Summary: We see from the words of Jesus that hell is real, it is bad, it is eternal and it is avoidable.
THE REALITY OF HELL
Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the message one man left on his tombstone. It said, “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 sounded pretty profound, but someone took a knife and scratched a response on the tombstone that read, “To follow you is not my intent; until I know which way you went!” The bible teaches us that this life is not all that there is. After death there exists two eternal realities. All of us shall spend eternity of one of two places.
Luke 16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus , covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27 "He answered, `Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
The Bible tells us that everything we see around us is temporary. It is what we don’t see that is ultimately going to last. All of us were made to last forever. One day your heart is going to stop and that’s going to be the end of your body but it’s certainly not going to be the end of you. This life we live is the warm up act, the preschool, the first lap around the racetrack, the first page of a book that goes on forever. For the next two weeks we’re going to look at the reality of heaven and the reality of hell. Today we start with hell:
1. It is REAL (vs. 22-23a) – in hell…
C. S. Lewis was told about a gravestone inscription that read; “Here lies an atheist – all dressed up and nowhere to go.” Lewis quietly replied, “I bet he wishes that were so.”
In a national poll conducted several years ago by USA Today - 67% of American adults said they believe in a hell. Less than 25% believed that they would go there and 25% believe their friends will be there. Many Christians reject the idea of hell. They do not understand why a loving God would send people to such a horrible place.
Universalism is the teaching that everybody goes to heaven. In the book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, pastor and author Rob Bell has been accused of saying that everyone goes to heaven. In the recent movie Hereafter, the afterlife is portrayed as being a wonderful place where everyone goes after death to be surrounded by friends and family.
The story is told of an army chaplain who reported to a new duty station. Upon arrival some of the men came to see him and asked him this question; Do you believe in a literal hell? He replied that he did not. The men asked him to resign and he asked them why. Their response to him was; ‘ If there is no Hell then we don’t need you and if there is a Hell we don’t want you to lead us astray.”
The Bible teaches that hell is a very real place. The concept of hell was not invented by the church as a way of scaring your children to be good at bedtime. It is an actual place. In this passage Jesus gives us a very clear picture of what it is really like. Heaven and hell are very real.
John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.