Summary: Hell is a real place, with real punishment, for real people.
We live in a time when so many things about our society have succumb to the forces of capitalism and have become commercialized. No longer do families look forward to sitting down together for a Thanksgiving meal but they look forward to the early sales for Christmas. Even the sacred day of remembrance we call Memorial Day is overshadowed by three day blowout mega sales at the local furniture stores and car dealerships. It seems everything sacred has become commercialized, even Christianity itself.
Now more than ever churches are more market-conscious when it comes to what aspects of the Bible they present. In the commercialization of Christianity teachings on sin and its eternal consequences, damnation in hell, and Satan are left to the wayside for softer, more audience friendly messages on how Christian living will solve your problems by making your prosperous, or Jesus will solve all your problems, or how you can be a success with God as your CEO. As with anything that is commercialized the goal is numbers and dollars.
What this has done is lead people down a path of denying the reality of something they hear very little about and that is hell. In a 2001 Pew research poll 71% of Americans said they believed there was a hell[i]. By 2009, that number had fallen to just 59% of Americans believe in hell[ii]. Though it may not be commercially popular, though it may not fit into the perspective of many Americans the reality of the matter the Bible say there really is a hell.
Let’s explore the realities of hell with the purpose of stirring our souls to repentance so that we will not awaken in eternity and find ourselves there.
Hell is a Real Place
While some would think of Hell as just a myth, some place contrived to scare people into submission, the Bible speaks of Hell as a real place. Notice some of the passages with me:
Jesus warned in Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus believed hell was a real place.
In His condemnation of the Pharisees Jesus expressed His belief in a hell when He said, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33)
Jesus believed hell was real place when He exhorted the multitudes to take extreme measures not to go there when he said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:43-48)
The apostle Peter certainly believed hell was real place when he said, “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…” (2 Peter 2:4)
Even Jude believed hell was a real place when he taught, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire [hell], hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23)
In these passages, there is an assumption by the speaker that hell is a real place. To them hell was not a myth. It was not contrived place to keep folks in line. To Jesus, Peter, and Jude hell is a real place. If it’s not… Then Jesus, Peter and Jude at best are mistaken, at worst their misleading. And if they’re either mistaken or misleading then they and the Bible are suspect and we can’t believe any of it. But I choose to believe them.
With Real Punishment
And it’s a real place with real punishment. Think with me about how beautiful and wonderful heaven is. No matter how grand your imagination might be, you can’t begin to scratch the surface of heaven’s beauty. Our human minds can’t comprehend its greatness. The same is true with hell. Even with our collective ability to imagine the horrors of hell we would only scratch its surface. Our human minds can’t comprehend the awfulness of such a place. So the Bible presents hell and its terrors in terms we can understand. Notice some passages with me: