, when newspapers joke about HELL FREEZING OVER. They apparently get quite few visitors, especially at the “Screams Ice Cream & Helloween" store. The store is filled with Halloween decorations and a “Creamatory” where you can buy … ice cream (Creamatory – Ice Cream – get it?) They also sell tickets to play putt-putt golf at a Hell-themed course out back of the store. For a fee, visitors can pay to be the mayor of Hell for a day, and you can even purchase your very own square inch of Hell and join the Hell Landowner’s Society.

Now, they do this all for laughs, and I’m told that everyone who visits there has a great time. I get it and I understand what they’re doing… and it doesn’t really bother me. But as fun as a visit to Hell, Michigan might be, the real hell’s NOT going to be anything like that. They’re not going to be selling ice cream and trinkets and it’s not going to be a place to have a “great time” because nobody is gonna be laughing when the day of judgment comes. And a lot of people will go to the REAL hell for eternity.

Jesus described hell as a furnace of fire (Matt. 13:41, 42). A place of torment (Luke 16:23) and everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46). A place of weeping (Matt. 8:12) and wailing (Matt. 13:42) and cries for mercy (Luke 16:24).

Someone noted that Hell is a scary place. It’s a place of darkness and weeping and the gnashing of teeth; a place of consuming worms and undying fire; and a place of “eternal fire”. The book of Revelation describes the lake of fire as being a place of fire and brimstone, smoke, torment, and unrest.

And the Bible contains a severe warning for sinners: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

So, if your name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life… you have serious reason to be afraid hell.

As you can imagine… the topic of hell isn’t real popular.

ILLUS: A survey by Gallup - back in 2009 – found that 86% of Americans believed in Heaven, and most thought they were going to go there. But only 69% of those interviewed believed in Hell. And just one-half of 1% of Americans expected to go to Hell when they died.

Only ½ of 1%??? Apparently, hell is not real popular.

There’s an old church camp song called “Heaven Is A Wonderful Place (sing it with me) “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace, I want to see my Savior’s face, Heaven is a wonderful place. (I want to go there).”

Then the 2nd verse goes “HELL is a horrible place, filled with sin and disgrace. Don’t wanna see that devil’s face, cause hell is a horrible place (Don’t wanna go there)."

Hell is a horrible place! You don’t want to go there! And, of course, THAT’S the whole reason that Jesus described Hell in such stark terms. You DON’T want to go there!!!!

But why did Jesus stress hell so much?

I stumbled across a comment about hell by prominent atheist named Richard Dawkins. Dawkins said “The Fear of Hell is a powerful motivator.” Now bear in mind – Dawkins is an atheist. He doesn’t believe in hell. What Dawkins DOES believe is that the church has used Hell to motivate people to become Christians. AND THE CHURCH HAS DONE THAT.

And Dawkins was right - Hell IS a powerful motivator… and it should be.

ILLUS: I read about a preacher who was talking with a woman who said that wanted to change her life. A few years later she wrote him a letter where she described the conversation they’d had. “I was afraid God would have to use a car accident or some other awful event to get my attention. And you pointed out that the consequences of my deliberate choice to continue sinning would be nothing short than hell itself. No one had ever before told me I was headed for hell.” Essentially the preacher had asked her “Do you mean, that the fear of hell isn’t enough of a motivation to change?” And that blunt statement shook her. Hell motivated her to turn her life around.

So yes, hell is a powerful motivator… that’s why Jesus used it.

Now, what’s interesting is that Jesus didn’t talk about hell with just anybody. For example, He didn’t talk about hell with people we’d call “sinners.” He didn’t mention hell to the woman at the well. She was a woman who had had 5 husbands and she was now living with a man who wasn’t even her husband. You’d have thought He’d have talked to HER about hell!

And Jesus didn’t mention hell to Zacchaeus – the wee little man who everyone hated because he was a tax collector. Certainly, Zacchaeus would be an ideal candidate to be told about hell.

And Jesus didn’t mention hell to Centurion who’d asked to have his servant healed. That centurion was a Roman who had probably worshipped pagan gods. That guy was definitely going to hell.

Those were the people you’d have expected Jesus to mention hell to. You’d think Jesus would confront sinners with Hell to scare them into changing… BUT HE DIDN’T!

Instead Jesus focused his talks about hell on the religiously comfortable. Folks like the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:33 Jesus condemned the Pharisees by telling them: "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

And, of course, he talked about hell to people who came out to hear Him preach. People who probably believed they were OK because they were good Jews. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned of hell those Jews in His audience: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30

But WHY would Jesus focus on the “religiously comfortable” folks? Well, He did that because they were the people that needed to hear it most.

I’ve been in churches where the “righteous” people were the meanest people you’ll ever find. One man spoke of having seen people like that in the church he used to attend. He described them as the type of people who are wearing “a cross necklace and then judging other people and being rude.”

