Summary: The reality of hell should motivate the church to action. God has given each member of the body of Christ keys of the kingdom with which we can conquer hell.

On this Father’s day we can all remember what it was like to think our dad was the greatest. Three little boys were talking about how great their fathers are. "My dad is the greatest; he’s a lawyer and can make guilty people look innocent." The second boy says, "My father is greater than that; he is a doctor and he can make sick people well." The third says, "My father is greater than either of yours because he owns Hell!" "Your father owns hell?" questioned the other two boys. "Yes! Dad came home last night from work and said his boss gave him hell."

As we continue this series of messages on the body of Christ, the Church, I have a simple message for Father’s today–it’s a message not only for dad, but also for each of us who are a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Are you ready; here it is in three words: YOU OWN HELL!

Now if I thought you all fully understood what it means to “own hell” we could all be done early and get going to our Father’s Day picnics. The problem is I know you don’t understand it. Some of you may even be repulsed by the idea of owning hell; you are happy to own many different things, but hell is not on you list of things you want.

Turn with me to Matthew 16:18-19. Now as you are turning there, I want to let you know that I have brought my keys with me today. I’ve got a lot of different keys: keys for the house, our car and van, keys for the church, the post office box, the bank deposit box. I even have keys that I’m not sure what they are for.

Keys speak of ownership–each of my keys give me the ability to lock and unlock something. My keys give me power and control over the things that they are for. For instance, I may own my car, but without the keys I am powerless to use it.

As we look at what Jesus says in Matthew 16, I want you to understand that Jesus has given each of us a set of keys, and one of those keys actually unlocks the very gates of hell. YOU OWN HELL; Jesus has given you and me, His Church, authority and power over hell itself!

✞ Matthew 16:18-19 18. . . on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NIV)

Dad (mom–grandpa or grandma too), you own hell. You don’t have to let you children be taken from you by Satan; you have the authority to set them free from the chains of sin. But before we talk about the keys that the church has been given to conquer hell, I want to talk to you about hell first.

When we stop and think about it hell is no joking matter. We should be telling people about the reality of hell. Many preachers don’t even want to talk about hell from pulpits today; we would rather talk about heaven. It is not often that the preacher would stand and cause those who listened to him feel flames of hell and smell its smoke as Jonathan Edwards did in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

Jesus described hell as a place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48), a place of “darkness,” a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). Jesus talked about hell as a real place of eternal torment; how can we ignore the reality of hell?

1. Satan has deceived people about the reality of hell.

C.S. Lewis knew the truth that hell was real. He wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity. . . if it lay in my power. . . I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully: ‘All will be saved.’”

Satan wants to convinces us that hell is not real. Paul McCartney would sing with the Beetles, "Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky." Some of the Beetles may want to change their tune today; they have found out that hell is real.

✞ 1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (NIV)

Satan would have us believe that hell doesn’t exist. If he can convince us that hell isn’t real, then it stands to reason we will not talk about it, nor be concerned with the eternal destiny of those around us.

2. Satan has made hell a platitude–a commonplace, ordinary, run of the mill word.

If we can joke and laugh about it, hell becomes common and its threat diminishes. For many hell is merely a four letter word used in everyday conversation. We often hear, "How the "H" are you?" . . . "What the "H" is that?" . . . "Go to "H"!"

C.S. Lewis says, "Surely we do not mean we want that person to go the place of eternal punishment when someone tells another to "Go to "H"?" Hell has become too common to us.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells of a future time when He will judge everyone, and to some He will pronounce the judgment “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

On judgment day there will be no deception; there will be no platitudes! Each one will find only the reality of heaven and hell.

3. Satan has convinced far to many that hell hold no danger; hell is not a threat–it’s a party!

>>Every Labor Day weekend a growing number of self-proclaimed pagans journey to Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada. This gathering is a celebration of sin–in fleshly indulgences. Those who gather are preparing for what they believe to be the ultimate party, their ultimate destination –– hell. One individual said, "I’m fully prepared to shake hands with the devil as I stumble through the gates of hell . . ." Another said, "I certainly have no problem with ’embracing the darkness.’ Let’s celebrate the darkness!" (Charisma 3/97)

These people have no idea what hell will really be like. In hell you will find no one to embrace; there will be no celebration of the darkness in hell. Satan will not be there to welcome the inhabitants of hell with a warm hand shake. We no longer understand the danger of hell; be forewarned about the realities of hell:

Hell is a place of TORMENT.

✞ Matthew 13:49-50 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NIV)

✞ Revelation 20:10-15 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)

Satan will one day be thrown into hell. If the flames of hell were going to be a party where the devil was going to greet everyone with a high five, don’t you think he would have gone willingly? Satan will see the flames; he will sense the pain before him. Can you picture the image John describes? The devil does not want to go to hell, so he is cast into the fire kicking and screaming. Then those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will also be thrown into the flames. The lost will scream and gnash their teeth together from the intense pain and suffering. The flames will consume them and constantly burn their bodies. It will never end.

Hell is ETERNAL. No one will be given a parol from hell’s fire.

✞ Matthew 25:46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The most terrifying aspect of hell is its length or duration. Hell is eternal! Hell will last forever and therefore the darkness, torment will be forever.

The group Mercy Me won the 2001 Dove award for the song of the year, “I Can Only Imagine.”

“. . . Surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel –will I dance before you Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall –will I sing ‘Hallelujah’ will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, yea; I can only imagine.”

We like the thought of heaven, but we don’t want to think about hell. The Beetles suggested we imagine there being no heaven or hell. But as surely as there is a heaven, there is also a hell. Stop for a moment and try to imagine being tormented without end. Try to imagine the pain shrieking, wailing for eternity with souls damned to hell. Try to imagine the intense suffering, the fire, the gnashing of teeth. Try to imagine an eternity without God’s love; you have no hope, no comfort, no rest.

Imagine it! The reality of hell awaits all those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. If you fail to accept that Christ died for your sin, then you will pay the penalty for your sin in hell. In the same way that I cannot fully imagine the glory of heaven, I can’t fully comprehend the eternal torment of hell. Yet hell patiently waits for the entrance of the condemned.

For each of us who believe we do not need to fear hell. But when we begin to think about the reality of hell, it should motivate us to do something! Jesus has given us the keys of the kingdom in order to rescue souls from the very gates of hell. Remember, you own hell! You and I as members of the church of Jesus Christ have been given power and authority over hell. The gates of hell will not prevail–they will not overcome or hold back the Church.


Key #1: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter made this confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said that it would be upon this rock that He would build His church. The sure foundation, the immovable stone is the Good News that God sent His Son, born of a woman, to be the Savior of the world.

Peter was the first to put this key to use. On the day of Pentecost he stood before those gathered in Jerusalem and said, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24 NIV). Later, Peter was able to use the same key when he preached to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius saying, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. . . he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day” (Acts 10:38-40 NIV).

Do you know what happened when Peter put this key to use? People were saved! Peter knew the power of this key, so he passed it on to us.

✞ 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV)

✞ 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV)

We have been given the key of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With it we can conquer the gates of hell setting those held captive in sin free.

Key #2: The blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

✞ Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (NIV)

Not only can you tell the story of Jesus; you can tell what Jesus has done for you! Each of us have our own personal story of how Christ has transformed our lives. The blood of the Lamb has cleansed us of sin; Jesus has made us alive!

People may want to debate the Bible with you; they may argue with you over who they think Jesus is, but no one can dispute your personal story. When you tell them how your life changed when you came to Jesus, they are left without an argument.

Key #3: The prayer for the lost.

✞ James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)

✞ Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (NIV)

✞ Ephesians 6:19-20 19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (NIV)

✞ Colossians 4:2-4 2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (NIV)

Prayer will transform hearts; prayer is an effective key to open locked doors. Paul knew the power of prayer. He not only prayed for the lost, but he encouraged others to pray for him as he would preach the gospel.

Let’s begin to call out to heaven for those who are lost. Begin to intercede for their salvation. It’s a prayer that God desires to answer!


Jesus has given us the keys of the kingdom, keys with which we can conquer hell itself. I’ve shared three keys this morning: [1.] The Gospel of Jesus Christ, [2.] The Blood of the Lamb and The Word of our Testimony and [3.] The prayer for the Lost.

These are not the only keys God has given to us; the Lord has other keys to open locked doors. But one thing I know about keys; it does not matter how many keys you have, they are useless if they are only carried in your pocket. A key must be placed into the lock and used.

How can we believe in a literal hell and not tell anyone about it?

>>Kelly Green (Southwestern Theological Seminary 1983) told of his failure to warn and tell his step-father and step-brother of God’s gift of salvation and an eternity of hell for those who reject Jesus Christ. He told that he once tried to share with them and they became outraged with him. He became scared that if he mentioned heaven and hell anymore it would offend them and drive them away further. So he kept silent. They were killed one day in a car accident. He shared the guilt he has for not being more persistent to warn them. Now they were in hell. He said, "I was afraid I would offend them. But tell me now how far did I drive them away, hell #1, #2 or #3. It doesn’t matter for the fact is they are in hell!"

If you have your set of keys with you this morning take a moment and pull them out with me. Will you be willing to put the keys of the kingdom to which Jesus has entrusted to us to use? Let’s use the keys we use everyday to be a reminder to use the keys of the kingdom which God has entrusted to us.

Take the key to your car and hold it. The next time you put that key into the ignition of your car will you remember that God has given you the key of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” As you turn that key in the ignition will you say to the Lord, “I’m going again into my world; help me to tell someone about you.”

Now hold your house key in your hand. Can you see yourself putting it into the lock on your front door? Each time you come to that door will you again commit to the Lord that you will use the key of the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of your testimony. As you open your front door will you say to the Lord, “you have opened the door of salvation to me–I promise to tell others what you have done for me.”

Now take a third key in your hand. If you have a post office box key hold it, or any other key you will use frequently and picture yourself at your mailbox. Will you make the commitment to the Lord that each time you use that key it will be a reminder to pray for the lost. Will you pray something like this, “Jesus, I’m picking up the mail again today and there are some messages in this box for me. But as I do, I’m addressing some prayers to you Lord–the return address isn’t for me. . .its for my friend, a neighbor, my son or daughter. Lord they need the message of salvation delivered to their hearts; make the way for them to be saved.”

Now hold your set of keys in your hands. Will you make this your prayer, “Lord you have given me the keys to the kingdom; keys which can be put to use right where you need them the most. Now Lord, when I hold these keys in my hands, I want you to know that I’m available. I will do whatever you ask to open the door for those who are lost. With these keys I own hell. With your keys Lord I will conquer hell in the name of Jesus.”