Summary: Yes God is a loviing God who sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to atone for the sines of the world, but this does not, cannot, mean that everyone is saved. Universalism is a nice thought, but nor biblical. The worst sinner can become a saint,
Luke 16: 19-31
Sermon: The reality of Hell
Most preachers do not like giving sermons on hell,
preferring to use terms such as “lost eternity”.
Most pastors don't want to be regarded as a "fire and brimstone" preacher,
yet we do no one a favour by avoiding this unpleasant subject.
Our discomfort won't change the facts.
According to Jesus, the Son of God and the ultimate Christian teacher,
Hell is a reality.
In my Concordance, there is only one reference to Hell in the OT,
It is Job 31 v.12
“If I commit adultery, such wickedness should be punished by death.
It would be like a destructive, hellish fire, consuming everything I have,”
But, there are 21 references to Hell in the NT:
14 by Jesus; 9 in Matthew’s Gospel, 3 in Mark and 2 in Luke.
1 in Acts 8:20.
4 from St Paul: 2 in Galatians, 1 in Philippians
and 1 in 2nd Thessalonians 2 v.3.
There is one from James in chapter 3 verse 6
and 1 from Peter in his 2nd letter, chapter 2 verse 4.
As we all know, there are a wide range of opinions about what Hell is:
everything from "the big barbecue below" to "a state of mind".
I read something about US marines during the war with North Korea.
They wore T-shirts which announced,
"When I die I'm going straight to Heaven because I've served my time in Hell".
A Jew is supposed to have said this about Nazi Germany in the late 1930's:
"This isn't Hell, but you can see it from here."
I admit I've chuckled at those depicting hell,
like the one where a devil asks new arrivals, "Smoking or Non-smoking?"
But the truth is that Hell is no laughing matter;
it is a place too horrible to imagine,
and making jokes about it is probably our way
of suppressing horrible thoughts concerning the place.
In our Post-modernist society the use of the word Hell has been softened
by its becoming either a form of profane and casual speech,
or a four-letter metaphor for tough situations.
When people talk about "Neighbours from Hell"
or "Holidays from Hell" or say things like "My job is Hell"
or “That interview was Hell”
they are diminishing and trivializing the seriousness and reality
of the place that Jesus spoke much about and said was real
and a place of everlasting fire and torment.
The Biblical word "Hell" refers to a specific location southwest of Jerusalem
known as Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnon,
where pagans used to sacrifice children as burnt offerings to the idol Molech.
It later became the city dump, a place to burn refuse.
This location turned into a geographical metaphor for the place of punishment after death.
Anne and I went there during our honeymoon.
If anyone wants to know what people do there, the answer is have picnics,
but the real Hell, the Hell that awaits unsaved sinners, will be no picnic.
Jesus spoke at least 14 times about Hell,
obviously not because he wanted anyone to end up there,
but to warn them, so they would not end up there.
He described it as a place of "outer darkness"
where people will "weep and gnash their teeth",
and a place of "unquenchable fire",
and the sad thing about Hell apart from the fire and pain
is that those there will endure permanent exclusion
from the presence and love of God.
The Apostle Paul also warned unbelievers, in 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-10.
saying "they will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power"
if they did not repent and come to God on His terms.
Although he never used the word Hell,
the prophet Daniel described the fate of those whose names
were not written in God’s book
as suffering eternal disgrace, shame and everlasting contempt" (12:2).
When confronted with mention of afterlife punishment,
some people sidestep the issue by claiming they're "already in Hell".
Those who claim Hell is Afghanistan, or an earthquake, tsunami or tornado scene
or the streets of Glasgow at night or living with a bully
are, in a way, correct because our fallen world
is very different from how God intended things to be when He created it,
but no matter how Hellish this life and this world may be for some,
it is nothing compared to the Hell that awaits anyone who has rejected God.
When confronted with talk of Hell some people claim,
"I'd rather be where my friends are."
Well, their friends might be there,
but this will not reduce the intensity of their suffering
for having rejected Christ and died unforgiven.
Although Christians are by God’s grace,
we must beware of sounding smug concerning Hell.
There is no one we should want to see in the place God created for the devil,