And there had been folks like that back in the days of the early church. Paul wrote to the CHRISTIANS in Galatia, and said: “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I WARN YOU, AS I WARNED YOU BEFORE, that those who do such things WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” Galatians 5:19-21

Now, I want you to notice, Paul warned these Christians at Galatia, that if they lived like THAT they would NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. In other words… they would go to hell. And some of them WERE living like that. And we know that because Paul had warned them BEFORE about this.

But why? Why would Christians live like that? Why would “Christians” behave so badly? Because they’d become religiously comfortable. They felt they had arrived in their faith. They believed they didn’t have to worry about anything because they’d punched their ticket, and that they were shoe-ins for heaven. And because they believed that, they felt they could behave however they pleased and God would look the other way.

So God said: DON’T PUSH IT! There is a hell… and you could end up there.

ILLUS: Years ago, my dad got upset with me. I’d said something that made him angry and he looked at me and he said “You know, if you weren’t my son, I’d have nothing to do with you.” What Dad was saying was: “DON’T PUSH IT! You’re right on the edge… and if you push me much harder I won’t have anything to do with you.”

Now, I did NOT live in constant fear that dad would do that, but I took his warning to heart... and I changed my behavior. I'd become "too comfortable" in my status with my dad and I’d taken too much for granted.

And that’s why Jesus warned His followers about Hell. They (and we) needed to realize what was at stake. We need to realize we MUST NEVER take our relationship with God for granted and think we can live however we please once we’re saved. BUT IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.

ILLUS: Hell is warning for us. (I had a smoke alarm with me on stage). This is my Smoke Alarm (I hit the buzzer and allowed it to beep for a while). Annoying, isn’t it? Now a smoke alarm is supposed to go off if the house is on fire but I’ve never had a fire in my home. This doesn’t mean the smoke alarm has never gone off. Once in awhile, when I offer a burnt offering to God in my kitchen, this sucker goes off and keeps incessantly beeping as I drag a chair from the kitchen and climb up to push this button that shuts it off.

But here’s the problem – as long as there’s smoke in the house – I can push that button as many times as I like – and that alarm is going to continue going off, over and over again. So what am I to do? How do I stop this alarm from continually shrieking in my ears? Well, there’s only two ways to stop this alarm from going off in a smoky room. 1. Remove the ALARM from the room (and throw it out in the backyard) or 2. Remove the BATTERY from the alarm.

Now I’ve known of people who simply take the battery out and NEVER put it back in. They don’t want to be annoyed by that silly alarm. They don’t want to be troubled by its shrieking in their ears. It’s so annoying!

But if their house actually caught on fire and the alarm wouldn’t go off, fire would destroy their home. But at least they wouldn’t be annoyed by the alarm. At least they wouldn’t be troubled by the warning.

Removing the battery from alarm wouldn't stop their house from burning down. They had removed the offending noise of the WARNING, but their home would end up in ashes.

That’s why Jesus preached so much about hell. He was being the SMOKE alarm. He was WARNING people there was going to be a place of torment; a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth; a place of eternal punishment.

Think about it: IF Jesus hadn’t warned us about an eternal hell why should we bother changing our lives? I mean, there are some folks who figure “I like sinning! I like getting drunk and sleeping around and living however I very well please. So what if - when I die - I don’t get to go to heaven. I didn’t want to go anyway! I just want to live the way I want to live and if I die and just don’t leave the grave, why should I care?” I mean… WHY BOTHER believing that Jesus is the Christ? Why bother repenting? Why bothered getting buried in the baptistry and rising up a new creation? I only get to go around once in this life, so why not grab all the gusto I can get?

But… if there’s a hell, that changes the equation in a big hurry. Suddenly, life gets serious.

And IF there’s no one around to warn us of that reality we may wake up from the grave to a major surprise!

At the beginning of the sermon I talked about a town called Hell, Michigan. And I told you that… for a price, visitors can buy one square inch of land and own property in Hell. But according to Scripture nobody has to buy land in hell. Everybody already owns property there.

Romans 3:23 All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Ephesians 2:3 “…we ALL once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Colossians 1:21 “At one time you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”

In other words: none of us deserve to go to heaven. We deserve to go to Hell. We owned property there. We’ve ALL had messed up. We’ve all fallen short of what we should be. And we didn’t have to pay to go to hell. That was where we were going to end up… unless God interceded.

And that is what Jesus did. He interceded. He bought us a place in heaven. He died for us so we could have a mansion over the hilltop - a place where we’d live with God forever.

CLOSE: My 4-year-old grandson Benjamin said something very powerful this last week. He said: “If I tell you what I did… would you still love me?” Why would he ask that? He asked that because he was afraid I wouldn’t love him anymore. He was afraid I’d reject him. (Kind of like Hell). HE CARED!

The question this morning is this: DO YOU CARE? Hell is the ultimate rejection we can face because we’ve done things we shouldn’t have done. But the good news is this: God doesn’t want you to go to hell. Is that enough of a motivation to change your life?